Recently, I tweeted out this stat to Bruins fans:
“In the last four #NHL Drafts, the #NHLBruins have made 21 picks. Those 21 players have played a combined 0 NHL games.”
It was a Thursday night, and the Bruins were in Seattle waiting for a 10 pm Eastern Time puck drop. I was killing time and wanted to see how the Bruins had been drafting in recent years. Lo and behold, my initial reaction was a little unnerving.
Zero NHL games played since the 2018 Draft? That can’t be. Four years of draft picks, and the Bruins have not had one player suit up for them. That must be the worst in the league. Well, how could it NOT be? Zero is the lowest you can have, right? The tweet then generated comment after comment from salty fans criticizing general manager Don Sweeney’s drafting. The same fans who hadn’t forgotten 2015 when Sweeney passed on what seemed like 186 really good players to take Zach Senyshyn in the first round.
But then some good points were raised that might make this ominous stat look deceiving. For starters, the Bruins have been an excellent team in those years, constantly contending for the division and Stanley Cup consideration. This has made it difficult for young players to crack the lineup. More spots have become available now that Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask have departed.
Because of the team’s success, Sweeney has had to draft further down the order. The Bruins did not have a first-round pick in two of those drafts. In 2018, the Bruins took defenseman Axel Andersson with the 57th pick. He was since traded to Anaheim. In 2020, Boston selected defenseman Mason Lohrei 58th. Lohrei is having an impressive freshman year at Ohio State University,
The 2018 and 2019 drafts are still up in the air. Jakub Lauko, Curtis Hall, and Dustyn McFaul are still Bruins’ property. John Beecher is playing on a loaded Michigan team. Quinn Olson is having a good year at Minnesota-Duluth with 23 points. Defenseman Roman Bychkov is playing in the KHL. The real talent in the Bruins system may be in the last two drafts. Lohrei leads the way, followed by 2020 third-rounder Trevor Kuntar, who has 19 points on the season at Boston College. The 2021 draft saw the Bruins take the highly skilled Fabian Lysell. Lysell has tallied 17 goals for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Third-round pick Brett Harrison has been terrific in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals with 43 points in 43 games.
Having zero NHL games in your last 21 draft picks looked daunting for Bruins fans, but upon further review, the team might have some young talent getting closer to taking a few roster spots on the big club soon. And it may come at the perfect time as the veteran core that made the Bruins a top team in the league moves on.