On the face of it, it's pretty clear what Boston's needs are at the moment, draft-wise.
We've seen article after article arguing that the B's need help on the blue-line, and there's been pushing from all sides in the media for names like Charlie McAvoy, Jake Bean, and Dante Fabbro to be the name that Don Sweeney calls tomorrow night when he steps up to the podium.
The trouble is, though, that would be a panic pick, addressing an immediate need while sacrificing a chance to gain a player who will make a more immediate impact.
At this point, I can already see the objections forming. So let's deal with that first of all, then look at the other arguments for taking a forward.
1. B's are desperate for defense!
Yes, they are. But there is no reason that that problem cannot be filled from within.
Look at some of the names waiting to come through in the next year or two. From the players already starting to make their mark from the AHL or around the lower part of the NHL roster, we have names like Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, and, looking a little further down the line or reaching, Linus Arnesson.
The key thing, though, is the depth in young D who might make the squad this year stepping up. Names like Jérémy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, Rob O'Gara, Matt Grzelczyk. These are good players - and we're not even looking at arguably the most NHL-ready or exciting prospect in 2015 draft pick Brandon Carlo, who is a player the B's should be looking to absorb into the NHL system sooner rather than later - he's big, strong, intelligent and most importantly, he can play strong defense while actually being able to transition the puck or even rush it himself thanks to superb skating ability (ability that B's staff say already rivals the fast, fluid style of Colin Miller).
The Bruins need to accept at this point that they're in a transitional period defensively, and players like Carlo, Zboril, O'Gara and Grzelczyk are the future of this squad...a future that needs to be stepped into sooner, rather than later. They need game action quickly, and the paucity of the NHL blue-line means that these players have their chances to break into the camp this preseason. The B's should give them a chance to take it.
2. There's likely no immediate-impact D available.
Whilst it's fair to say that the number of NHL ready D to come out of a draft is likely to be low, the Bruins pick first at 14. The defense in this NHL draft class is notable for the fact that even at the top of the order, the players there are considered to be a year or two away from battling for an NHL roster spot. Even the likes of Jacob Chychyrun or Olli Juolevi (who are the best D in the draft) will be snapped up before the B's get a chance to pick, barring a trade up or a long slide. The best D available at 14 are likely to be BU freshman Charlie McAvoy, 17-year-old phenom Jake Bean or the even younger Dante Fabbro. These are players who are still a long way away from an NHL roster - certainly several years away. They are, to put it bluntly, projects. Whilst you can never have enough depth prospect-wise, these players are not a significant upgrade on players available further down the draft. Players like, for example, Jacob Moverare, who we took in the SBN mock draft and is arguably just as good as the three above with a more rounded game and the chance to develop among some of the best players in the world outside the NHL in the Swedish Elite League.
And now, to the most compelling reasons...
3. This draft is a truly special one for elite forwards at Boston's pick.
Julien Gauthier is a potential overlooked top-10 superstar. Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows are the pride of the US junior development system. Luke Kunin is already turning into an elite college goalscorer. These are players who should and likely would be battling for a top-10 pick most years, but thanks to the almost biblical depth in forward talent this year, they're being forced further down the draft. There is something for everyone here - want big and skilled with a side of mean? Go Gauthier. Want big and mean? Max Jones. Pure goals? Bellows, Keller, Kunin. If you're willing to find the next Johnny Gaudreau, then the best goalscorer in the draft, Alex DeBrincat, is incredibly rated twelve picks below this one. The sheer choice here is the kind of thing that you simply do not pass up, especially when the alternative is a player from the crowded "second tier" of defensive prospects. If the likes of Buffalo and Carolina take a defensive grab from one of the big three with their picks, then you could even lose the best of the second tier of defense, too.
If Boston want a player to contribute sooner rather than later at an NHL level, they are only going to get it taking a forward.
4. Defensively, the options are still likely to be myriad at Boston's second pick
Sure, the top 3 D will have gone. Charlie McAvoy may have gone, Fabbro too. But these are only the defensive players getting the most hype in a defensive class with more than its fair share of strong prospects that Boston will need. Lukas Johansen. Kyle Clague. Jakob Moverare. These are all players who provide the same potential transition, speed and skill that Boston claim to be looking for, have about the same amount of development to do but...crucially, they're not getting anywhere near the coverage.
Boston's next pick after 29 isn't until 45...and there we move more into reach territory. If the B's are really brave and after a defensive project, they can take likely take Mississauga's Sean Day at this point, too.
The danger of focusing too much on a perceived immediate need is that it might block out any alternative paths-paths that will likely work out better in the long run.
If the B's want to be really forward thinking this draft, they should be looking beyond the immediate issues with the blue line. Or at least not thinking there is only one way to solve them this draft.
They should also remember that sometimes, attack is the best form of defense.