As the draft comes to a close and FA is rapidly approaching, we must look to the future.
Namely the draft picks, but in context.
Why did they pick these guys? What was their motive? What need did these guys fill, if any? What makes these guys tick?
Well, an obvious answer is that more than one were fine for their rankings, and a couple impressed Don Sweeney's scouting staff. But one has to wonder where their priorities were, in order to make these decisions. Where did they recognize needs? Where were they looking? What was their path?
This post, after going through almost all of the draft choices again, is an educated guess on what Don Sweeney and Co. were thinking about and were prioritizing when they made the choices they did, pointing out a few trends that were always in the players' profiles or in comments about said player, in order of importance, of course.
1) Defensive Responsibility
Across the board, this seemed to be the Bruins' central plan of attack at the draft. As I'm sure we've talked this into the ground but continues to bear repeating, the Bruins had severe troubles with the defense. In that is hot, burning garbage and the front office staff have committed an atrocious amount of cash to making sure it stays that way.
It doesn't necessarily have to stay that way forever, on the other hand.
With the six picks the Bruins made, every single player was both listed as having and some were even billed as their central selling point of defensive responsibility or defense mindedness in their profiles. In fact, the two players most likely to see the NHL in the next couple of years are going to address that dire need, such as Frederic, who has the potential to fill a Marcus Kruger role* and fill out a bottom line with actual, real defensive responsibility that has until very recently been lacking (whether or not making this pick 29th and just giving up on one of the project players was a better idea is up to you to decide) Charlie McAvoy has been playing harsh minutes in one of the NCAA's premiere divisions and has shown tons of promise, and more importantly, actual putting money where one's mouth is and ending up on the top pairing with another Bruins pick Matt Gryzelyck in his first year in the program. The rest are, like many later round picks, project players that are entering new systems, requiring time to see whether or not they actually pan out the way that the Bruins intended them to.
*No guarantees of a Marcus Kruger-like role are made, especially since he will not be entering a system with a stable defense.
2) Penalty Killing
A major concern throughout the year was the PK, which struggled mightily but ended up stabilizing...somewhat. The problems that occured earlier in the year would occasionally rear their ugly heads against teams that were just far too above the Bruins current skillset, who would take advantage of it by repeatedly dunking on the black and gold during the 5 on 4 disadvantage.
McAvoy, Koppanen, Frederic, Clarke, and Steen all have been praised for this specific subsection of play, whether by just being smart, being good possessers of the puck, being good along the boards, or whatever floats your boat on getting a good defense together. The stabilizing element that possibly makes the Bruins a much better team may not start here, but a glut of picks like this goes a long way towards making sure it stays stable. In uncertain times for the organization, something like this could be a very good point-to for Boston's future.
3) Puck Possession...kind of.
It's more of an intangible thing that scouts noticed or is alluded to, but McAvoy, Lindgren, Frederic, Clarke, and Steen seem to have an edge to their game that allows them to keep the puck with them or away from opponents, be it size, strength, reaction, anticipation, stance, timing, and the ever fun..."compete level".
McAvoy was particularly lauded, given that he managed to worm his way into top line minutes fairly quickly and has seen and played against some of the best that Hockey East and the NCAA has to offer. Most of it hopefully translates to players who are possession positive that drive play in the correct direction: far away from the Bruins goaltender. In an age where possession is becoming more and more of a big deal in the NHL, these decisions seemed to show priority...even if they weren't REALLY billed for their possession game.
4) Advancing to new levels of competition, possibly cutting down development time
McAvoy, Frederic, Lindgren, and Clarke all are either going to be, or are, playing in various NCAA programs, and good ones at that. Obviously BU, who currently holds two of the key young players in the Bruins system that could hopefully bring a lot of good things (especially when Chara leaves), Ferris State, who rebounded after a nasty 2014 campaign, Wisconsin, who hopes to claw their way back into respectability with a new coach and new talent, and Minnesota, who needs no introduction (and if I were to make one i'd have to pull a molar out in order to feel good about myself again).
The key thread through this is that all the Bruins picks are moving into a new system, or into a higher level of competition that can do some of the work the Bruins might be doing for them. All of the draftees (with the exception of McAvoy) are moving into systems that will attempt to hone the raw talent that all seem to possess. McAvoy took to it early, so one can assume he only has one more place to go, and it's in black and gold. All others, as we've seen or had discussions on when we looked through their draft profiles, are still learning and getting better. Most of whom are moving into areas where they might be the best player, or some where their particular talents may find them getting stronger, faster, or larger. Half the work of their development will be done by their school's program, or by the team's program. By the time they're ready, they'll be itching to go. At least, that's the prevailing theory.
Oh yeah, and none of them are using canadian juniors to do it.
Suck it, teenager leagues.
But otherwise, now you have at least some idea as to what Don Sweeney was thinking. We now leave it to you to decide whether or not he did a good job in drafting or not.