Player: Zach Senyshyn
Last Season: Providence Bruins
Stats: 42 GP, 7G, 9A, 16PTS
Acquired: 2015 Draft – 1st round, 15th overall
By now, you’ve probably already made your mind up about Zach Senyshyn. He’ll forever be known as “Not Barzal/Connor/Whoever” by large segments of the Bruins’ fan base, and it’s not entirely undeserved.
Senyshyn was an off-the-board pick when the Bruins chose him midway through the first round in 2015, a kid with scoring pop in the OHL. In the two seasons after he was drafted, it looked like the pick might have been a wise one, as he continued to rack up the points in juniors. However, since he made the jump to the pros in 2017-2018, it’s been a series of fits and starts for Senyshyn.
Those fits and starts have only gotten harder to ignore when one sees the players who were picked after him who have gone on to be NHL regulars. Senyshyn bears the brunt of that 2015 Draft head-shaking, mainly because Jake DeBrusk has panned out and most people understand that a defenseman like Jakub Zboril takes longer to develop. For Senyshyn, that development has been frustrating, to say the least. He’s a player who, by most accounts, can skate well and has good vision. Still, his production at the AHL level hasn’t really been where it needs to be.
Senyshyn has just 40 points in 108 AHL games over the last two seasons, not exactly where you want a first-round pick to be.
In his defense, it’s not his fault that the Bruins chose him that high, and in some way, the outsized expectations are an unfair burden. Still, you want your prospects to trend in the right direction, and that hasn’t always been the case with Senyshyn. Here’s the weird thing: he has appeared in 6 NHL games to this point, and has actually looked fine. He made smart plays with the puck, tended to not stand out in a bad way, and actually produced at 0.5 PPG (1G, 2A).
But with the talent around and ahead of him in the organization, he simply hasn’t done enough to earn or hold on to a long look at the NHL level. Had he been drafted by, say, the Coyotes or another fringe playoff team, there’s a chance that he’d have had a longer run at the NHL level by now, but the Bruins haven’t been “playing for nothing” for quite some time. When a team is in “win now” mode, player development can take a back seat.
There are reasons to be optimistic. Providence head coach Jay Leach said that Senyshyn’s game got stronger and stronger down the stretch this season, and that by year’s end, he was one of Providence’s better players. And again, he has looked pretty good when he’s gotten a chance to play in the NHL. He hasn’t looked like a can’t-miss prospect, but he hasn’t looked totally lost either.
He has talent and has reportedly put in the time to get his all-around game to a better place. He’s working hard and saying all of the right things. But...when is it going to pay off?
This is likely a “now or never” year for Senyshyn and Boston. His contract is actually up, but it’s hard to see the Bruins letting him walk away right now, especially given the furor around the pick. He’ll likely be back for the league minimum.
However, Senyshyn will (per CapFriendly) be subject to waivers this season (as will Jakub Zboril), given that it’ll have been 5 years since he signed his ELC. While it’s unlikely that a team would try to grab him out of training camp, the Bruins will have to give a little more thought to potential call-ups.
This, in turn, could limit his call-up opportunities, which would stunt his development...not ideal all around. The organization has been patient with Senyshyn. They have to be, given how they’ve been raked over the coals for the pick. But patience runs out eventually.
The Bruins don’t look to have a ton of holes at forward next season. It’s hard to see Senyshyn making the team out of training camp, but a strong early season in the AHL is a must for the kid if he wants to make the jump.
If he gets another chance, he needs to run with it, as it’ll likely be his last one in Boston.
Projection for next year: Providence, with a decent NHL call-up by mid-season. What can I say? I’m an optimist.