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Taking Inventory: How will Boston handle this year’s draft?

A faceoff-winning center? A productive winger? Defensive depth? A new goaltender? All intriguing possibilities.

2016 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Over much of the past decade, draft day and disappointment have unfortunately become synonymous for the Boston Bruins. Boston’s last four drafts have produced a grand total of zero NHL players.

While we’ve yet to see the full potential of players like Jeremy Swayman and Jack Studnicka — both 2017 Bruins selections — and while Charlie McAvoy (2016), Jake Debrusk and Brandon Carlo (2015) and David Pastrnak (2014) have all turned into talented NHLers, these finds have been few and far between.

Who could forget the incompetence of butchering three straight first round picks in 2015? Or first round busts like Urho Vaakanainen and Malcolm Subban, and second round busts like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Linus Arnesson. We could do this all day, but the point is Boston needs to start getting more out of the draft.

With no first round selection in 2022, the Bruins will need to pick and choose who they select even more carefully this year. When Boston finally takes the stage for the 54th overall pick, they will be looking for value at the position.

A Potential Trade?

Before looking into who might be available at 54th overall, there’s a possibility Boston packages the selection along with some players to move up into the first round. Two teams to look out for in a trade are Arizona and Buffalo, each having three first round picks.

If Boston does any business, it would likely see them enter the draft around pick number 27. Should the Bruins get the chance at making a first round pick, a center or defenseman would make the most sense.

The top priority here is a young center who would be willing to learn under veteran leadership and ultimately be ready to contribute in a year or two. One name that stands out: Adam Ingram.

Described in similar ways to Bergeron, who was much shorter at the time of his draft in 2003, Ingram is seen as an elite forward with strong scoring and playmaking abilities. Ingram’s high hockey IQ has impressed many scouts as has his ‘NHL-caliber’ shot. His main area of improvement is on defense. Should he become a Bruin, he’d likely have the opportunity to sharpen up that part of his game under Bergeron — the best possible mentor.

Should Boston opt to go defense with their first pick, Ryan Chesley easily sticks out the most. The U.S. Under-18 NTDP defender was an astounding plus-44 last year putting up 29 points in 59 games and has been praised for his physical play. His stock has undoubtedly risen in recent weeks, but Boston might be willing to go after him for the right price.

Second Round Steals

While Bruins’ fans can only dream, it seems, about Boston being aggressive and trading up, the most likely outcome is that Boston selects for the first time this year at 54 overall. This could signal a couple things: Boston is confident last year’s first rounder Fabian Lysell will pan out, or the forward they wanted late in the first round was already off the board.

Either way, the late second and early third rounds will be loaded for defensemen. One name Boston might want to consider, in spite of his lineage, is David Spacek. If that name sounds familiar, David’s father Jaroslav starred on defense for Montreal in the mid-2000s and his uncle Petr played 12 professional seasons in his native Czechia.

David Spacek played for the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL last season, tallying 38 assists and 50 points and plus-21 rating over 57 contests. Having a former NHLer as a father has clearly impacted his awareness and he racked up awards in his first season in North America. Though he likely wouldn’t be ready immediately, Spacek could wind up being a late second round sleeper and a true value pick.

At the center position, two likely fits are both recent high school graduates. The first is local prospect Ben MacDonald, who impressed at Noble & Greenough last winter. The Weston, Mass. native is set to play the upcoming season for the West Kelowna Warriors of the BCHL before playing at Harvard in 2023-24.

Another option, who has slid down draft boards in recent weeks, is Zam Plante of Hermantown, Minn. In 42 high school games over the past two seasons, Plante has put up a remarkable 125 points (53 goals, 72 assists). The son of former Stanley Cup champion Derek Plante, Zam is committed to Minnesota-Duluth for the 2023-24 campaign and has impressed coaches and scouts alike with a tremendous work ethic and hockey IQ.

What about wingers or goalies?

While some experts have insisted the Bruins target a winger in this year’s draft, it might be redundant. Boston selected Fabian Lysell in the first round of last year’s draft, and the right winger excelled in his first year in North America. Lysell had 62 points in 53 games for the Vancouver Giants (shoutout Milan Lucic) and led the team on a cinderella playoff run.

Oskar Steen, a center, has also proven to be close to earning a bigger NHL opportunity and could slot in on the wing. Boston also signed Georgi Merkulov, a one-and-done free agent out of Ohio State, who needed little time to adjust to the pro level with a brief cameo in Providence this season.

While the Bruins may be set at the wing for at least this year’s draft, the organization continues rebuilding the goaltender position after losing Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Jeremy Swayman has performed admirably and won the starting role late last year after splitting time with Linus Ullmark.

Down in Providence, Kyle Keyser will have one more year before hitting free agency, while newly-signed Brandon Bussi provided some optimism late last season. Across town, 2021 draft choice Philip Svedeback will be starting his collegiate career at Providence College next fall. The Swede went 15-7-3 with Dubuque in the USHL last year but still needs time to refine his game.

If Boston is looking to use one of its middle-round selections on a goalie, Mason Beaupit and Cameron Whitehead would be two solid options. Beaupit has tremendous size at 6-foot-5 and, although still refining his game, has a ton of upside. Whitehead will be playing for Northeastern in 2023-24 and went 16-8-4 for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL last year.