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The Fabian Lysell Dilemma: Where does the top prospect end up?

After a strong preliminary round performance at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships, where does the former Bruins’ first-rounder go from here?

Boston Bruins v New York Rangers
Fabian Lysell.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As the Boston Bruins look to get as much as they can out of their veteran corps of players, the organization continues its quest to rebuild from the ground up for the next chapter in the team’s history.

Aging stars like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are looking to run it back for one more season, but what direction does the team go from there?

Sure, David Pastrnak is sticking around for a few more years, as is Brad Marchand. But Boston’s next challenge now becomes developing its talented pool of prospects to find the next Bergeron and Krejci.

Enter Fabian Lysell.

Selected in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft (21st overall), Lysell was heralded for his speed and scoring abilities though many cited character concerns and his need for defensive improvement as reasons to be cautious. Nonetheless, Lysell has already shown signs he ready for the pro game and has drawn comparisons by his coaches to the likes of Hall-of-Famer Pavel Bure and two-time Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid.

Still, the question remains where does Lysell play next year? Let’s explore all three scenarios.

Back to Vancouver

Lysell made the move to North America ahead of the 2021-22 Canadian Hockey League campaign where he suited up for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. Prior to arriving in Canada, Lysell had played mostly at the junior level in his native Sweden where his stats jumped off the page.

In his first season for Vancouver, Lysell went off for 62 points in 53 games during the regular season before adding 21 points in 12 postseason contests — including a combined 57 assists in 65 total games.

Lysell has the option to return to the WHL for another season should he and/or the Bruins choose this route. However, it’s likely the Swede has played his final game at the major junior level.

A patient approach

The second and most likely option for Lysell is to join the Bruins for preseason camp and begin his first professional season at the AHL level for Providence. Lysell has reportedly grown in size and stature over the past season, entering the upcoming season at 6-0, 180 pounds.

With added bulk, the Bruins should pay close attention to how the 19-year-old fares against veteran competition, both internally and externally, during the preseason. While his skating and offensive abilities speak volumes, there’s still questions about physicality and whether he can be a two-way player in the pro ranks.

While it might be looked at as a demotion, Lysell could benefit from some time in the AHL as he gets his feet wet at the pro level. It has worked in the past for Bruins’ stars such as Krejci, Marchand, and Pastrnak and could provide a valuable stepping stone for the young Lysell.

Ready for action

A third scenario, which might behoove the Bruins to explore, is immediately inserting Lysell into the lineup. The question is: where does he fit?

Boston is currently deep at the forward position with each of its top three lines pretty much set. Lysell is too talented to skate limited minutes with the fourth line, but incumbent right wings Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, and Craig Smith would likely have the upper hand.

Smith is entering the final year of his contract before hitting free agency, meaning the 33-year-old could help prime Lysell to slot in for him in the future. Although unlikely at the outset, Lysell may have what it takes to climb ahead of Smith on the depth chart by season’s end.

Prediction Time!

Here’s what the most probable outcome for Lysell will be this year: the forward officially makes the leap to the pro ranks to sign with Boston and begins the season with Providence after spending preseason with the big club. Throughout the year, Lysell will get opportunities to fill in at the NHL level with Boston, eventually earning a fringe roster spot late in the year ahead of a full-time role to begin the 2023-24 season.