July 32-in-32: Boston Bruins

Nate Duffett

2023-07-03

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The 32-in-32 Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s Draft, and insights into their off-season movements thus far. Following this up in August, we will dive into every team’s prospect depth chart with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check back often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all off-season long!

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The Bruins have been a top contender in the Eastern Conference for most of the last 15 seasons. That legacy is now showcased by their lack of prospect depth and draft pick capital. It is not always easy to build up your prospect depth when you are picking in the back half of the round for an entire decade. This past season had represented a great chance to win their first Stanley Cup since 2011, as the Bruins posted the best statistical regular season in NHL history. But seven games later, they were bounced by Florida in the first round, and Florida went on to win the Eastern Conference.  

The B’s find themselves in a tough position now: an aging roster, limited cap space, and one of the worst prospect pools in the league give fans reason to worry that there could be some lean years ahead. The cap crunch started early this offseason, shipping Taylor Hall and his six-million-dollar cap hit to Chicago for nothing more than a couple of depth organization pieces, and following that up with a buyout of Mike Reilly. While this has opened up a considerable amount of cap space, the Bruins’ cap situation was so bad that there are surely still moves to come, as they have around 13 million to cover 6-7 roster spots. The trade rumors have been ramping up on Vezina-winning goaltender Linus Ullmark and top-four defenseman Matt Gryzleck, two holes that will be hard to fill on next year’s team. For now, we will take a look at the Bruins’ draft and players who will be in/out of the organization at the start of next season, but check back next month for part two of the 32-in-32 series to see what players in the prospect pool could possibly be called upon to fill some of the empty roster spots. 

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DRAFT RECAP

Round 3, 92nd overall – Christopher Pelosi, F

The Bruins went off the board a little here with Pelosi, because many scouts had him tagged to be taken in later rounds, but the Bruins took a chance on the center, which is a positional need in the organization. Pelosi checks a lot of boxes in terms of the Bruins culture, as he is a strong defensive center who plays as hard on the backcheck as he does in the offensive zone. He possesses great knowledge in the defensive zone, always positionally sound with the ability to break up plays with his stick. His skills in the offensive zone need improvement, but his ability to play hard around the front of the net is something that the Bruins value. 

Pelosi combines a good shot, hand-eye coordination, and physical play to make himself a force around the net. Is there a chance the Bruins took a swing on this guy to give themselves a partial replacement down the road for Patrice Bergeron’s defensive abilities down the middle? Maybe. However, what’s the chance that Pelosi makes even a fraction of the impact that Bergeron made in a Bruins sweater? I’d put it at less than 1%. 

Round 4, 124th overall – Beckett Hendrickson, LW

There is a great chance that Hendrickson could be the best player to come out of this draft for the Bruins despite the fact he was their second pick. Hendrickson is an elite playmaker on the left wing, combining high-end vision, hands, and hockey IQ to find open teammates and put them in great positions to score. There are some red flags in his game when he loses passing options or is forced to try and figure out a way to score without using his teammates, but this could be something he works on for the future and should be less of a factor when he plays with better players. There is no mistaking his raw talent, and he could definitely be a player that people look back on as a late-round steal in this draft.

Round 6, 188th overall – Ryan Walsh, C

Walsh was passed over twice for the NHL Entry Draft but was finally selected this year by the Bruins. Walsh had a good season in Cedar Rapids, totaling 79 points in 61 games, his first season in the USHL after spending the past few years playing Prep at Salisbury School. Walsh is another attempt at accumulating center depth for the Bruins. The hope is that he develops into a solid late-round selection, but the more likely route for Walsh is a career minor-leaguer who doesn’t have the speed or puck skills to excel at the NHL level. 

Round 7, 214th overall – Casper Nassen, W

A big winger standing at 6-4, Nassen was ranked 138th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He had a successful season in the J20 Swedish League, totaling 40 points in 48 games. Nassen has now committed to coming to Miami-Ohio (NCAA) in 2024 in an effort to adjust to the North American game. Nassen’s size and playing style should be better suited for North America, but his chances of being a factor when he eventually finishes his college career are low. 

Round 7, 220th overall: Kristian Kostadinski, D

Kostadinski is a 6-5 defenseman who logged tons of minutes on his Frolunda J20 team, improving substantially as his draft year went on this season. There were factors in his game at the end of the season that showed some promise, but even if he continues to improve, it is unlikely that his skills will catch up far enough to make him an important player at the professional level. He will be an interesting player to keep an eye on in the coming years but don’t expect him to ever play big minutes at the NHL level. If there is any team that knows the importance of letting big defencemen grow into their bodies and develop into top shut-down defencemen, it’s the Bruins, but I highly doubt Kostadinski ever turns into the Bruins’ modern version of Zdeno Chara. 

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OFFSEASON MOVES

Re-signed

Brandon Bussi

Incoming

Alec Regula
Ian Mitchell
Reilly Walsh
Milan Lucic
Kevin Shattenkirk
Morgan Geekie
James Van Riemsdyk
Patrick Brown

Outgoing

Taylor Hall
Nick Foligno
Mike Reilly
Dmitry Orlov
Connor Clifton
Tyler Bertuzzi
Garnet Hathaway

Undecided UFAs

Patrice Bergeron
David Krejci

Pending RFAs

Jeremy Swayman
Trent Frederic
Jakub Lauko

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Boston went “all in” at the deadline, acquiring Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Garnet Hathaway to help bolster a team that eventually broke the regular season wins and points records. However, this came at a cost, as it now looks as if all of these players will be going elsewhere in free agency, and they have already had to part with other players to save money on the salary cap. 

Don Sweeney will have no choice but to find value in the free agent market this offseason, filling a number of roster spots without much salary cap space remaining. It is assumed that Sweeney will take a couple of swings in free agency to find pieces, but it is unknown how much he will rely on graduating players from the AHL to fill some voids as well.

  • Milan Lucic, James Van Riemsdyk, and Kevin Shattenkirk were all brought in on Free Agent Frenzy Day for one-year, one-million-dollar deals. It’s obvious that the Bruins are banking on veterans to fill the void for a year until an expected cap increase next summer. 
  • Morgan Geekie, signed for two years, with an average cap hit of two million a year, will be a good depth piece in the bottom six.  

In the Bruins case, there is only so much money you can spend on the salary cap, and as a result, the following players moved on to new homes:

  • Taylor Hall (CHI): Moved to CHI in a salary dump. 
  • Nick Foligno (CHI): His signing rights were moved to CHI with Hall, eventually re-signing with CHI on a four-million-dollar, one-year contract. 
  • Shane Bowers (NJ): Moved to NJ in a minor deal that saw Reilly Walsh come the other way.
  • Mike Reilly (FA): Bought out during the June 30 buyout period. 
  • Connor Clifton (BUF): Signed as a UFA on July 1st
  • Dmitry Orlov (CAR): Signed as a UFA on July 1st

All signs point to the Bruins being a much different team next season, as their cap crunch caused them to have to walk away from their pending UFAs. A bargain lineup next season will look to piece together enough wins to keep the Bruins as contenders in the tough Eastern Conference. 

A full analysis of what this does to the depth chart will come in next month’s 32-in-32 series.

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