Many were calling the 2017 NHL Draft particularly thin and it appears the Bruins bought into that idea coming to the draft table this June. The Bruins traded picks or moved down the board a couple of times this season and were left with only a first, a second, a fourth, a sixth and two in the seventh. The Bruins came into this draft with a desire to bolster their defensive prospect pool and the picks they made this season clearly show a focus on that side of the ice.
Let’s break down the Bruins selections:
Urho Vaakanainen: 1st round, 18th overall
Vaakanainen was considered by many to be the most complete defensive defenseman coming into the draft. Playing last season for Jyvaskala of Liiga, Vaakanainen established himself as an elite stay-at-home defender for his age group. He’s got the great hockey sense and plays to his strengths, doesn’t take a lot of chances with the puck but plays a strong defensive game that is well beyond his years. Vaakanainen excels on the penalty kill, the ability to shut down the rush play, and is generally not a liability with the puck. While Vaakanainen hasn’t shown elite offensive skill at this point in his career, scoring only two goals and nine assists in 55 total games played last season, he possesses a hard shot from the point and very accurate passing. The lack of production from Vaakanainen this year is likely attributed to the fact that he was a sixteen year old playing against men in Liiga, and it should be noted that he was much more successful while playing against players around his own age. Vaakanainen is a perfect complimentary pick for the Bruins who already have two great, young offensive defenders in Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy.
Jack Studnicka: 2nd round, 53rd overall
Studnicka was a safe pick at 53rd overall. Not as high on the risk-reward scale as some players left on the board, Studnicka projects as a strong two way player and his skill set makes him more suitable for a role as a mid-line center rather than a top-line forward. Scouts were all over the place on Studnicka this year rating him as high as #42 and as low as #120. Much of this variance likely came from the mediocre season he had with the Oshawa Generals posting only 52 points in 64 regular season games to go with a ho-hum minus-six rating. Studnicka followed that up however with a fantastic playoff performance where he notched 15 points in just 11 games helping to solidify a reputation as a big game player. Jack has good speed and great defensive awareness for a forward at his age, however, at 6’1” and only 174 pounds he needs to fill out a bit before he can make a run at the big leagues. He’ll spend some more time in Junior before making his way to the Providence Bruins.
Jeremy Swayman: 4th round, 111 overall
Swayman was rated 12th overall goaltender by NHL Central Scouting and was the 12th goaltender off the board at #111 overall. At 6-2 the Bruins picked up a goaltender here with good size and room to fill out even further. Swayman has good tools; he’s quick for his size and tries to use his large frame to his advantage. Swayman considers himself an aggressive goaltender and likes to challenge the shooter whenever possible, and while this is generally a good trait to have his risk-taking style has led him through a number of tough stretches in the past. That being said, Swayman put up pretty good numbers for the Sioux Falls Stampede posting a .914 and a 2.90 GAA while winning only seven of his 32 appearances. Swayman will have to continue to fine tune his game, and undoubtedly hopes to find more success while playing for the University of Maine, who he’s committed to for the 2017-2018 season. Swayman slots into the Bruins deep in the depth chart but could rise quickly depending on his performance this year in the NCAA.
Cedric Pare: 6th round, 173rd overall
In the 6th round the Bruins took a stab at young centreman Cedric Pare from the St. John Sea Dogs. Pare saw mostly 4th line minutes with the Sea Dogs in 2016-2017 and was limited in offensive ice time. For the St. John, Pare managed to rack up 5 goals and 11 assists and finished the season at a minus six. Pare also appeared in 18 playoff games for the Sea Dogs and scored an additional three points. The Bruins management are high on Pare and believe that he will play a much more prominent role on the Sea Dogs this coming year. Pare has got to work on his skating but at 6-2, 205 pounds he’s already got NHL size and that can’t be taught.
Victor Berglund: 7th round, 195 overall
Probably one of the more intriguing picks of the Bruins draft this year was Victor Berglund. Berglund was rated the 109th European skater by CSS coming into the draft and there wasn’t much talk about him before the selection. What’s interesting about this pick was how high the Bruins management is on him. According to Assistant General Manager Scott Bradley their European scouts were all over this selection and really wanted to add him into the mix. Bradley describes Berglund as “ultra-skilled” though he notes that he is undersized for an NHL defender. While not exactly short, coming in at 6’0”, he is quite small and weighs only 165 pounds. If Berglund can pack on some serious muscle over the next few years he could be a great value pick in the seventh round.
Daniel Bukac: 7th round, 204 overall
With the final pick of their 2017 draft the Bruins selected the lanky Czech defender Daniel Bukac. Assistant GM Scott Bradley notes that he is a project, a very raw talent that will need lots of development going forward, but Bradley also noted that the progess that Bukac made this season was very promising overall. Bukac has NHL size standing 6’4” at just 18 years old and should continue to fill out even further. Bukac played 77 games for the Wheat Kings of the WHL in 2017 and recorded 17 points. Expect Bukac to return to juniors this year and continue his development.
In other prospect news, the Bruins signed AHL standout Ken Agostino to a one year deal. Agostino scored an impressive 24 goals for the Chicago Wolves last season on his way to an 83 point campaign. Agostino has been sniffing at NHL action now for a couple years, most recently getting in 7 games with the St. Louis Blues and recording a goal and two assists. Agostino has decent size at 6-1 200 pounds and could find himself in a top nine role on the Bruins to open the season. If Agostino does find his way onto the team’s scoring lines he has the potential to be an impact player. With openings on the Bruins for players to step up this year Agostino has a legitimate chance of making the team, however, he will have to be better than Heinen and Bjork both of whom had fantastic seasons coming into 2017-2018 training camp.
The Bruins announced today that their development camp will run between Thursday July 6th and Sunday July 9th at the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, MA. The roster is as follows:
Forwards: Jack Becker, Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato, Trent Frederic, Jesse Gabrielle, Cameron Hughes (INJ), Mason Jobst, Joona Koppanen, Karson Kuhlman, Josh Melnick, T.J. Moore, R.J. Murphy, Cedric Pare, Eric Robinson*, Zach Senyshyn, Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka
Defensemen: Victor Berglund, Ian Brady, Daniel Bukac, Cameron Clarke, Jeremy Lauzon (INJ), Ryan Lindgren, Wiley Sherman, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakob Zboril
Goaltenders: Robert McGovern, Jeremy Swayman, Dan Vladar
Of this list, Mason Jobst, Karson Kuhlman, Josh Melnick, T.J. Moore, R.J. Murphy, Eric Robinson, Ian Brady, and Robert McGovern are participating as invites. Notable absences from this year’s development camp include Cameron Hughes and Jeremy Lauzon who are both recovering from off-season surgeries.
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