The 2021 NHL Draft is over and the Boston Bruins made seven picks.
Overall, it was a very good draft for the Bruins. They addressed several different positional needs and didn't reach for players they could've selected in later rounds.
Boston's prospect pool was ranked 31st by The Athletic and 30th by ESPN before last season, which illustrates how much work the team must do to restock the cupboard with premium talent. This draft class should be a positive step toward accomplishing that objective.
Here are six takeaways from the Bruins' 2021 draft class.
High-end skill in Round 1
The Bruins selected right winger Fabian Lysell with the No. 21 overall pick, giving the team's prospect pool a badly needed boost of high-end offensive talent.
Lysell is a great skater with impressive speed and a dangerous right-handed shot. He was a top 10 or top 15 talent in this draft and has the potential to be a top-six winger for the Bruins at some point.
"Obviously, when you play in the SHL as a young player, you’re not necessarily given primary roles and you might not have the same offensive output that he wants. So, you really pay attention when he goes and plays against his peers," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said on a Zoom call Friday.
"Can he dominate games or at least be a game breaker? And I think he’s showed moments of that skillset as well. And he’s got a lot of work to do in terms of rounding out his overall game. He just has the speed, he has skill, the ability to shoot the puck past the goaltender. And again, some game breaking ability that was hard for us to pass on."
Much-needed depth at center
Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are still very good players but they are both moving toward the end of their careers. Bergeron is signed for one more season and celebrated his 36th birthday on Saturday. Krejci is 35 years old and currently an unrestricted free agent. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Thursday that Krejci has not given a firm indication on whether he'll come back for the upcoming season.
The B's need to develop potential replacements for these two veterans. So far, that process hasn't yielded great results.
The Bruins selected center John Beecher with their 2019 first-round pick. An injury cut his 2020-21 season short at Michigan. The Wolverines are going to be absolutely loaded next season, which represents a massive opportunity for Beecher.
Trent Frederic (a first-rounder in 2016) and Jack Studnicka (a second-rounder in 2017) are recent high picks at the center position. They have combined to play 81 NHL games with nine points. Studnicka is the Bruins' top prospect, but it was a little disappointing that he didn't earn a regular role at the NHL level last season. Frederic didn't project to be a top-six forward when he was drafted, and that assessment has proven accurate so far.
With all of this in mind, it made a lot of sense for the Bruins to take a center with one of their early picks. They selected Oshawa Generals (OHL) center Brett Harrison in the third round. He has tremendous size (more on that below) and brings plenty of versatility to the ice.
"I can play in all areas of the ice," Harrison said on a Zoom call Saturday. "I'm a centerman but I can play both sides of the wing as well. I have a very high hockey IQ and a really great scoring touch. I find the soft areas in front of the net and in the slot. I love going to the dirty areas and producing on my chances in front."
The Bruins drafted another center, Andre Gasseau, in the seventh round.
B's target size and strength
The Bruins clearly made an effort to add toughness and size to their prospect pool in this draft.
Here's a look at some of the notable picks who bring excellent size to the B's organization:
- Third round, pick No. 85: Brett Harrison, C, 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds
- Fourth round, pick No. 117: Philip Svedeback, G, 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds
- Sixth round, No. 181: Ryan Mast, D, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds
- Seventh round, No. 213: Andre Gasseau, C, 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds
- Seventh round, No. 217: Ty Gallagher, D, 6-foot and 188 pounds
The Bruins have drafted a lot of American-born players in recent years, including all four of their 2020 picks. They went in a bit of a different direction this year and took three players from Sweden. That's not a bad place to look for talent considering all the great players past and present from Sweden.
Boston's three Swedish draft picks are right winger Fabian Lasell (first round), goaltender Philip Svedeback (fourth round) and left winger Oskar Jellvik (fifth round).
The Bruins taking three Swedish players isn't a surprise at all when you consider PJ Axelsson is their European Scouting Director and based in Sweden.
Scouting for this draft was difficult for a lot of reasons because of the pandemic. Being in-person to watch and evaluate these players was understandably difficult or just not possible in many countries over the last year. Luckily for the Bruins, they were able to do some quality scouting in Sweden.
"We were fortunate to have three people based in Sweden and be able to get to live viewings," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said on a Zoom call with reporters Friday night. "So we have a deeper book. And the rest of the guys are filling in with as much video from over the course of really, two and a half years. And then we were fortunate to get to the U18’s. We definitely had a really good book on Fabian as well as other players in the first round.
"But you knew there was going to be a little bit of that, as we mentioned earlier, variance that might come into play with such a unique year and the challenges that we were all faced with."
Going for best available
Too often in recent years have the Bruins not taken the best player available in the early rounds and instead reached to address certain positional needs.
Trent Frederic was a reach at the end of the first round in 2016. Zach Senyshyn was a huge reach at No. 15 overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. We didn't see any of these kinds of selections from Sweeney this year.
The Bruins took the best player available with several of their picks in this draft, most notably Lysell in Round 1. He was listed in the top 10 or 15 on many pre-draft prospect rankings, so getting him at No. 21 was pretty good value for Boston. Right wing wasn't the Bruins' most glaring positional need, but Lysell's exciting offensive skill set was too impressive to pass up.
Harrison falling to the third round was great value for the B's, too. He was taken at No. 85 overall despite being labeled as a top 60 prospect on quite a few pre-draft rankings, including TSN and NHL Central Scouting.
Keeping it local
The Bruins' final two picks, both in the seventh round, will be playing at Hockey East schools next season. This obviously makes it easier for the Bruins to monitor the progress each player is making on and off the ice.
Two-way center Andre Gasseau will play for Boston College beginning in the 2022-23 season, and offensive defenseman Ty Gallagher will take his talents to Boston University this year. Each of these players spent the 2020-21 season with the United States national team development program.