Where to start?
You spend an entire season watching players and investing your time and energy in them. You trust your instincts and you check your various lists and rankings, second-guessing yourself and wondering if you have it right. And to be completely honest, you go into it knowing that the various NHL scouts who represent their teams will likely take a completely different route than the one you have envisioned for them.
Such is the case with the Boston Bruins and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
The Bruins, to the surprise of few, made Boston University defenseman Charlie McAvoy the team’s top selection at 14th overall in the 1st round, adding an extremely talented two-way defender to the mix. Those who follow this blog will know that I had Dante Fabbro rated slightly higher, but at this point, it is six one way, half dozen the other. McAvoy was the right pick for a team desperately in need of some skill, aggressive offense, and swagger. He’s a Long Island, N.Y. kid who should have been a senior in high school this season and instead was turning heads for one of the most storied NCAA programs with his aggressive offensive mindset and an ability to push the pace and generate offense from the blue line. In short, McAvoy is exactly what the doctor ordered as a player who was a different player (in a good way) from the one who began the season in November to the one we saw in March.
Talk to McAvoy for more than a minute and it’s hard not to like the kid. He’s honest, engaging and let’s face it- when you watch the way he skates and control the play, what does it matter that he grew up in New York loving all of those hated sports teams if you are a proud Bostonian/New Englander? He’s already embraced the Boston tradition and although he admits to being a NY Giants fan, it is clear that McAvoy knows the score and is drinking the Olde Towne Kool Aide.
All of this is just window dressing, however.
The kid can flat-out play. He’s only 6-feet in height, but he’s a thick 205 pounds already and I expect him to maybe play one more season at BU before he’s ready to turn pro. He skates so well, and moves the puck like a seasoned pro already. This blog beat the drum on Fabbro, but in all honesty- the margin between the two right-shooting defensemen was razor-thin and McAvoy is a solid selection at 14.
The Bruins then had a chance to make another splash at 29, with the 1st-round pick acquired from San Jose for Martin Jones last offseason, and here’s where things went off the rails from conventional thought
Center Trent Frederic ended up being the second of the B’s 1st-round selections. No- it was Frederic at 29… Really?
When I heard Boston owner Charles Jacobs announce “From the U.S. National Team…” I was thinking left-shooting D Ryan Lindgren or RW Joey Anderson (both of whom are Minnesota products)…Frederic was not on the radar in the 1st round. I saw him at the Under-18s in Grand Forks last April and I’m still trying to figure this one out- bear with me.
Let’s start out with the good, shall we? He’s a big kid- 6-foot-2, and 205 pounds. He’s heavy on the puck- a centerman from St. Louis who can grind it out and patterns his own game after Blues captain David Backes. He skates well enough and after talking to BU coach David Quinn, who tried hard to recruit Frederic to the Terriers only to lose him to the University of Wisconsin, he said that the 29th overall pick is a “sleeper” who is an “athlete” and might end up being a better pro player than an amateur. It’s hard to doubt Quinn, who knows his hockey and is destined to be an NHL coach soon (assuming that’s what he wants out of life). Frederic has some nice NHL-caliber measurables and comes out of the storied U.S. National Team program in a record-breaking year for top-30 selections.
Having said that…the Bruins took this guy in the first round? Is it at least possible they could have waited and gotten Frederic later on?
I guess we’ll never know and the beauty of scouting is that you feel passionate about certain players and therefore, a player like Frederic, who by all accounts is a leader and quality young man, end up being someone taken well earlier than where the public lists have him.
I don’t know, though. I was struck by his gregariousness and the fact that Toronto president Brendan Shanahan went out of his way to embrace Frederic and congratulate him on his selection.
Unfortunately, I was also at the Under-18 Championship in Grand Forks, N.D. and I’m pretty sure I can name at least 30 players there I had ahead of Frederic in terms of how I would project them for the NHL. That doesn’t mean I’m right here, but I never even entertained him as a first-round option in 2016.
I guess it comes down to this question: Are you good with selecting a 4th line center with maybe 3rd line upside in the first round? If you are, then Frederic’s intangibles make him more than worth that standing. However, when you get down to it, he simply wasn’t projected there, and the NHL scouting community (at least multiple sources I have) did not react favorably to the pick.
Quinn thinks that Frederic has what it takes to go on to have NHL success, and if you’re a fan of Chris Kelly, then there’s something to be said for that. Unfortunately, with other players available along the lines of Wade Allison, Alex DeBrincat, Markus Niemelainen, Kale Clague, Adam Mascherin, Vitali Abramov, Carl Grundstrom, Boris Katchouk, Will Bitten, Rasmus Asplund, Lindgren, Anderson, and many others- Frederic simply doesn’t seem to make much sense. It’s one of those picks that makes you wonder if the B’s were bidding against themselves, and there’s no shaking the questions here.
I like Frederic based on the brief interaction I had with him tonight- He seems honest and straightforward- I want to like him as a Bruins prospect. But, I can’t get past the feeling that the Bruins outsmarted themselves here. A good personality and rock solid character does not an NHL player make.
I guess we’ll find out what Day 2 has in store, but after the buzz of McAvoy at 14, it’s hard to see what the impetus was behind a guy whose ranking by my own scouting service was 112.
Maybe Quinn is right and Frederic is that sleeper who will end up being the better pro in the long run, but it sure seems as if 29 was much too early to invest on a player who is as of today the definition of a “safe” center with a limited NHL ceiling.
The jury will be out for a while here, but in the wake of a nice value with McAvoy, Frederic does nothing but beg more questions…and that’s not exactly how Bruins fans wanted to draw things up.
I’ll be back with more later on Saturday, and we’ll see where the rest of this draft adventure leads…