The 2016 NHL Entry Draft came and went in Buffalo, N.Y. and six new players are now a part of the Boston Bruins organization after 211 total kids were drafted on June 24-25.
This post is just a quick-hitter- plan to have a more in-depth, player by player break down of the new B’s, but this is what we call in the military a “hot wash” to give a rapid recap of what happened. You can also listen to 98.5 the Sports Hub at 10:00 a.m. Sunday to get a little more.
Here are the Boston picks by round with a few notes on each:
1-14: Charlie McAvoy, RD Boston University- The Long Island native instantly represents some of the highest NHL promise of any prospect in the Boston system. Like Jakub Zboril, he has a pretty good offensive skill set and talent level. Unlike Zboril, he stays engaged and doesn’t have the inconsistency questions. I spoke to both of McAvoy’s most recent coaches right after he was picked and what kept coming up beyond his obvious talent is just what a good teammate and solid kid he is. Don Granato, now with his brother at the University of Wisconsin, had McAvoy at the NTDP and said that we was one of the most loyal players he’s ever seen come through the program. Dave Quinn talked about a profound transformation and improvement in McAvoy’s game last season from start to finish- that’s something every scout will get on board with, end of story. I have to think that commitment and progress are two big things beyond his obvious talent that sold the Bruins on him. I verified with Keith Gretzky, Boston’s chief scout, that it was indeed close between McAvoy and Dante Fabbro, but in the end- I think McAvoy’s proximity to the team HQ allowed everyone to see him with ease and the Boston brass was a little more comfortable with the level of competition and viewings they had.
I said before the draft that the B’s needed a hit single and it looks like they may have gotten one. Central Scouting had McAvoy sixth on their list of NA skaters, and depending on who you talk to- some felt McAvoy was the best defender in the draft. Time will tell if he hits the potentially high ceiling, but he’s going to be one to watch and shouldn’t be too far away from turning pro- he’s going back to BU, but could be in Providence by April.
1-29: Trent Frederic, C U.S. NTDP- Amidst rumors that the Bruins were trying unsuccessfully to trade the 29th selection either for NHL help or a chance to move back a bit and get some extra choices in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, they stepped up to the podium shortly before 11 p.m. and made a surprise selection in landing the Missouri product and big center who was not projected to be a top-30 selection. Frederic has size and more of a defensive game than an offensive one (and that’s probably being charitable at this point), but he got high marks for his intelligence and character. In the short time I saw him after the pick, there was little doubt that Frederic brings a level of gregariousness that probably endears him to teammates and coaches alike- I get the feeling that fans will really like him in their off-ice interactions. Unfortunately, being a good dude doesn’t win you many hockey games, so there will continue to be scrutiny on this pick for some time, as Frederic is headed to Madison to play for the Wisconsin Badgers. BU coach Quinn was not shy about revealing that he was highly disappointed that his own Terriers missed out on landing Frederic.
In talking to Gretzky and assistant GM Scott Bradley after the draft, the team recognized a need to get bigger at center- all three of their NHL pivots are 6-foot or under, and Boston felt that Frederic is emerging as more of a scoring presence than his numbers and performance indicate to date. They also talked about a hand injury that hampered him for much of the season but that he’s gotten clearance on and has healed fully. We shall see, but with some higher-profile talent on the board at the end of the opening round, few are going to be excited about this pick, even if Frederic looks like one of those “high floor” kids who will play in the NHL for years.
2-49: Ryan Lindgren, LD U.S. NTDP- The Team USA captain is a player I am genuinely excited about. Along with Fabbro, he was probably one of the top-2 or 3 best defenders at the entire Under-18 tourney in April and he’s as polished, refined and solid a defenseman as any available in the draft. He was always seen as a steady, strong defensive presence- a strong positional player who will sell out his body to block shots and brings tremendous competitive drive to any situation. However, in Grand Forks- he looked like something more than that as someone who was pushing the pace, attacking aggressively on offense and showing an opportunistic side that will likely earn him a lot of confidence at the University of Minnesota. The B’s brass is excited to add this player- he has the makings of a rock on the second pairing who will eat huge minutes and has enough offensive presence to boost the team at both ends of the ice. Again- character is key and he has it. He brings an intensity and commands respect that makes it clear why he wore the ‘C’ for two years in the NTDP.
I cannot stress enough how much I like this player and the decision to take him at 49- I would have been pleased if Lindgren had been the 29th selection and to be honest- when Charles Jacobs announced “From the U.S. National Team…” I thought he was getting ready to say Lindgren’s name on Friday night. That the B’s landed him the next day at 49 reminds me of 2010 when Boston grabbed Jared Knight at 32 and Ryan Spooner at 45. I thought it should have been the other way around then and time has validated that view.
5- 135: Joona Koppanen, C Ilves (Finland)- The natural reaction I’m sure with a lot of folks once they asked the “who?!” question when the pick went up on the big board was to start drawing lines of comparison to another recent JK from Finland- Joonas Kemppainen– and that is not a good thing. It’s unfair to the kid, because let’s face it- he is a kid and Kemppainen came to Boston with a lot of pro experience (and bad habits) and didn’t work out for a lot of reasons. Koppanen is 18 and deserves a clean slate. The similarities between the two are no doubt there- Koppanen is already 6-5 and is defensive, clampdown center who uses his size and reach to clog the middle of the ice and does honest work along the boards. Right now, there is not much in the way of an offensive dimension in his game, but he looks to be a more physically engaged player than Kemppainen was in Boston a year ago. I saw Koppanen in Grand Forks when he was with the gold medal-winning Finnish team and there isn’t a whole lot more you can say about him- he’s a north-south, shutdown center who is very good on draws and does the grunt work to grind people down, but at the end of the day isn’t going to wow you in any way. His 0 points at the tourney can attest to that, but I have time for him as a long-term fourth-line center project. This is the kind of thing you get in a shallow draft once you start getting into the fifth round and beyond.
5- 136: Cameron Clarke, D Lone Star (NAHL)- The top defender in U.S. Jr. B is already 20 and rapidly blooming as an offensive defenseman who can really get the puck up the ice and boost his team’s offensive production, especially on the power play. I saw him quite a bit in Fort Worth this year and he’s a tall (6-2) still quite lanky player from Michigan who has a connection to the Krug family through conditioning work and off the ice. Clarke skates well, but his pivots and transitions were a little slushy- he’s working on it and it will be interesting to see if he improves on that, because he has an impressive wiggle at the blue line and is an extremely smart, adept player once he gets into the offensive zone. Ferris State is getting a good one and this pick gets a hat tip because Clarke looks like one of those later values who is a little rough around the edges, but is worth the investment on. Other teams were onto him and he would not have been there in the sixth round. If I had to guess, I’m thinking that Ryan Nadeau and Keith ‘Sully’ Sullivan probably had a major hand in getting down to see him in the hockey backwater that is North Texas and credit to the B’s for grabbing a player with upside and who is closer to helping them than any 18-YO taken at that spot would be. Excellent pick (acquired from Minnesota last year when Boston traded out of the 6th round).
6- 165: Oskar Steen, F Farjestad (Sweden)- Okay- I’ll admit it. I don’t really get this pick. On the plus side- Steen is a versatile, smart, industrious forward- he’s kind of like a swiss army knife in that he can do a lot of different things for you. I saw some flashes from him at Grand Forks and he’s put up some points in Sweden along the way and in other tournaments. But here’s the thing- he’s 5-9. The B’s had multiple shots early on at other 5-9-ish forwards who all had a world of skill more than Steen does and they passed. I’m just not sure where the kid fits in the long term and how much of a projection he’ll have in the NHL as a winger who is small but neither dynamic nor explosive. I like his energy and vision, and was told that P.J. Axelsson is a big fan, so there’s that. And we have to remember that Steen is a sixth-round selection in a shallow draft, so his chances of going all the way are pretty low. Having said that, off the top of my head, I do believe that Axelsson himself was the 177th pick in 1995, so it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
Quick thoughts: The McAvoy, Lindgren and Clarke picks all get A/B+ grades from me- they’re exactly the kinds of defenders the B’s can use and give the organization some solid options in the youth movement when you add some of their other recent picks and prospects into the mix. Some might not see McAvoy as a high-ender, but I think he’s in that kind of discussion, based on talks with several NHL scouts, who told me that they felt he would have blitzed the OHL this year and probably would have ended up as a top-10 pick if he had gone there.
The forwards don’t bring much in the way of offensive skill that gets you excited, and to Boston’s credit- they’re not trying to sell them as such. Gretzky said that the organization identified an issue with their size and toughness to play against at the center position and added two big pivots who could address that. It’s not likely both play, but you never know and Frederic, while not a popular pick at 29, could evolve into something more than he’s shown to date. We’re not going to definitively decide on that today, no matter how much of a reach you think he was, or whether you like what you see and want to put faith into Boston’s optimistic outlook. We just don’t know. Koppanen and Steen are depth additions who will likely make their countries’ World Jr. teams at some point in the next 1-2 years and we’ll see how they do.
Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report was not all that charitable, saying that “The Bruins have had five first-round picks in the last two years and they haven’t made as much hay as they should have.”
Again, we shall see, but I can’t disagree with that view.
Contrast the second round, and the outlook is different: Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Jeremy Lauzon and Ryan Lindgren– those guys all look like players who will see NHL time. If not, they might bring enough interest to leverage some trade returns that help the club. And those are just from the second rounds from the past two seasons.
Overall- it’s hard to imagine Boston fans being overly excited about the 2016 draft, but they added a few soid players with one possible homerun in McAvoy. Sometimes it’s tough to swallow when the sexy names don’t come off the board where everyone thinks they should, but assembling winning teams doesn’t always simply amount to stockpiling the best talent- the team has to take players who represent the right fit and help them address key areas. I don’t know that guys like Frederic, Koppanen or Steen do that, but unless they have crystal ball- neither does anyone else.