CHICAGO -- Just as the Celtics moved down from their first-round pick before making their selection on draft night, Don Sweeney and the Bruins may do the very same thing in tonight in the first round of the NHL Draft at the United Center.
The Bruins currently hold the 18th overall selection after getting back into the playoffs last season and Sweeney said the likelihood for the Black and Gold was to move down amid a draft class that isn’t particularly strong.
“We feel good about where we’re picking right now, but we’ve had some talks about moving in either direction,” Sweeney said Thursday. “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and the [start of the first round]. Our scouts are excited about the players that are potentially available at that spot, and on players on either side movement-wise whether we go up or down in the draft...more likely move back to take a player that we potentially think will still be there.
“There’s some value as a result to that. That’s what we’ve discussed on the amateur side, and on the pro scouting side, we’ve talked about using that pick to acquire [talent] to help our team. We want to be better for next year.”
It’s clear that the first-round pick is absolutely in play for potential trades for either an NHL-ready wing or defenseman who can fill needs. The Bruins have engaged in longstanding discussions with the Minnesota Wild for left-shot defenseman Jonas Brodin. There were also whispers over the past few days that Boston might be angling for Vegas power forward Alex Tuch, just traded from Minny in an expansion draft deal.
NHL players Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Adam McQuaid could potentially be on the table for deals and the Bruins might also have to move a top prospect such as Jakob Zboril if it’s part of a deal where a young, veteran NHL D-man comes back to Boston. Sweeney indicated there were a lot of trade discussions leading up to the expansion draft. Those will continue as Vegas GM George McPhee is expected in the coming days to auction off some of the talent plucked with those expansion draft picks.
“There were a lot of discussions leading up to [the expansion draft],” said Sweeney. “We all believed he was going to take a number of defensemen [for the Golden Knights] and there could be an auction. There have been discussions there, and there have been a lot of names tossed around. Now it will be interesting to see now knowing what the prices were going to be ahead of time, and now that most of the trades have been completed where we’re going moving forward.
“We feel very comfortable with the six guys on our roster right now [on defense]. We feel there’s a lot of depth there and we’ve got some young players, but if there’s a target-specific thing we’re going to continue to look at it.”
One interesting name to think about in an auction-style deal with Vegas: Marc Methot. The big, lefty-shooting D-man is hard-nosed, tough and has been an excellent stay-at-home partner with Erik Karlsson the past few years in Ottawa. Wouldn’t that kind of tough, veteran leader with enough mobility be a great fit as a partner for right-shooting Charlie McAvoy in his first full season in the NHL?
There’s rumored to be plenty of interest in Methot, including in Toronto, if/when he becomes a trade chip for the Golden Knights. One would hope that the Bruins at least kick the tires on a player that could fill that need until their prospects are ready.
What do the Bruins do if they stay at No. 18? Kristian Vesalainen, Isaac Ratcliffe, Callan Foote, Shane Bowers, Eeli Tolvanen and Nicholas Hague would be in the mix, and the B’s would certainly come away with a player that could add to their prospect profile.
Hague is an intriguing D-man prospect who could be a Zdeno Chara replacement in the making given his 6-foot-6 size, his smarts and the strength he’s expected to develop, along with his puck-moving ability.
"We've watched a lot of Missy games this year and definitely one thing that sticks out [about Hague] is his hockey IQ, he can use smarts or physical tools to take control,” said one Eastern Conference talent evaluator. “His stick and overall gap control is something really amazing to witness and when someone with his size can just eliminate time and space to go in any direction....scored 18 from the backend, and didn't get 1st Unit touches in the second half because they needed him as a shutdown D. He's going to be one hell of a Pro!"
If the B’s do move down in the first round it's interesting that, according to the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy, the Bruins have met several times with Boston University goaltender Jake Oettinger, who is expected to be selected toward the end of the first round. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound prospect is considered the top goalie prospect in the draft and might be a safe pick for the Black and Gold with a class that doesn’t boast the kind of high-end forwards and D-men that were in the previous couple of drafts.
One thing is certain: Sweeney and the Bruins expect to be active this draft weekend in the Windy City and get their first real crack at addressing the NHL roster needs on the left side at both wing and defenseman.
It remains to be seen how much they will get done after this week’s flurry of expansion draft activity and how much will carry over into the free agency period beginning July 1.