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2015 NHL Draft revisit: Analyzing what went right, wrong for Bruins in key year

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Editor's Note: With the 2020 NHL Draft happening this week, it's time to look back on recent drafts for the Boston Bruins and examine what went right and wrong for them. Next up is the 2015 draft.

The 2015 NHL Draft was a pivotal one for the Boston Bruins.

They were in the midst of retooling their roster and traded two core players -- left winger Milan Lucic and defenseman Dougie Hamilton -- in separate deals that netted Boston two first-round picks, among other assets.

It's rare that a team has three first-rounders in one draft. Not only was that the case for the B's, all three picks were in a row -- No. 13, No. 14 and No. 15. 

It was a deep draft and a tremendous opportunity for the B's to supplement an aging core with the depth and secondary scoring necessary to make deep playoff runs. 

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they largely struck out in this draft, and the team continues to pay for these mistakes today.

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Without further ado, it's time to examine the disappointment that is the 2015 Bruins draft.

Overview of draft picks

No. 13, Round 1: Jakub Zboril, D

No. 14, Round 1: Jake DeBrusk, LW

No. 15, Round 1: Zach Senyshyn, RW

No. 37, Round 2: Brandon Carlo, D

No. 45, Round 2: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson

No. 52, Round 2: Jeremy Lauzon, D

No. 75, Round 3: Dan Vladar, G

No. 105, Round 4: Jesse Gabrielle, LW

No. 165, Round 6: Cameron Hughes, C

No. 195, Round 7: Jack Becker, C

 

What went right for the Bruins?

Let's give the Bruins some credit for DeBrusk. He's averaged 20.6 goals scored over the last three years. DeBrusk also has given the B's a few strong postseason performances, including two goals in the team's Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.

Brandon Carlo is probably the best draft pick from Boston's 2015 class. He's developed into a reliable top-four defenseman who can hold his own against quality competition for 20-plus minutes each night. Drafting Carlo and Charlie McAvoy in back-to-back years has given the B's a solid foundation on the blue line going forward.

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Lauzon has shown flashes of being a solid offensive defenseman at the NHL level, and next season will be crucial for him as far as carving out a consistent role. 

What went wrong for the Bruins?

Where do we begin?

Zboril has yet to prove he's a consistent NHL player with only two games (both in 2018-19) played for Boston. He's tallied 19 points in three consecutive AHL seasons in Providence. Unless we see a late turnaround, it's hard to imagine him ever making a real impact for the Bruins. 

Senyshyn is one of the worst first-round picks the B's have made in recent memory. Not only was he taken way higher than he should have been, so many better players were still on the board when Boston made this selection. 

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The next three picks were the players the B's should've taken:

No. 16, New York Islanders: Mathew Barzal, C (207 points in 239 games)

No. 17, Winnipeg Jets: Kyle Connor, LW (105 goals in 249 games)

No. 18, Ottawa Senators: Thomas Chabot, D (119 points in 205 games)

Barzal would've given the Bruins a legit top-six center. Connor would've given the Bruins scoring depth on the wing -- one of the team's most glaring weaknesses right now. Chabot is what the Bruins hoped Zboril would become -- a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman with consistent offensive production. 

Brock Boeser (161 points in 197 games) went No. 23 to the Vancouver Canucks and Travis Konecny (185 points in 299 games) was taken No. 24 by the Philadelphia Flyers. These two players also would've been better picks than what Boston ended up with.

You could make a strong case that the Bruins would have another Stanley Cup title if they did better with their 2015 first-round picks. When you whiff on so many high picks, eventually it catches up to you. The Bruins don't have an impressive prospect pool and had to give up draft picks in recent seasons to acquire veterans at the trade deadline in part because they lacked organizational depth. This might not have been an issue if the 2015 draft was handled differently.

The B's have relied too much on their top line in recent playoff runs. There hasn't been enough secondary scoring -- something DeBrusk and Senyshyn were expected to provide.

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Boston made three picks in Round 1 and another three in Round 2, and Carlo is the only player in that group who's met or exceeded expectations. That's really bad -- there's no other way to put it.

 

Gabrielle, Hughes and Becker also aren't expected to be reliable NHL players. Forsbacka Karlsson returned to Sweden in 2019.

Future outlook

It's possible that all three of Boston's first-round picks from 2015 could depart the organization before next season because each player is a restricted free agent.

DeBrusk is the team's top free agent forward, and his name reportedly has also come up in trade discussions of late. The Bruins shouldn't pay DeBrusk between $5-6 million on a new deal, but if he leaves, it'll make a weak group of wingers even worse. A trade makes sense if the Bruins can acquire a winger with offensive upside or create additional salary cap space to pursue a top-six forward in free agency (Taylor Hall, Evgenii Dadonov, etc.). 

Zboril and Senyshyn could re-sign, too, but neither player is going to make an impact at the NHL level.

Carlo has one more season left on his two-year bridge contract. Locking him up with a long-term extension should be a priority for the B's in the near future. 

Vladar's play in the AHL has been encouraging, and he could be a backup in Boston sooner rather than later. Lauzon is among the young d-men who could see more ice time in the event Torey Krug departs via free agency and isn't adequately replaced.