Bruins

Ranking Bruins' top 10 prospects after 2021 NHL Draft

Bruins

The Boston Bruins remain a top contender in the Eastern Conference after a flurry of free agent signings added plenty of depth to the NHL roster.

An boost of young talent is needed, though. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they don't have any A-list prospects ready to break into the NHL.

Boston's prospect pool was ranked dead last in The Athletic's February rankings. Before the 2020-21 season, ESPN ranked Boston's system 30th out of 31 teams.

The Bruins' prospect pool has certainly improved since December when that ESPN ranking was released, and a strong 2021 draft last month certainly helped in that regard.

Here's an updated list of the top 10 prospects in the Bruins organization.

1. Fabian Lysell, LW

The Bruins injected some much-needed elite-level offensive talent into their prospect pool with the selection of Lysell in the first round (No. 21 overall) of the 2021 NHL Draft.

"I think I’m a dynamic player," Lysell said on a Zoom call with reporters the night he was drafted. "I like to challenge opponents with pace. I try to use my skating to create separation from myself and to be in those dangerous scoring areas. That’s what I think."

 

Lysell projects to be a top-six forward at the NHL level. His speed, shot and offensive awareness are all impressive. He consistently creates offense for himself and teammates. Expectations are rightfully high with Lysell given his talent and potential.

2. Mason Lohrei, D

Lohrei is a fast-rising prospect who enjoyed an excellent 2020-21 season for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. The 2020 second-round draft pick tallied 59 points (19 goals, 40 assists) in 48 games. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds at age 20, Lohrei has ideal size for someone who projects to be a quality NHL defenseman. His two-way game is impressive, and there's little doubt he's the top defenseman prospect in Boston's system. Don't be surprised if he becomes the Bruins' top prospect regardless of position in the near future.

Lohrei is headed to Ohio State in the fall.

3. Jack Studnicka, C

The 2020-21 season was a bit disappointing for Studnicka, who was expected to play a larger role for the Bruins than he did. Studnicka played 20 games in Boston and tallied just three points (one goal, two assists). He failed to score a goal in 11 games for the Providence Bruins, but did post seven assists. 

David Krejci's departure has opened up a massive opportunity for Studnicka entering training camp. Ice time will be up for grabs this season and he needs to earn a chunk of it, whether that's playing center or on the wing. Studnicka is a very good playmaker and skates well. He has the offensive skill set the B's need, and now it's about being a consistent player against NHL competition.

4. John Beecher, C

Injury (and shoulder surgery in February) derailed Beecher's sophomore season at Michigan, although he still managed to tally eight points (four goals, four assists) in 16 games. He's returning to the Wolverines for his junior season, and it's a huge year for him. Beecher has an opportunity to be a top player and a leader for a Michigan team that's absolutely loaded with elite talent (four picks in the top five of the 2021 draft, including No. 1 selection Owen Power). Beecher has excellent size (6-foot-3 and 210 pounds) and the type of speed NHL coaches covet. The Bruins need prospects with top-six center potential following David Krejci's recent departure and Patrice Bergeron turning 36 years old last month.

5. Jakub Lauko, LW

Lauko has excellent speed, which could make him a valuable NHL forward at some point. He also plays with a high hockey IQ. Lauko took a huge step offensively last season, tallying 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 23 games for the Providence Bruins -- an improvement from nine points in 22 games the previous year. It wouldn't be crazy if Lauko made his NHL debut in 2021-22.

6. Urho Vaakanainen, D

It's time for Vaakanainen to earn a regular role at the NHL level. He has yet to make an impact for the Bruins despite being a first-round pick (18th overall) back in 2017. The Finnish defenseman is a smart, quality skater with a good two-way skill set. He's not going to light up the stat sheet with crazy scoring numbers but he plays a poised, fundamentally strong game.

 

The ideal scenario for the Bruins is Vaakanainen giving them valuable depth as a consistent third-pairing guy next season. Four years after being drafted, it's time for his skill set to finally translate to the NHL level.

7. Jack Achan, D

Achan doesn't have tremendous size (5-foot-8 and 178 pounds) but he certainly plays like someone well over six feet. He brings plenty of physicality to the ice and doesn't shy away from puck battles in the dirty areas. His offensive game is impressive as well, and he tallied 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 19 games for the the Providence Bruins last season.

Achan played three games in Boston in 2020-21 and could get a larger look this coming season, especially if he has a good training camp/preseason.

8. Brett Harrison, C

The Bruins needed to add center depth in the 2021 draft, so the selection of Brett Harrison in the third round made a lot of sense. He tallied 37 points (21 goals, 16 assists) in 58 games for the OHL's Oshawa Generals in 2019-20 before the pandemic wiped out the 2020-21 OHL campaign. At 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds as an 18-years-old forward, Harrison has ideal size at a premium position. His speed is not incredible, but his goal scoring ability makes him an exciting prospect.

9. Curtis Hall, C

The Ivy League didn't have a 2020-21 season amid the pandemic, so Hall did not play his junior season at Yale. Instead, he turned pro and signed an entry-level contract with the Bruins in March. Hall played 13 games for the Providence Bruins last season and should get plenty of run in the AHL during the 2021-22 campaign. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds with a powerful shot, Hall is an intriguing talent with plenty of motivation.

10. Kyle Keyser, G

Keyser could be the No. 1 goalie for the AHL's Providence Bruins with Jeremy Swayman likely spending all or most of the upcoming season at the NHL level and Dan Vladar being traded to the Calgary Flames. It's a huge opportunity for Keyser to establish himself as a valuable prospect in the system. He posted a 3-1-1 record with a .913 save percentage for the P-Bruins last year, and that's a good foundation to build on entering the new season.