The Boston Bruins are about to enter the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday night without a first-round pick.
It's the third draft since the 2004-05 lockout and second in the last three years that Boston doesn't own a first-rounder.
The B's traded this year's first-round selection, along with prospect Axel Andersson and veteran forward David Backes to the Anaheim Ducks in February in exchange for forward Ondrej Kase.
The Bruins made a huge mistake giving Backes a five-year, $30 million contract as a free agent in 2016 and had to burn a first-round pick four years later -- plus give up their highest pick from the 2018 draft (Andersson) -- to get rid of it and free up much-needed salary cap space.
It leaves the Bruins without a valuable trade asset during the most pivotal week of the offseason with the draft (Oct. 6-7) and free agency (Oct. 9) set to take place. It also makes it harder for the B's to restock a prospect pool that lacks high-end talent at every position.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was asked during a video press conference Monday about the team not owning a first-round pick, and he didn't rule out trading back into Round 1.
"Well, it’s certainly difficult. Your scouts do a tremendous amount of work and you’d like to reward them. Clearly, the first round, is talent laden, the draft is deep overall," Sweeney said. "I think if the opportunity presents itself, we’re going to have to explore it.
"There has been plenty of talk overall. It hasn’t been a heck of a lot of player movement and such, but we’re getting down to the final stages so if anything is going to happen, it has to happen within the next 48 hours to get in, if you’re trying to trade back in. There’s been some discussions. It’s just expensive this time of the year."
The Bruins have needs to fill in this draft at each position except goaltender. Boston actually has two pretty good goalie prospects in Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman. Vladar was a 2015 third-round pick and had a strong 2019-20 season for the AHL's Providence Bruins. Swayman, a standout at the University of Maine, was the Richter Award winner as college hockey's top goaltender in Division I last season. He also was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
The positions the Bruins should prioritize above all else are left wing and right wing.
When you look at the B's at every level of their organization, there is a glaring lack of high-end talent on the wing. Outside of David Pastrnak (the league's co-leading goal scorer) and Brad Marchand (a top three left winger), there aren't any consistent scoring wings on Boston's roster.
The prospect pool doesn't offer much hope for the future at these positions, either. Jack Studnicka is Boston's top forward prospect, and even though he can play on the wing, he's best suited at center. Trent Frederic, a 2016 first-rounder, also is a center. Boston's 2019 first rounder, John Beecher, is a center as well.
The problem on the wing will worsen if Jake DeBrusk is traded or leaves as a restricted free agent. DeBrusk has been frustratingly inconsistent his entire career and struggled in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and yet if he's not re-signed, the Bruins could go into next season with David Krejci not having a reliable scoring winger on either side of him on the second line.
The other position the Bruins should target with one of their first few picks is defenseman. Boston doesn't have any defenseman prospects with top-four potential outside of 2017 first-rounder Urho Vaakanainen. The team's depth on the blue line also could be hit hard this offseason depending on whether unrestricted free agents Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug return.
It's possible the Bruins jump back into the first round, but they're already lacking quality trade assets and would be better served using those assets to acquire proven players, not draft picks because the team is in win-now mode with its aging veteran core.
The Bruins aren't likely to select any players this week who will make a meaningful contribution at the NHL level over the next two seasons. That said, this draft is still a very important one for the Bruins, who need to improve their prospect pool ASAP.