2017 NHL Draft

A look back at the Bruins' 2017 NHL Draft: Not too shabby

A look back at the Bruins' 2017 NHL Draft: Not too shabby

The 2017 NHL Draft could turn out to be a pretty strong one for the Bruins.

Urho Vaakanainen may not turn out to be a home run as a decent top-4 prospect with limited ceiling both offensively and defensively, but the Bruins have a couple of potentially great picks in Jack Studnicka (second round) and Jeremy Swayman (fourth round). Studnicka is the top forward prospect in the organization as a potential top-6 center and Swayman has the best shot to be the future No. 1 goaltender for the Bruins organization as Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak both hit their mid-30s.

They also missed with a couple of later picks on Cedric Pare and Daniel Bukac, but if you’re going to miss on players, doing it in the sixth and seventh rounds is the way to go.

Urho Vaakanainen (1st round, 18th overall)

Some will remember that the name Paul Coffey was tossed around at NHL Draft weekend after the Bruins had selected the smooth-skating Finnish defenseman in the middle of the first round. Well, I’m here to tell you that Urho Vaakanainen is not going to be Paul Coffey.

Certainly, he’s shown flashes over the last few seasons as he’s already had a couple of stints in Boston at 21 years old, and he’s had his moments at the AHL level with nine goals and 28 points in 84 games for the P-Bruins over the last two seasons. He’s a good skater and he can play big minutes, and his offense has been developing at a decent level given his production after showing less offensive ability as a younger player. He was touted as an advanced defensive D-man when he was drafted and interestingly enough that’s actually been an area of his game where he hasn’t been particularly impressive.

Vaakanainen has a pretty active stick and can skate his way out of trouble, but he’s not very physical at 6-foot-1, 185-pounds and doesn’t really project to be a shutdown defenseman when he’s finally a regular at the NHL level. He’s also had some concussion issues including this flagrant elbow from Mark Borowiecki that ended his first stint with the Bruins. Vaakanainen is still a work in progress, but it doesn’t feel like he’s ever going to be the kind of NHL defenseman that the Bruins got in the middle of the first when they picked Charlie McAvoy, does it?

Grade: B-

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Jack Studnicka (2nd round, 53rd overall)

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Studnicka turned into a legit offensive stud in his final couple of OHL seasons and was impressive in his first AHL campaign with 23 goals and 49 points in 60 games with the P-Bruins. He’s developed into the top forward prospect in the Bruins organization and has size, skating ability, competitiveness and an ability to put the puck in the net that makes him the closest thing to a top-6 heir apparent to Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci at the center position.

It would have been interesting to see if he would have been pushed into any kind of duty with the Bruins down the stretch this season, but he will be NHL-ready within the next couple of seasons as Krejci enters the final year of his contract next season. Studnicka looks like a can’t miss guy for the Black and Gold and an excellent second-round pick as potentially their best player taken in this draft.

Studnicka scored a goal during this season’s preseason after taking a puck off his face. Now that’s a hockey player.

Grade: A

Jeremy Swayman (4th round, 111th overall)

The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Swayman is another potential gem in this draft after being drafted following his USHL career with the Sioux Falls Stampede.

Swayman improved each and every season with the University of Maine before capturing the Mike Richter Award as college hockey’s top goaltender this past season. He finished with a .939 save percentage for the Black Bears this past season and showed great size, athleticism and competitiveness while standing out for an otherwise average Maine team.

Swayman will enter next season as the best candidate to be a future No. 1 goaltender for the Bruins after signing a pro contract with the Bruins last month. This is a fourth-round pick that shows a lot of upside for a B’s group that’s going to need a young goalie with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak both in their mid-30’s right now.

Here’s Swayman in action during a 4-2 win over BU this past season.

Grade: A-

Cedric Pare (6th round, 173rd overall)

The good news is that the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Pare had an excellent final junior season with 37 goals and 88 points in 64 games for Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL. He showed off a pretty good one-timer while scoring those goals.

The bad news is that he was still playing junior hockey as a 21-year-old when the Bruins have already brought younger, more promising prospects into the AHL fold over the last few seasons. That doesn’t bode well for Pare’s future with the Bruins organization after he didn’t really dominate until he was one of the oldest players in the league.

At development camp with the B’s, he didn’t show enough in the skating or offensive departments, and never really played up to his imposing size either. Pare is essentially a free agent at this point that can sign a pro contract with any team and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the Black and Gold as they have moved on to other center prospects. This looks like a wasted pick at this point.

Grade: F

Victor Berglund (7th round, 195th overall)

The 6-foot, 180-pound Berglund is progressing nicely in Sweden at this point after posting 10 goals and 22 points in 52 games for Modo in the Swedish Leagues this past season.

The right-shooting Berglund signed last season with the Bruins and played a few games for the P-Bruins at the tail end of the 2018-19 season with a goal and two points in four games, but didn’t come back to North America at all last season. One would expect that Berglund would be back this coming season after turning 21 years old in August and he has shown some advanced offensive ability from the back end to this point.

His size is pretty good, his skating and offensive game are strong and he’s still a young player coming into the North American game. There’s a lot of upside there for a seventh-round pick as he showed in this game in Sweden last season and that makes Berglund a good choice already.

Grade: B+

Daniel Bukac (7th round, 204th overall)

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Bukac was considered a raw D-man prospect when the Bruins selected him in the seventh round of the draft, and the big-bodied defenseman never really developed as a prospect.

Bukac was actually pretty solid in his final junior season with Niagara while posting four goals and 15 points in 54 games along with a plus-37 rating, but he never seemed to develop the edge that the B’s would have been looking for given his skill set as a defenseman. So Bukac went home to the Czech League and signed a three-year contract with Liberec before playing in only one game for them this past season.

Bukac looks like another player drafted this season that is never going to see the light of day in the Bruins organization and therefore another wasted pick. Tough to blame the Bruins scouts for taking a shot on a D-man prospect with good tools like he showed on this goal with the Brandon Wheat Kings, but this one didn’t work out.

Grade: D

Hagg Bag, Summer Edition: Will the kids be all right?


Hagg Bag, Summer Edition: Will the kids be all right?

With the Bruins in the middle of the NHL dead zone for activity and offseason transactions, there isn’t much that’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks. The draft and first waves of free agency are well into the rear view mirror, and there won’t be another wave of veteran free-agent signings for another couple weeks once camps are almost at hand. Certainly, the ongoing negotiations between the B’s and David Pastrnak is something to think about, but there’s a very real possibility that doesn’t get resolved until camp has arrived in September.

Perhaps it goes even longer than that, so there will be plenty of time to dissect the pros and cons of the negotiations while it’s happening. So, with that in mind, let’s open up the summer Hagg Bag mailbag and let things air out for a while. As always, these are real tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails to my account at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and messages to my CSN Facebook page.

Without further ado, on to the bag:

B’s should've drafted DeBrincat over [Trent Frederic]. Higher ceiling but risky due to his size & speed. Pure sniper though. Chicago didn’t hesitate

--Jeff Almeida (@almeida022680)

JH: Yeah, this is one that we’ll have to see how it plays out. Frederic is coming off a very strong freshman season at the University of Wisconsin and he looked better at this summer’s World Junior Summer Showcase than he did last season. You see a little more skill and willingness to make plays with the puck, but he still looks to me like a third-line, big-bodied center that isn’t going to be a major offense producer in the NHL. He certainly is big and strong, has good leadership skills and plays with tenacity. He gets a lot of the important D-zone face-offs for Team USA late in games when it can mean the difference between a win and a loss, and there’s something to be said for that.

But the only way I want a first-round pick used is if Frederic turns into a David Backes-type player. If he’s a 12-goal, 40-point guy who plays a good, hard, two-way game, then that’s somebody you can find in the second or third round. Alex DeBrincat led all of junior hockey in points last season and was selected in the first few picks of the second round in 2016 after Frederic went at the end of the first. He may never pan out at 5-foot-7, but I like that the Blackhawks took a risk on a player with high skill who could pay off in a Johnny Gaudreau or Tyler Johnson kind of way. It’s the same philosophy of going high-risk, high-reward in taking Kailer Yamomoto in this summer’s first round rather than playing it safe with two-way defenseman Urho Vaakanainen. The Bruins have started getting conservative with their first-round picks even though they’re loaded with prospects. That’s now how I’d be running things if I were them.

Hey Joe, have there been any talks between Stafford's camp and the Bruins for a new contract?

--Matt McGuirk

JH: There’s been an open line of communication between Stafford and the Bruins, but it looks like he might be one of those players who needs to go into an camp on a tryout basis. There may be a big group of those types headed into fall and perhaps he could come back to Boston in that kind of a capacity. A veteran like that would be good insurance in case many of the young wingers aren’t ready for prime time once big- boy camp starts, but I don’t want to see a guaranteed contract for Stafford potentially blocking the way for Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen.   

What are your thoughts?

--Angry Grampa (@angrygrampa603)

JH: Remarkably few and far between.

Who do you think will make the jump from the ahl to nhl from providence?

-Dylan (@dylana45)

JH: I think Jake DeBrusk will get a long look in training camp and might get a chance with David Krejci if the Bruins opt for Anders Bjork on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. If I had to guess, I don’t think Zach Senyshyn will be ready for NHL duty right off the hop this fall. I also wouldn’t rule out Danton Heinen stepping up and riding the momentum he built up over the second half of last season in Providence. He was a stud in the playoffs for the P-Bruins but he needs to be much more assertive with NHL players than he was last season. Most nights in played in Boston, you didn’t even notice him out on the ice.

what excites u most about #ThorRagnarok, #BlackPanther & #AvengersInfinityWar ?

--Thomas Deon (@tdeon26)

JH: I honestly wasn’t a big Thor fan growing up, but I have liked his standalone movies and look forward to him having a space buddy movie with Hulk. Plus, I dig that they’re introducing Hela and Valkyrie in this one too. I was sold at the trailer. I’m certain I’ll love Black Panther and Infinity War as well, but that’s the one I’m most looking forward to see until I get a better look at some of the Infinity War teasers and trailers.  

Joe, when do you think you'll have a positive comment on anything bruins?

--Bruins4life (BackusDaryl)

JH: Check back around January, and we’ll see where I’m at. BTW, I was glowingly positive about the step this Bruins team took in getting back into the playoffs along with the prospect waves that are strengthening the roster. Maybe you should read and listen a little bit more often? Or you could possibly thank me calling them like I see them when it came to the need for a coaching change last season? Those kinds of changes don’t always happen if the media are a bunch of Black and Gold pompom-waving cheerleaders, or when super-fans like you are afraid of asking the tough questions. Just a thought.

Do you think the Bruins still have an eye on adding a top four defenseman, possibly during preseason from a team close to the cap?

--Corey (@cheaward)

JH: If I were to give an educated guess, I think the Bruins will go into the regular season with what they currently have for defensemen. They’ll take a look at Kevan Miller on his left side playing with Charlie McAvoy as a pairing. Perhaps they’ll even try Torey Krug with McAvoy as well in a super-puck moving pair. I have my doubts that Krug-McAvoy could survive defensively with the right shot D-man still in his NHL infancy, but I also think he’s capable of rising to the occasion when he faces challenges with the Black and Gold.

If those combos don’t work out over the first few months of the season, then you’ll see Don Sweeney and the Bruins step up their top-four defenseman search in earnest. Or perhaps somebody like Jakub Zboril will be ready for NHL duty after spending some development time at the AHL level? I don’t think another rookie or young D-man is the answer, though, with 19-year-old McAvoy and 20-year-old Carlo already among their top-6. They need a young, veteran two-way defenseman that can keep up with McAvoy and potentially play a lot of minutes. Those guys don’t come cheap. That’s exactly why it’s an ongoing search for Sweeney and the B’s that feels like a perpetually unfulfilled thing. 

Who do you think gets cast as Adam Warlock in GotG3?

--Dan Noonan (@dnoonan222)

JH: I was out of my comic book-reading prime by the time the Infinity War came along, so I’m not super-familiar with Adam Warlock beyond his look and the fact he played a major role in that storyline. But given what I know I’d say perhaps like Brad Pitt, or maybe the actor that plays Jaime Lannister on "Game of Thrones". I’m really interested to see what role he plays in Guardians, and if that plays out into something greater in the MCU.

Joe how much do you think the Bruins are going to rely on McAvoy this year? Fans expectations are high but he is still a rookie

--Struzz15 (@struzz15)

JH: I think the Bruins are counting on McAvoy to be a top-four defenseman who can play in all situations right off the bat. I think there will be ups and downs for him in his first full pro hockey season, but getting his feet wet in the playoffs was a huge NHL orientation program for him. I think it’s still a little premature to expect great things from McAvoy and Carlo this season as they’re still developing as young players, but you can see that Boston’s back end is going to be a huge strength of this team a couple of years down the road.

As a B’s public service announcement, I think it’s best if Bruins fans back off the expectations for McAvoy a bit this season and let him gradually grow into the elite No. 1 defenseman that his skills indicate he can be.

Terrible trade. Whats 2 2nds worth? A guy like JB55 or a guy like Brett Connolly? These players are not at the same level. #assetmanagement

--Top Corner (@TopCornerShot99)

JH: Thanks for reminding me. I was just starting to forget about that one. There’s some negativity for Mr. Positive from a few questions ago.