2018 NHL draft

Speedy third-rounder Lauko the pick of Bruins' picks

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Speedy third-rounder Lauko the pick of Bruins' picks

The Bruins didn’t have a first-round pick at the NHL draft last weekend in Dallas, but they did make five selections on Day 2 Saturday to add new talent to their ranks. While the overall grade for any draft with no first-rounder is going to be in the B-/C+ range at best, here are some individual grades for each of the five picks:

AXEL ANDERSSON (2nd round, 57th overall)
The 6-foot, 181-pound Andersson is a strong skater who has posted good offensive numbers in junior hockey in Sweden. He finished with six goals and 31 points in 42 games last season and has shown strong puck-moving skills and a willingness to aggressively step up into the play. By most accounts, Andersson seems a strong, safe pick at the end of the second round that will augment the B's defensemen prospect ranks, but it also remains to be seen if there is any particular higher ceiling to his game. 

What the Bruins say: “The staff was really high on him and we had him targeted where we were picking at the end of the second round. We positioned him on the list that if he slipped that far then we’d be really happy. He can really skate. He’s real mobile up the ice. He didn’t have great numbers on the national team, but he was a different player on his junior club.” –Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley.

Rank at HockeyProspect.com: 58th.  

Haggs' Grade: B.

JAKUB LAUKO (third round, 77th overall)
The 6-foot, 179-pound center/left wing is another speedy player who said he models his game after flashy Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin. The skating speed is certainly what sets him apart from his peers, but he also plays with energy and tenacity while bringing the requisite offense to the table. Lauko was initially thought to be a higher pick and the Bruins actually had him pegged as a first-round talent, so landing him in the third is the kind of choice that could someday make everybody forget that Boston didn’t have a first-rounder this year. Lauko played 42 games for Primati Chomutov in the Czech Elite League, and posted three goals and nine points while playing with, and against, bigger, stronger grown men as a teenager. He certainly carries himself with the confidence of a top prospect and could be a steal based on the talent level. 

What the Bruins say: “On our list, we had him as a first-round pick, so we’re ecstatic to get a player like this at that point in the draft. He plays fast, with energy and a lot of character. This player can really shoot the puck. His best asset might be his speed. We’re excited about this player, and look forward to bringing him into development camp where he can hopefully turn some heads.” –Bradley. 

Rank at HockeyProspect.com: 47th.

Haggs' Grade: A.  

CURTIS HALL (fourth round, 119th overall)
The 6-3, 201-pound Hall is a big, strong center committed to Yale. The Bruins project he might someday develop into a power forward on the wing. Either way, it was good to mix things up and take a US college kid with some projectable qualities after taking a couple of European prospects in the first few rounds. Hall finished his USHL season with 13 goals and 31 points in 54 games for the Youngstown Phantoms and had a very strong showing with three goals and four points in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. His offense is not explosive, but it looks as if it’s going to translate very well to the professional game a few years from now. Much of Hall’s game is predicated on using his size and strength around the net and that’s something you simply can’t teach as the Bruins could always get a little bigger and stronger up front. 

What the Bruins say: “He’s a big boy. We followed him all year and closely watched him. He’s got a lot of power in his game. I think he’ll have the ability to play wing and center. He had a strong playoff. We think there’s a lot of upside and development where he can turn into a power forward.” –Bradley.

Rank at HockeyProspect.com: 119th.

Haggs' Grade: B.  

DUSTYN McFAUL (sixth round, 181st overall)
The 6-2, 185-pound defenseman had four goals and 19 points in 38 games for the Pickering Panthers of the OJHL last season. He certainly has some good D-man tools between his size and competitive spirit. The Bruins are banking on him really making some noise next season in his final year of junior hockey before heading to Clarkson, and perhaps growing his game more into his size and skill level. McFaul sounds like one of those players that some of Boston’s scouts were really pushing for at the table, so now it’s up to the player to justify that faith.

Between next year at the junior level and some college years at Clarkson, however, this pick is one that the Bruins can really afford to be patient with as he goes through several development phases as a late-blooming player. There’s no telling what McFaul will look like when he comes through the other side of a long, gradual development path, but the Bruins are banking that he’s going to look like an NHL defenseman.    

What the Bruins say: “He’s interesting because he’s a late bloomer. We think he’ll end up playing in the USHL or the BC League. He’s a two-way defenseman that can move the puck, the guys that saw him talked about the way he really competes for the puck and moves the puck. His skating is pretty good. He still needs to fill out and put on 10 or 15 pounds for sure, but we’re excited to meet him.” –Bradley.  

Rank at HockeyProspect.com: 191st.

Haggs' Grade: C.

PAVEL SHEN (seventh round, 212th overall)
The Bruins dipped into Russian waters for the first time since selecting second-round disappointment Alex Khokhlachev almost 10 years ago and took a flier on a young, playmaking center with good production overseas. Shen bounced between the KHL and the MHL this past season while manning the center position and had only two goals for 29 games in the KHL’s Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk. Clearly, he’s more playmaker than scorer based on his numbers at the lower levels of Russian junior hockey and the mere fact he played 29 games in the KHL last season speaks to the overall maturity level of his game at 18. There’s no telling how difficult it will be for the 6-1, 183-pound Russian prospect to eventually settle into a pro hockey career in North America, but that’s part of the dice roll when it comes to drafting Russians. 

What the Bruins say: “He played both center and wing, and I think he can play both. I didn’t think he played big minutes in the KHL, but in his junior days he played a lot of minutes and was good distributing the puck.” –Bradley.

Rank at HockeyProspect.com: 198th.

Haggs' Grade: B+   

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Haggerty: NHL draft weekend a big dud for the Black and Gold

Haggerty: NHL draft weekend a big dud for the Black and Gold

DALLAS – There’s no way to sugarcoat it for the Boston Bruins, and competitive hockey guys like Don Sweeney and Cam Neely wouldn’t want that anyway.

The 2018 NHL Draft at the American Airlines Center netted the Bruins a few prospects and one in particular in Czech-born Jakub Lauko that has all the makings of a mid-round steal, but in just about every way draft weekend was a big, fat bust for the Black and Gold. 

The Bruins lost out to the Los Angeles Kings in the bidding for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk when they understandably, and perhaps wisely, wouldn’t go to a three-year offer for a talented player that skipped town on his last NHL team. They weren’t able to engineer a package to entice the Carolina Hurricanes with defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm available in a blockbuster trade that could have answered both of Boston’s needs in one fell swoop.

Instead, Dougie Hamilton was traded from the Flames to the Hurricanes as the biggest piece in the trade, and for a second time in three years Sweeney watched Hamilton get moved while not able to land his “white whale”, a top-4 left shot D-man, in Hanifin.

With the July 1 opening of NHL free agency quickly approaching, the Bruins also don’t appear any closer to locking up backup goaltender Anton Khudobin at a key roster spot that absolutely needs to be addressed if Boston wants to be successful again next season. It’s much the same with Riley Nash, which means the Bruins could be looking at propping up a rookie third line center in the middle of their lineup next season.

To top it all off, the Bruins also didn’t have a pick in the opening night first round of the NHL Draft on Friday, a scenario that Sweeney himself called “excruciating” after watching the top 31 players get selected while his face was pressed up against the proverbial glass. 

So it wasn’t a very productive weekend for the Bruins, who certainly didn’t get any better at the NHL level as several other teams very clearly accomplished that goal. Certainly the Bruins seemed to feel pretty good about their chances for Kovalchuk at the start of this weekend, but they weren’t willing to go to a third year for a 35-year-old player that’s been stowed away in Russia for the last five seasons. Time will tell if that was the right call, but it’s always good business not to overpay for aging free agents in a salary cap world.  

“We put ourselves in a position to be considered,” said Sweeney, when asked about missing out on Kovalchuk after he’d agreed to a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Kings. “West coast-East coast, you’d have to ask Ilya what ultimately swung things into LA’s favor. We thought it was a good fit and it didn’t work out. Ultimately, you move on to the next one.”

Now, the Bruins will move on as well to this week’s interview period ahead of NHL free agency and the July 1 open to the market where they may once again have a few balls up in the air. James van Riemsdyk may be a possibility on the free agent side as a power forward winger with size, net-front presence and plenty of productivity, but he’s clearly not going to come cheap after scoring a lot of goals with the Maple Leafs.

There is still a chance to swing a deal with the Hurricanes as well with winger Jeff Skinner potentially on the trade block as well for Carolina. The 26-year-old put up 24 goals and 49 points last season in Carolina, and has averaged 28 goals per season over the last five years with the Hurricanes. There are also the ongoing talks with Rick Nash about returning to the Bruins after last spring’s deadline deal, of course. But it’s also pretty clear the Bruins viewed Nash as a second tier option to Kovalchuk as a goal-scoring answer on their second line, and that doesn’t exactly ignite the excitement levels thinking about a possible return.

The one that could really come back to haunt the Bruins is the Hanifin/Lindholm package to the Flames that dropped midway through Saturday’s Day 2 of the draft in Dallas. It didn’t sound like the Bruins were heavily in the mix on that deal, but they certainly could have been competitive for it if they’d tailored a package around young NHL players like Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen. Instead, Sweeney cautioned on Friday night that the Bruins were going to be very reluctant to move young NHL players that are still determining just how high their ceiling can be as Bruins. 

“We realize that we have some young players that have played just a year in the National Hockey League with some success. I’d like to continue to see how that unfolds. But [other GMs asking about B’s young players] is a good opportunity to see how other teams around the league view those players as well, and what maybe their market value is,” said Sweeney. “Yeah, there have been a lot of guys that have been intrigued. And I think we are as well. We’ve peeked under the covers a bit and we just want to make sure that if we make a move it’s for the absolute right reasons. 

“I want to make a good hockey trade if we go down that road. We’ve got good players and we’ve got good young players that have assumed roles, and hopefully, they just continue to grow.”

The Bruins certainly do have good, young players and they’ve got a pretty darn good hockey club that amassed 112 points in the regular season as well. But they also showed some pretty well-chronicled weaknesses that cropped up in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the bottom line is they got nothing accomplished in terms of addressing those at NHL Draft weekend.

The good news is that the Bruins have $12 million in cap space headed into free agency week, and there will be other opportunities both in trades and free agency.

But any way you slice it NHL draft weekend in Dallas was an acrid, empty dud for the Black and Gold, and that’s far from a good thing.

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Bruins choose Swedish D-man, Czech forward with first two picks

Bruins choose Swedish D-man, Czech forward with first two picks

DALLAS – On the second day, the Bruins finally got involved in the NHL draft at the American Airlines Center and made a few picks. The day started in the second round (57th overall) with the B’s selecting young Swedish defenseman Axel Andersson from Djugardens, a 6-foot, 183-pounder from the Swedish junior leagues who's put up pretty good offensive numbers with what’s said to be pretty good skating ability.

"It meant a lot to me and my family," Anderson said. "My mom is in tears right now, and we just hugged each other. It was a big day for me."

In the third round (77th overall), the Bruins took Czech center/left wing Jakub Lauko, who played for Team Czech in the World Junior tournament this past season. Lauko, 18, is 6-foot, 179 pounds and is a speedy, tenacious forward from the assorted scouting reports on him. Lauko was expected to be drafted higher than the third round and certainly didn’t lack for confidence in saying he’s one of the fastest skaters in the draft.

“My speed is my biggest strength. I think I’m one of the fastest players in the draft, so I want to use my speed to help a team like Boston,” said Lauko, who said he only spoke with the Bruins scouts at the NHL combine earlier this month in Buffalo. “[Detroit Red Wings'] Dylan Larkin is the same like me. He’s a really fast guy that likes the breakaways. I think in this way we are the same.”

Lauko compared himself to Larkin and the speed game is certainly one that the Bruins are continually interested in with their prospects.

There was a very funny moment when the Czech-born Lauko was asked what his parents do (for a living), and he misunderstood the question and answered: “I don’t know? Maybe they will drink tonight.”

In the fourth round (119th overall), the Bruins took big center Curtis Hall, a 6-foot-3, 191-pounder who's committed to Yale next season and who scored 13 goals and 31 points in 54 games last season for the USHL Youngstown Phantoms.  

In the sixth round with the 181st pick, the Bruins selected 6-2, 188-pound defenseman Dustyn McFaul out of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. McFaul is considered a strong two-way D-men with good size and skating ability and is committed to play at Clarkson University. 

With their final pick (seventh round, No. 212), the Bruins selected forward Pavel Shen, 18, from Russia. The 6-1, 183-pounder got into 29 KHL games last season with 12 goals and 14 assists, which is impressive considering his age. 

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