2018 NHL draft

Bruins draft review: Jakub Lauko an emerging solid pick from 2018 class

Bruins draft review: Jakub Lauko an emerging solid pick from 2018 class

It was always going to be a limited ceiling for the Bruins and their 2018 NHL Draft class after Boston shipped their first round pick to the New York Rangers for a Rick Nash trade that didn’t end up working out.

Without one of the top 31 picks in the draft, the Bruins still managed to add a couple of prospects including explosive Czech winger Jakub Lauko.

It’s also pretty telling that the top player selected in that draft, Swedish defenseman Axel Andersson, is already gone from the B’s ranks after being moved for Anaheim’s Ondrej Kase at the trade deadline just a couple of months ago. At this point it looks like this draft class will rest on how Lauko and Curtis Hall develop over the next few years, but it’s clearly not going to be a franchise-altering draft no matter what happens.

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Here’s a look at the 2018 Bruins draft class a couple of years removed from the amateur draft:

Axel Andersson (2nd round, 57th overall)

The puck-moving Swedish defenseman showed some flashes at development camp and training camp for the Bruins, but it’s fair to say he never really lived up to his standing as the top pick in this draft. He wasn’t physical much at all and the offensive skills were raw rather than fine-tuned. Perhaps because of that and more, Andersson is no longer in the Bruins organization after being part of the package sent to the Anaheim Ducks for Ondrej Kase.

Andersson posted three goals and 24 points in 43 games for the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL after coming over from Sweden this past season, and could still develop into a solid defenseman given his skating, size overall tools.

Here’s a look at Andersson doing his thing on the power play for the Wildcats this past season where the on-ice vision and passing clearly stand out. But it also feels like Andersson pretty clearly became a young prospect they could part with at the trade deadline. Grade: C

Jakub Lauko (3rd round, 77th overall)

The real home run of this draft is the speedy, scrappy and explosive Lauko, who has looked like NHL material from the time he arrived at his first Bruins development camp as an 18-year-old kid. The 20-year-old Lauko was in and out of the lineup for the Providence Bruins in the AHL this past season as an underaged European prospect, but still posted five goals and nine points in 22 games along with 24 penalty minutes.

Lauko is fast, tenacious and skilled as a left winger with decent size at 6-feet and 170-pounds and was coming off a year as a point-per-game player in the QMJHL with six goals and 13 points in 19 games on the way to the Memorial Cup Final. Lauko had some clutch moments during that postseason experience and continues to look like a player who's going to be in Boston within the next couple of seasons.

Here’s the first goal Lauko scored for the Providence Bruins this past season that shows pretty clearly his willingness to get to the dirty areas for offense in addition to his clear skill set. He’s a keeper and a potentially great pick as a third rounder. Grade: A

Curtis Hall (4th round, 119th overall)

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Hall really developed this year in his sophomore season at Yale, where he posted 17 goals and 27 points in 28 games along with a plus-14 rating. He was named Second Team ALL-ECAC and Second Team All-Ivy League in his sophomore season and was ninth in all of Division I with .61 points per game. Hall was also a part of Team USA at last winter’s World Juniors where he finished with one goal in the five games he played for USA Hockey.

Still, there’s no denying that Hall is a big-bodied center prospect in a place where the Bruins have done really well at the NCAA level with their talent evaluation. It remains to be seen where he’s going to project at the NHL, but with his size, offensive ability and solid two-way play he could turn into a bottom-6 center prospect for the Black and Gold.

In this series of highlights vs. RPI, you see Hall turning his hustling back-check into a dangling assist at the other end of the ice in a nice little summation of his talent. Grade: B

Dustyn McFaul (6th round, 181st overall)

The 6-foot-2, 191-pound McFaul is a good-sized, strong left-shot two-way defenseman and that’s exactly what he looked like as a freshman at Clarkson University this past season with a goal and seven points in 31 games.

McFaul projects to be a big, strong and physical stay-at-home defenseman type of player who got off to a pretty good start as a 19-year-old in the NCAA, but it also feels like he’s going to take some time to develop at that level after coming from the Ontario Junior Hockey League prior to the college ranks. McFaul is a good depth prospect and Clarkson is a good program, but thus far there hasn’t been a lot that’s made him stand out from the other D-men Boston has hosted in their development camps. Grade: C-

Pavel Shen (7th round, 212th overall)

The 20-year-old Russian center was playing in his first season of pro hockey this past year with four goals and nine points in 35 games for Providence along with a plus-2 rating. The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder has shown playmaking instincts and some good two-way play tools during his appearances at Bruins development camp and showed flashes this season in the AHL as a young 20-year-old in a very competitive league.

Certainly, he didn’t look out of place after logging 49 games in the KHL over the previous two seasons. The fact he’s already in the AHL one step away from Boston tells you how highly the Bruins view him as a young prospect coming out of Russia. Next year will be a big one for him.

Here Shen shows a pretty good one-on-one scoring touch in Providence on the first AHL goal of his career. Grade: B

Speedy third-rounder Lauko the pick of Bruins' picks

AP Photo

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+   



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.