NHL draft

NHL sticking with a June draft - even without the season resumed - is the right call

NHL sticking with a June draft - even without the season resumed - is the right call

The NHL general managers might not like it very much.

Certainly, it doesn’t make a ton of logical sense to hold an amateur player draft in June when the 2019-20 NHL regular season hasn’t yet been completed and nobody knows if the hockey season will get completed anytime soon.

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There are loose ends to tie up whether it’s the draft order for an incomplete season, the conditional draft picks dependent on how the rest of the 2019-20 season played out or just the general inconvenience of holding an NHL Draft where trades and free-agent signings aren’t really going to be a part of the process. 

About the only thing that everybody could agree on is that the pathetic Detroit Red Wings have earned the No. 1 overall pick no matter when the regular season actually comes to an end.  

Still, after watching the NFL create a “must-watch” television event with their virtual player draft last weekend, the NHL would be downright foolish if they didn’t take advantage of a golden opportunity to give sports viewers compelling hockey content to watch. 

After taking in some admittedly awesome classic games on repeat and going through the NFL free agency period, there won't be a lot of sports out there for at least the next few months as social distancing and self-quarantining continue to take precedence.

The NHL should do everything it can to put on their own virtual player draft in the usual month of June at a time when its players might even be ramping it back up for the completion of the 2019-20 regular season. For a league that’s always competing with the other three pro leagues for media attention and their share of the sports fan pie, holding the draft when literally nothing else is happening could allow them a major sporting world coup.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reportedly sent a memo to all 31 NHL teams on Friday “enthusiastically in support of” still holding the draft in June with the league potentially looking to even move it up to a June 5 date.

"We think it's a great opportunity for fan engagement," Daly writes, per an ESPN.com report. "Fans have been missing NHL hockey for a month and a half. It'll be three months when we get to June."

There's already a major thirst for hockey in the first few days of June and it will feel like a dehydrated march through the Sahara desert by the time June hits the sports calendar.

Daly has also been clear in his opinion there may not be enough time between this season and the start of the 2020-21 season to properly execute the draft, so this would make sense from a practical standpoint as well.

It’s a move that will likely be unpopular with NHL GMs who logically want the draft to be held after the 2019-20 season is completed, but sometimes the tail needs to wag the dog. 

This might be one of those instances for the NHL given the rave reviews and massive ratings for the NFL draft. It’s also something the Bruins are prepared for.

“We’ve done a lot of Microsoft teams work with our amateur staff and a lot of conference calls in that regard, so we’re well-prepared when the NHL makes that decision with regard to the June draft. It’s still to be determined,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney on a Saturday Zoom conference call with Bruins reporters. “I think they’re going to discuss it with the Board of Governors with which way they are going to go. I have my own preferences, but that being said the league has to make their decision about what’s best for everyone rather than any teams that have a personal preference.

“You have to respect that. It’s incumbent upon the league to make the best decision for themselves and we’ll be prepared for it. We’ve done a lot of extra video-work around the things that you’d usually be doing at the combine, so I appreciate all that extra work.”

The NHL Board of Governors is expected to meet at the beginning of next week to give a potential green light to the new draft concept.

Clearly, it would be an unorthodox move to host the draft before the season resumes, and hockey traditionalists will poo-poo it as something that should have been held between seasons.

But let’s have a little fun with this, people.

Sports fans are thirsting for entertainment and the NHL would be wise to fill that void with a draft that could be a massive win-win.

2020 Hindsight: Biggest Bruins first round draft busts of the 2000s

2020 Hindsight: Biggest Bruins first round draft busts of the 2000s

The Boston Bruins have selected some pretty terrific players in the first round of the draft, but they've also made some pretty terrible selections as well. 

With the NHL season on pause due to the coronavirus, we thought it would be interesting to take a look back at some of the worst B's draft picks since 2000. It's important to note that not all of these players are total busts, but could end up in that category if they don't shape up in the next few years. 

So, without further ado, here are the worst Bruins' first-round selections the past 20 years. 

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Martin Samuelsson - 27th overall (2000)

Samuelsson was selected by the Bruins 27th overall in 2000 and honestly, it wasn't a great pick. They could've had Justin Williams, who was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers right after Samuelsson, or defenseman Niklas Kronwall. who landed with the Detroit Red Wings. 

Samuelsson had just one assist through 14 games with Boston, and could never stick on the NHL roster. His 2002-03 season with the AHL Providence Bruins was promising: 39 points (24 goals, 15 assists) in 64 games, but that didn't translate to NHL success. 

Hannu Toivonen - 29th overall (2002)

When you select a goalie in the first round, you should probably be sure he can handle NHL action. While goaltenders do take longer to develop, the Bruins' choice of Toivonen at 29th in 2002 was not a good one. The other goaltenders drafted in the first round included Kari Lehtonen and Cam Ward, both of whom have found success in the NHL. 

Players selected after Toivonen include Johnny Boychuk, Duncan Keith, Matt Stajan and Jiri Hudler, all of whom could've been a better fit in Boston. In 38 games with the Bruins, Toivonen went 12-14-5 with a .896 save percentage and a 3.33 goals-against average. Yikes. And people say Tuukka Rask is bad. 

It should be noted that Toivonen suffered a rough ankle sprain halfway through the 2005-06 season, and it seemed like he never regained his form after that. He posted some great numbers for the B's AHL affiliate in Providence, but ultimately couldn't make things work in Boston.

Matt Lashoff - 22nd overall (2005)

What's funny about this pick is that Rask was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs one spot ahead of Lashoff, and yet, the B's still managed to land Rask in a trade with the Leafs. Anyway, this Lashoff pick was pretty bad. T.J. Oshie, Andrew Cogliano, Matt Niskanen and Steve Downie were all selected behind him. Downie wasn't that great, but he certainly had a better career than Lashoff. And how about that Oshie guy, huh?

In three seasons and 46 games with the Bruins, Lashoff tallied eight points (one goal, seven assists) before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mark Recchi and a second-round pick. Now that ended up being a steal as Recchi played a big role in the B's 2011 Stanley Cup championship. 

Lashoff was actually pretty good in AHL Providence, recording two 30-plus point seasons. Not bad for a defenseman. Unfortunately, he never took his game to the next level. 

Zach Hamill - 8th overall (2007)

The Hamill pick is absolutely, without a doubt, the worst Bruins pick of the past two decades. Let's take a look at all the players selected after Hamill: Logan Couture, Ryan McDonagh, Lars Eller, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ian Cole, Riley Nash, Max Pacioretty, Mikael Backlund, David Perron, the list goes on. How did the Bruins miss so badly with this pick? Honestly, who knows?

In 20 games with the Bruins, Hamill recorded a measly four assists. For the record, though, Hamill had some impressive numbers in the WHL, recording three 50-plus point seasons, but that ultimately didn't translate to professional success. 

Jordan Caron - 25th overall (2009)

Selecting Jordan Caron 25th in 2009 is another head-scratcher, especially when Kyle Palmieri was selected immediately after him. In five seasons and 134 games with the Bruins, Caron tallied just 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists). He also wasn't ever really that great in the AHL either. So, this was a disappointing selection. 

*NOTE: The next two players aren't necessarily busts... yet. But they could be within the next few years*

Jakub Zboril- 13th overall (2015)

This is where things get difficult. Zboril wasn't drafted too long ago and still has some time to develop, but things just don't seem to be pointing in his favor. You can't help but look at all the players who have found success that were drafted behind him... Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny and Anthony Beauvillier. 

How long are Bruins fans going to keep saying "He still has time to develop, relax." or "It can still work out. He's developing well in Providence?" Sure, but time is dwindling for this kid to crack Boston's lineup. 

Since joining Providence in 2017, Zboril has recorded three consecutive seasons of 19 points. Now, that's consistent, and it's not bad, but he's not necessarily improving on the offense. However, he has become much smarter defensively. Another full season in Providence could do him some good. 

The other problem with Zboril cracking the lineup is the immense amount of depth the Bruins have at the position now. He's going to need to step up if he plans on beating out Jeremy Lauzon or Urho Vaakaninen. 

Now, Zboril isn't necessarily a bust... yet. But he could be within the next few years. 

Zach Senyshyn - 15th overall (2015)

The Senyshyn situation is the same as Zboril's. Shape up or you're not going to crack the Bruins roster. After two 20-plus point seasons in Providence, Senyshyn has just 16 points on the 2019-20 season. Now, it's important to note that Boston is trying to develop Senyshyn into a more complete player from top to bottom, so he hasn't been playing on Providence's top line and isn't going to tally as many points.

However, how is this going to impact his overall point production? Boston doesn't need another bottom-six forward. They need someone to slot in on David Krejci's right wing. In his short four-game stint with the Bruins this season, Senyshyn was actually impressive. You could tell his game has improved, and he even recorded two assists. 

We won't say he's a bust just yet, but he could be if the Bruins don't utilize him correctly.



Hindsight 2020: Bruins misfired badly in first round of 2015 NHL Draft

Hindsight 2020: Bruins misfired badly in first round of 2015 NHL Draft

There is no greater hindsight move involving Bruins players than the first round of a stacked 2015 NHL Draft where the Bruins had three consecutive picks.

Instead of securing elite talents like Mat Barzal, Brock Boeser, Thomas Chabot, Travis Konecny or Kyle Connor — all of whom would have addressed current holes on the Bruins roster at the NHL level, the Bruins missed badly with two of those first three picks in selecting defenseman Jakob Zboril and winger Zach Senyshyn.

The Bruins obviously made a good pick with the middle first rounder in taking left winger Jake DeBrusk, as he’s developed into a solid top-9 left wing.

But Zboril and Senyshyn haven’t even really been above-average AHL players during their time in Boston and can safely be called busts at this point in their pro hockey careers.

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That’s left the Bruins in a perpetual state of searching for a top-6 goal-scoring wing after plenty of them went later in that first round, and forced them to give up assets last season for Charlie Coyle when they couldn’t develop their own heir apparent at the center position.

Don Sweeney has subsequently copped to the mistakes made in that draft and the “steep learning curve” for the Bruins after he took over the managerial reins from the fired Peter Chiarelli.  

“It was a steep learning curve that weekend for us for an absolute certainty. We did put forth a plan as to what we were going to try to accomplish as an organization,” said Sweeney. “We have accomplished some of those things, we haven’t accomplished the ultimate goal and that’s really what it’s all about. You are proud [of our team] and the growth of each individual player is part of that and what they contribute. And other players who come along are a part of that will contribute as well.

“I don’t look at it in one myopic time event, I look at the big package every day and try and get better at the decisions that we have to make. And people who are part of our staff at that time, we’ve learned and grown from that and are hopefully making better decisions going forward. Hopefully the club reflects that and the success we’ve had reflects that.”

Obviously, it wasn’t all bad as the Bruins did a good job in the second round while landing defensemen Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon, who are both factoring into the big picture in Boston. But the first round remains a big-time gaffe in player selection that’s had a long-lasting impact on the Bruins organization even as they have built up a team that got all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season.

The master plan for the Bruins draft weekend was to trade up in the first round and get a young franchise defenseman like Noah Hanifin or Zach Werenski and fulfill their need for a young No. 1 defenseman-in the-making.

Instead, the Bruins traded Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton to amass six selections in the first two rounds of that draft, and then were left with three consecutive selections in the middle of the first round when they failed to trade up. Instead of securing the No. 1 D-man in that draft, they instead took care of that need a year later when they drafted Charlie McAvoy around the very same part of the first round.

When one considers that Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor and Thomas Chabot were taken with the next three picks in the first round after Senyshyn, the Bruins missed badly with both of those players given the comparable talent available.

Passing on a talent like Barzal three straight times, only to watch him land with the New York Islanders with the very next selection, is something that can’t be glossed over with the “drafting is hard” argument. Barzal was on pace for 23 goals and 72 points at the time of the 2019-20 regular season going on pause and Connor was about to hit the 40-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career in Winnipeg.

Connor could have been the top-6 winger they’ve been missing the last couple of seasons, and the dazzling Barzal certainly would be the heir apparent in the middle to aging top-6 centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.

Later in the first round, Boeser and Konecny, and in the second round Sebastian Aho, were selected as well, further adding to the missed opportunities for the Bruins. They’ve rebounded to further replenish their prospect pool in subsequent drafts and obviously the future is bright for a team with a talented roster coming off three straight playoff appearances and a Stanley Cup Final run last season.

So the 2015 NHL Draft isn’t the catastrophic event that it might have been otherwise. But that weekend could have also set the Black and Gold up as a dynasty for the next decade if they had executed by landing better young players.

That’s a hindsight that’s unfortunately going to stick with Sweeney and Co. for as long as they’re running the operation in Boston, and even despite the many good decisions they've subsequently made since then.