The Runner Sports

Boston Bruins’ 2016 Draft Needs

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - JANUARY 15: Charlie McAvoy #7 of the Boston University Terriers skates against the Boston College Eagles during NCAA hockey at Kelley Rink on January 15, 2016 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The Eagles won 5-3. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Charlie McAvoy

The NHL Draft is as much a strategical chess game as it is a blood rage induced charge into an enemy’s front line. Teams must weigh needs of the immediate future with the longevity of the organization’s depth and success.

The Boston Bruins own a total of seven picks in the 2016 NHL Draft, three of which come in the first two rounds, with two in the first alone. It represents a solid chance to add the correct building stones for the organization as the team faces a murky future of unknowns. With their first pick coming at 14, they have no chance of moving within range of taking top talents like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, or Jesse Puljujarvi, but there are still plenty of ways to come away from this weekend feeling accomplished.

There are reports that the Edmonton Oilers are looking to trade out of the 4th pick, and the Bruins could get gutsy and call good old Peter Chiarelli and move some pieces, and then, in turn, flip that 4th pick into Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues. It was reported earlier this week that the Bruins were kicking the tires on Shattenkirk, a proven veteran blueliner, and offered up a first-round pick (whether it was the 14th of 29th is unknown). With an immediate need for defenders, it’ll be a daring series of transactions, but one that shows that this organization is here to win. This is a complicated series of moves, as the big question becomes, do the Bruins even have anything they could dangle to get the 4th pick if they couldn’t even lure Shattenkirk?

There are also reports of Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov garnering a lot of trade attention, and the Bruins are one team that is heavily interested. What kind of deal the Bruins would have to whip up in order to make it happen is tough to tell, but Kulikov is entering the final year of his contract and would be an unrestricted free agent after this season, hardly providing a guaranteed long-term solution to the fix.

The realistic emphasis of the two-day affair should focus on addressing the future and not the panic move to instantly become Stanley Cup Champions. The Bruins are in need of getting their feet back on solid ground after two disappointing playoff misses that left them square in mediocre country, and leveraging plans of the future to add a few top line defensemen in hopes it makes them competitors today is poor management. They foolishly traded away future picks in a pair of moves that resembled a contender last season at the trade deadline and need to ensure all moves align with the organizational growth chart.

So with an immediate need of defense but a plethora of maturing pieces stashed throughout the minor hockey leagues, the Bruins shouldn’t feel rushed to turn it into a winner take all gladiator match come training camp. There’s plenty of traffic cones on this roster that need upgrades, but ignoring other needs won’t get this team very far for very long. They took three defensemen in 2015, and while the team should no doubt add to that here in 2016, they can’t ignore the shrinking pool of talent they have at forwards within the organization, specifically wingers.

If the Bruins go heavy on the defense within the first round as many expect they will, they have plenty of options to pick from. The top defender on the Bruins’ board will likely be Charlie McAvoy. He wouldn’t need to fall far to be available at 14. He’s a BU product who dominates puck control with a keen awareness that keeps his head swiveled to the play. He could be compared as a bigger, better Torey Krug. He’s got the puck skills, and can be a scoring threat, all while not being anything near a defensive liability. Without question McAvoy will be heavily considered at 14.

Another name heavily linked to the Bruins, but one whose draft status is a little murkier in regards to being available at 14, is Jakob Chychrun. The son of former NHLer Jeff Chychrun has been slotted as high as the 3rd pick to being available in the teens.  Big bodied, Chychrun plays a mature game. Currently playing with Sarnia of the OHL, many sought Chrychrun as the top defender in this draft a year ago, and while his competition has crept up on him, he’s still a solid stay at home defender that can contribute in all three phases of the game. He’s a wild card, but should he drop to 14, he’ll likely be the guy.

Pivoting behind the top two choices for their first pick, the Bruins will actively be watching who’s on the fall and rise as they approach the 29th pick. A sneaky player who won’t crack many headlines, but has quietly done everything right to garner the attention, is Jacob Moverare. 12th ranked on NHL.com’s European skater list, Moverare doesn’t do anything sexy on the ice, but will accomplish everything he’s tasked with as a defender. A true stay at home body, Moverare has showcased his physical game and pro defensive timing in his tenure with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League. This is a pick that plays against the Bruins’ needed of NHL ready help now, as at 17 he’s likely not quite ready to jump directly to the NHL, but he’s certainly not far off.

But as said before, the Bruins would also be wise to keep an eye on forwards. This draft has plenty of talent available. Turning the 14th pick into a forward selection while taking Moverare at 23 is a safe but unlikely route for the Bs to take Friday. That said, here are two options they should be mindful of if they’re around.

Michael McLeod very likely will not be around at 14, but he’d be my first offensive choice if he were. A center out of Mississauga of the OHL, McLeod is everything the Bruins should be thinking this weekend, future. While they’d be better finding some speedy scorer to fill a hole on the wing, adding McLeod to the mix of talented centers in the organization wouldn’t hurt one bit. If he happens to find the high ceiling many scouts are giving him and you don’t have room for him,  you either make room and bring in the younger, cheaper body, or it’s instantly a piece to trade away. Talent shouldn’t be ignored, and the 61 points he put up in the OHL last season screams talent.

If you’re uncomfortable adding to the list of centers, the chances you hit a home run with a winger at 14 are a little slimmer. In that case, the Bruins could take the sexier defensive picks at 14, and turn 29 into hopes that Carl Grundstrom is there. Another Swedish star, Grundstrom is an in your face attacker that plays with a net heavy presence and physical forecheck. At 18, he’s not the most proven of scorers, but plays with a fire in his heart that could mesh well with a team built around hard work and team play.

Where Don Sweeney imagines this team going in the next two years will play heavily into how this team drafts. They’ve done well to clean up their salary cap issues ahead of this season, but as a result are just short of a dumpster fire on defense. They can be aggressive and draft with a win now mentality, or accept a need for change and retool this organization the correct way. One thing’s for sure, the pressure is certainly on, and all eyes will be on them come tomorrow.

Tyler Arnold

I am the founder, co-owner, and editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I've been an avid sports fan since I was a young boy and have turned that love into a profession. I will watch, comment, and break down anything I can get my hands on, from football to white water rafting in the Olympics. Your visit means a lot to me, so thank you for your readership.