Bruins’ Have Had Success in Drafting and Developing Defensemen Under Sweeney

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: General Manager Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins arrives at the 2019 NHL Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: General Manager Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins arrives at the 2019 NHL Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Boston Bruins have had recent success in drafting and developing defensemen under Don Sweeney.

Following the elimination at the Toronto playoff bubble by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Aug. 31, the Boston Bruins knew that there was a real good possibility that there were changes coming on defense for the 2020-21 season.

Free-agent Torey Krug ended up leaving the Bruins to head to the St. Louis Blues in free agency, while free agent Zdeno Chara is still deciding if he returns to the Bruins for a 15th season.

While the Bruins most likely have been preparing for this over the last few years, making the transition to a younger defense should not be a problem thanks to the recent drafting and development of defensemen in the origination.

Current general manager Don Sweeney has been in charge of the drafts that have selected most of the Bruins’ new young core on defense.

In the 2015 draft that was Sweeney’s first draft as GM, he selected Brandon Carlo 37th overall in the second. Fifteen picks later in the second round, Sweeney chose Jeremy Lauzon with the 52nd pick.

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One year later in 2016, Sweeney selected Boston University product Charlie McAvoy in the first round at No. 14. While he has was drafted by former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, Matt Grzelcyk was picked in the third round of the 2012 draft and 85th overall.

McAvoy quickly made his way to Boston, making his NHL debut during the 2016 playoffs, before becoming a full-time defenseman in the NHL for the last three years. Carlo also quickly made the jump to the NHL, making the Bruins roster out of training camp in 2016.

Grzelcyk played four years at BU after being selected by Boston, before he played the 2016-17 season with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League and has spent the last three seasons in Boston.

During the last three seasons, the Bruins have seen a huge development in McAvoy, Carlo, and Grzelcyk, all with Krug and Chara as the elder statesmen on the blue line.

Last season, McAvoy set a career-high in assists with 27 and Grzelcyk set a career-high with 17. Carlo is not going to add a lot to the stat sheet,  but the 6-foot-5, 212-pound physical defensemen has benefitted from playing with Chara earlier in his career.

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Lauzon played 19 regular-season games with the Black and Gold last season, before suiting up for six in the playoffs. Now the 6-foot-1, 202-pounder is on the verge of cracking the Bruins top-six out of training camp this upcoming season.

His development in Providence over the last three seasons will help him make the transition to the NHL. He should be a fan favorite as he is not known for producing a lot of points, but the physical 23-year old is not afraid to drop the gloves and stick up for teammates, as evidence by his 65 penalty minutes last season in 45 AHL games.

The Bruins also have seen a big development in prospects Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen in Providence. Both will go to training camp at Warrior Ice Arena with a chance to fight for a spot on the roster. Both are first-round selections by Sweeney, Zboril No. 15 in 2015 and Vaakanainen was No. 18 in 2017.

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With Krug leaving in free agency and uncertainty surrounding if Chara returns for another year with the Bruins, the development that the young defensemen have got over the last three season in the NHL should help with the transition this upcoming season to more minutes and more pressure on the shoulders of the new core on the Boston blue line.