Since Don Sweeney has become general manager of the Boston Bruins, the team has done poorly in the first round of drafts. This does not include Charlie McAvoy, of course. Yet, the 2015 NHL Entry Draft will forever be unforgivable. He willingly went off the board by a large margin and missed out on elite talent. Those picks have not panned out at all, either. Alas, the nightmare may not stop there if Urho Vaakanainen does not make serious progress.
The Bruins took Vaakanainen with the 18th pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, so they had high expectations for him. He was the 8th ranked European skater, so they viewed him as a potential top-four, left-handed defenseman. However, he has not come close to becoming this, as he only has 16 career games under his belt. This season he also had a real shot of being an everyday player, but only played in nine contests.
This is extremely disappointing, as the left side of the defense this year was very weak. The Bruins let both Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug walk to let the rookies play, and it failed miserably. Vaakanainen could not wiggle himself into the top-six and would quickly be dropped to the team’s taxi squad.
He also did spend some time with the Providence Bruins this year, too. He played in 11 games, while registering a goal and three points. These are not the type of numbers that warrant an immediate call-up, so the youngster has a lot riding on him going into next season. The odds seem to be heavily against him.
Vaakanainen will need to progress immensely for a long-term spot with the Bruins.
Cam Neely has openly stated that the Bruins will be going after a top-four, left-handed defenseman. If the Bruins do end up signing or trading for a player who fits this description, it will seem nearly impossible for Vaakanainen to make the team in a significant role. If Mike Reilly is brought back with someone new, too, it would be the final nail in the coffin. This may be best for the Bruins if they want to win the Stanley Cup, though.
At this said time, he is behind both Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril on the depth chart already. They aren’t superstars, either, and Lauzon easily is the best player out of the three. Ironically, he also is the only one of them who is not a former first-round pick.
If Vaakanainen does not make significant strides with his game, his time in Boston may be over before it truly starts. This would infuriate fans, as it’ll officially make him one of the many first-round gaffs the Bruins have made.
With Vaakanainen still being just 22-years-old, there is some hope for improvement. However, his decline in numbers over the last few seasons with Providence is quite troubling.