When the Bruins officially announced Don Sweeney’s contract extension the proverbial target had officially been placed on his back. The B’s have flown under the radar as one of the more underachieving teams in the NHL over the past decade. Multiple playoff appearances have resulted in major postseason disappointment.
19 years after Boston selected the face of its franchise in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft it appears only now that the team understands how big of a hole it has dug itself. The first three of the Bruins’ six picks in this year’s draft are natural centers meaning the organization is making a concerted effort to address their biggest hole.
With the 119th pick in this year’s draft Boston selected Dans Locmelis. The 18-year-old was one of three Bruins’ prospects competing at this year’s World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta. Through the preliminary round Locmelis recorded one goal on nine shots and was a minus four.
Him and his Latvian teammates went 1-2-1 before falling to Sweden in the quarterfinals. In that game against the Swedes, Locmelis did a great job of showcasing the strengths of his game. Listed at six feet and 170 pounds this fourth-round pick dished out a key assist in Latvia’s 2-1 loss.
On the play, Locmelis received a breakout pass and was able to carry the puck through the neutral zone, using his body to protect the puck against the soft forecheck, getting it deep into the Sweden zone. From there he continued to posses the puck behind the Sweden goal as he waited for his teammates to find an open spot above the goal line where he could make a play.
He was able to make an indirect pass to the blue line for Gustavs Ozolins, who walked the line and shot a seeing-eye-puck that found its way to the back of the net. Locmelis displayed many of his positive attributes on this play alone. He showed his responsibility on both ends of the ice and demonstrated that while his game is not super flashy, he does have some skill.
Locmelis plays with grit, he’s a smart player. Throughout the game he played in all situations: five-on-five, power play, penalty kill, you name it. Locmelis might not be the player that drives a line, but he’ll certainly be someone that makes his teammates better.
I think Bruins fans can expect Dans Locmelis to develop into a middle-six forward. A player that can be an anchor on a line as long as he is not depended on to provide the scoring. Locmelis could have the upside of a second line center in the NHL if he reaches his ceiling.
Also playing in the game between Sweden and Latvia was 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell. Through the preliminary round Lysell recorded one goal and three assists on six shots and was a plus one. His team went 3-1-0 and finished the tournament with a bronze medal win over Czechia.
Much is already known about the type of player that Lysell is. A quick, strong skater, with good hands and vision of the ice. He certainly has the tools to be one of the more talented players at the next level.
Lysell’s performance at this year’s World Junior Championship proved that his rookie season in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants was no fluke. The five-foot 11-inch forward doesn’t have the biggest frame (listed at 176 pounds), but he won’t have to add much more muscle before he is physically ready to play a full season in the NHL.
Lysell will have to simplify his game if he wishes to make an immediate impact when he makes his NHL debut. Too many times he would turn the puck over while attempting to deke past a defender on a one-on-one. He’s not an explosive skater, but he’s strong enough to be able to use his quickness to his advantage.
After finishing the tournament with two goals and four assists, Bruins fans should expect Lysell to compete for a roster spot right out of training camp. In need of filling out a top-six right-wing the Bruins could look to their most recent first round pick for the answer. I think Fabian Lysell will at least begin the year in the NHL but will only have nine games to prove he belongs.
If the Bruins don’t think the 19-year-old is ready for the grind of an 82-game regular season they could opt to return him to the WHL for more seasoning at the major junior level. Boston could also have Lysell develop in the AHL. Since he will be turning 20 before the end of the upcoming season, he is eligible to play with the Providence Bruins.
The only game that Sweden lost in the preliminary round was a 3-2 decision to the United States. The third and final Bruins prospect playing at this year’s World Junior Championship was 2020 sixth-round pick Riley Duran. A Woburn native, Duran is entering his sophomore season with the Providence College Friars.
It couldn’t have been much of a surprise to many that Friars’ bench boss, and head coach of Team USA, Nate Leaman would take the 20-year-old forward with him to Edmonton. In his first season at Providence Duran had 10 goals and nine assists in 38 games played.
Duran and his teammates had a very impressive preliminary round performance. He recorded two goals and three assists on nine shots and was a plus five as Team USA went 4-0-0 before losing in the quarterfinals to Czechia. At six-foot one inch and 174 pounds Duran plays a heavy game.
Fans shouldn’t expect a big scoring output from Duran, but he does have versatility to play any forward position. He plays to his strengths and understands his weaknesses so it is unlikely that Duran will be creating his own offense. He finishes checks, senses the game well, and finds a way to make an impact in all three zones.
I think Duran will develop into a bottom-six forward at the NHL level. The great thing about the player is that he is capable of being a center or wing. The bad thing, if there is one with this underrated Don Sweeney draft pick, is that it may be years before he makes an impact in Boston.
Bruins’ ownership is not interested in a rebuild so it is extra important that Sweeney nails every move he makes this season. If the team is not competing in the short-term the front office could look a lot different going forward. For Cam Neely and Don Sweeney the seat is officially hot.