Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins made a big splash Friday as they acquired veterans Dimitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick, 2024 third-round pick, and forward Craig Smith. Sweeney opted to trade picks and a rostered player instead of any prospects for the two veteran Capitals. It seems, for now, that Boston’s prospect pool is safe and their pipeline is set in stone for the rest of this season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 10 Bruins prospects in their system.
1. Fabian Lysell
Was there any doubt who the top prospect is? Fabian Lysell, the 2021 21st overall pick, slipped into the Bruins hands despite many scouts highlighting his speed and playmaking abilities. Lysell put up 22 goals and 40 assists for a grand total of 62 points in 53 games in his first WHL season. He’s put up good numbers in his rookie season, scoring 11 goals and adding 17 helpers for 27 points in 36 games.
Lysell has all the hallmarks of a top-6 scoring and playmaking winger. He’s a very fluid and gifted skater with soft hands and an eye for those around him. Despite his 5’11 176 lbs. frame, Lysell can play with a bit of an edge to his game and knows how to use his strength and leverage to his advantage. As a 20 year old rookie playing against seasoned AHLers, Lysell has shown an ability to create space, beat defenders and produce offense, as seen here:
The Bruins don’t have many purely untouchable prospects, but I would argue Lysell falls into that category. No player is a sure bet but Lysell is the closest thing the Bruins have to an elite prospect. Look for Lysell to bulk up in the offseason and challenge for a roster spot with the big club next season.
2. Mason Lohrei
The 6’4 209 lbs. native of Wisconsin has been a stud for Ohio State over the past two seasons, posting 55 points over the 65 games he’s been with the Buckeyes. Lohrei’s most impressive attributes are his passing and vision. He’s quarterbacked the Buckeye for the past two seasons and has developed into a poised, patient and creative playmaker. In his own zone, Lohrei makes good decisions with the puck and is great at generating transition offense. He makes a great first pass which jumpstarts his team’s breakout.
Lohrei’s frame and reach have allowed him to improve defensively as well. He’s very good with his stick and uses his size to clog passing lanes and take away time and space from opposing forwards. Add in the fact that he’s a minutes eater who is deployed both as a penalty killer and a powerplay specialist and what you get is a two-way defenseman that could solidify the Bruins’ top 4 for years to come.
3. Matthew Poitras
I whole-heartedly believe Bruins fans are going to love Matthew Poitras. Poitras is a feisty playmaking center who has made an impressive jump in his second OHL season. The second round pick from Ontario registered a respectful 50 points in 68 games for the Guelph Storm. This season Poitras has 14 goals and 59 assists, good enough for 73 points in just 52 games so far.
Poitras reminds me a lot of Brad Marchand with his combination of skill, vision and tenacity. Poitras is aggressive on the forecheck, excellent in transition and has a nose for the net (not to mention a bit of an edge to his game the Bruins fans will appreciate). His passing and vision are off the charts, finding open teammates in places even the camera can’t follow (see above). This guy is something special and I’m excited to see where he lands next season, whether that be in Providence or elsewhere.
4. Brett Harrison
Brett Harrison is what I like to call a pure goal scorer. He’s lighting up the OHL this season, tallying 32 goals and 31 assists while playing for two different teams this season. There’s a lot to like about Harrison’s game but there’s one thing that REALLY jumps off the page…his shot. Whether he’s at the dot on the power play firing one-timers, snapping off wristers in transition or burying pucks in close, Harrison can downright shoot.
Harrison has a rare ability to generate serious power on his wrist shot with a lightning quick release. His slap shot can be utilized up and down the offensive zone, making him a threat to score from almost anywhere. Harrison is a responsible defender and at 6’2 185 lbs. he’s not someone that can be pushed around. Pure goal-scorers don’t come around often, and Brett Harrison is as pure as they come.
5. Georgii Merkulov
As I type this, Georgii Mekrulov is currently on a tear in the AHL. On the season he has 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 48 games. Something has awakened in Merkulov because over the past 10 games he has 9 goals and 5 assists for 14 points. The Russian-born center is a gifted offensive talent, with skill and creativity galore. He’s an excellent stickhandler and has finally found his shot, helping him develop into a complete offensive player.
Merkulov’s one defect is on the defensive side on the ice. He’s made some strides over the course of his rookie season but it’s something he will need to continue working on in order to round out his game. That being said Merkulov’s potential really excites me. He’s one of the rare players that’s just as good setting up a goal as he is scoring one. He’s a smooth and sleek skater that can turn on the jets and accelerate quickly. If his defensive game can round into form, Merkulov could be a top 6 center of the future for the Bruins.
6. Dans Locmelis
Locmelis is an exciting prospect because of the sheer number of points he puts up. The Latvian-born center is playing in the Swedish J20 Nationell and has registered 22 goals and 31 assists for 53 points in 38 games. Locmelis’ scouting reports tout his hockey IQ and the small details in his game as the qualities that stand out. He has a high motor, consistently competes across all 200 feet of the ice and has drastically improved his scoring touch over the last year of his development.
Locmelis is currently 19 years old and will be taking his talents to Amherst next season for the UMass Minutemen. I’d look for him to add a bit of bulk and muscle before he makes the long trek out to Western MA. Locmelis may need some time to adjust to the smaller US ice and will need to improve his offensive game, but he does all of the little things right and looks destined to make the NHL. It all comes down to what type of player he ends up being, but he seems like a high-floor player with some serious upside.
7. Johnny Beecher
The important thing to remember about Beecher is that he is built for the NHL. When I say that, I mean he has all of the physical tools required to be a solid two-way center in the NHL. Beecher stands at 6’3, 209 lbs. and has impressive speed and acceleration. He’s wildly athletic and is a nightmare to play against because of his length, physical play and agility. The downside to Beecher is his production hasn’t matched his draft spot. This season in Providence Beecher has put up 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 41 games.
The Bruins drafted Beecher with the hope that his scoring touch would develop as he progresses through college and the AHL. The numbers may be troubling, but I think it’s important to note just how physically gifted Beecher is. He has great speed for any NHL prospect, and when you factor in his size and hard-nosed style of play, he has the athleticism and build to be a top 9 center. The question with Beecher is where in the top-9 will he fall?
8. Riley Duran
Duran didn’t enter the Bruins prospect pool as a highly touted prospect, but over the last year or so he has shot up the ranks and developed into a nice player for Boston. Duran, a 6’2 winger from Woburn, MA, is currently at Providence College with 8 goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 27 games. This signifies a nice jump for Duran, who posted 19 points over 38 games in his prior season for the Friars. Duran plays a heavy game and does most of his damage in the slot area/upper blue paint.
What impresses me about Duran is his ability to continue developing and defying expectations. He had a difficult season in USHL and then put up 10 goals in his first season with the Friars. He wasn’t on Team USA’s radar for the 2021-22 World Juniors and ended up making the team and contributing 5 points in 5 games. Duran is a classic middle to bottom 6 winger. He plays a tenacious game, has a goal-scoring touch, and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. He’s been surprising people his entire career, and I think he may just surprise us when he gets to Boston.
9. Ryan Mast
Ryan Mast excites me because he’s gotten better with every year of development. The 6’4 212 lbs. defenseman has elevated his game over the course of four OHL seasons, becoming a stalwart in his own zone and developing and offensive touch at the blueline and in transition. Mast has played 40 games for the Sarnia Sting and has registered 6 goals and 19 assists for 21 points and an impressive +24.
Mast can eat minutes, plays a rugged defensive game, and has the snarl and snare Bruins fans love to see in their defensemen. The Bruins Developmental Team has been high on Mast, already signing him to an entry level contract. Mast, like the last two players on this list, has the combination of build and athleticism to make it work in the NHL. He’s a bit of a throwback with his size and style of play, but his offensive game gives me hope that he can round into form and become an effective two-way defenseman.
Honorable Mentions: Oscar Jellvik, Matias Mäntykivi, Trevor Kuntar, Ty Gallagher, Andre Gasseau, Mark McLaughlin
10. Frederic Brunet
Brunet was a 5th round pick in the Bruins’ 2022 draft and the Black and Gold may have found diamond in the rough with this player. Brunet is having a breakout season in the QMJHL, scoring 13 goals and adding 48 assists for 61 points. Brunet is an offensive defenseman with a high IQ, playmaking ability, and a scoring touch you just don’t usually see on defensemen. He’s quick and is a great facilitator of the puck, and is also big enough (6’2 185 lbs.) to hold his own on defense.
He has impressive awareness and confidence in the offensive zone, not afraid to move down the wall or walk with the puck in ways normal defensemen don’t. He can get shots through traffic, direct a powerplay and is excellent at starting and contributing in the transition game. He’s been a revelation this season, but if he can continue to put up points and generate offense at a rate even close to his current pace, he could be on the Bruin backend sooner rather than later.