If the NHL were to recreate the 2014 NHL Draft with the power of hindsight, where would David Pastrnak go? Here’s a bold claim: sooner than 25th overall, when the Boston Bruins selected him.
It’s amusing to realize that the 2017-18 Boston Bruins are a deeper, more dangerous team because of some bright draft picks when you consider how much heat GM Don Sweeney & Co. absorbed after the 2015 draft.
As a reminder, Sweeney set himself up for a pivotal first draft after replacing Peter Chiarelli by lining up picks 13, 14, and 15 in 2015. Ultimately, the Bruins had three consecutive chances to snatch potential 2018 Calder winner Mathew Barzal, and they chose three other players instead. Hockey Twitter enjoyed many laughs at their expense.
Maybe it was a rough start, but Sweeney’s decisions have been looking a lot brighter lately.
One could consider Pastrnak a parting gift from Chiarelli, although Sweeney was likely a part of that (and many other Bruins decisions) as a longtime member of the front office, including serving as an assistant GM.
So far, Jake DeBrusk is the only player of those three mid-first-rounders to play in the NHL, scoring 26 points in 46 games. The 2015 draft hasn’t been a total bust, however, as they spotted promising defenseman Brandon Carlo with the 37th pick.
Pastrnak isn’t the only 2014 pick who’s been helping out this season. Danton Heinen (fourth round, pick 116) is ranked fourth in team scoring with 35 points in 46 games, while Anders Bjork (fifth round, 146) has shown flashes of brilliance as well.
You wouldn’t expect to see too many immediate dividends from 2016 and 2017, but then again, few defensemen show as much promise as rookies as Charlie McAvoy has. The blueliner has been a quick study, and could really stand as a steal at the 14th pick.
When you consider the early returns on moving from Claude Julien to Bruce Cassidy, the big picture with Sweeney in control – and the transition from Chiarelli, considering that fruitful 2014 draft – is looking brighter by the day.
Getting the likes of Pastrnak and McAvoy in recent drafts goes a long way in easing the pain of trading away young talent such as Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin. Just like that, a team that seemed to have fringe potential now must be taken very seriously as the playoffs approach.
Maybe it’s fitting, then, that neither Brad Marchand (71st in 2006) nor Patrice Bergeron (45th in 2003) were first-round picks?
Either way, the Bruins show how much of a boost you can get from hitting picks out of the park, even when you don’t dominate or even participate in the lottery.
Now, the next question is: how will these drafts look even further down the line?
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.