Here is a look at Boston’s organizational needs and possible draft targets:
After stockpiling high picks the previous two seasons, having adding nine players selected in the top 52, the Bruins have just one selection in the top 52 this season and two picks in the top 62. Five of those top 52 picks were defencemen, including two in the top 14, and Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo already look like mainstays on the big club, so it would be a surprise if the Bruins look at adding another blueliner at 18th overall unless that player is the clear-cut number one player on their draft list. If Timothy Liljegren, for instance, is top ten on their draft board and available at 18…the Bruins will likely add another blueliner as there’s no such thing as having too many defencemen – one or more could eventually be dealt. Personally…I wouldn’t consider drafting Liljegren before the 20th pick.
Be that as it may…the odds are fairly high that Boston targets one of the dozen or so centers that have top-two upside with the 18th overall selection, and there should be several still available at the 18th spot, especially if, as expected, teams who pick right before Boston (Islanders, Flames, Leafs) start taking the second tier of defencemen as all of those teams have long-term needs on defence, allowing one of the more highly-rated centers to drop to the Bruins at 18. It’s not an impossibility that one of Lias Andersson, Martin Necas, Elias Pettersson or Robert Thomas slides a bit on draft day…and Boston would most likely be quick to snap one up.
The other centers who may be in the discussion for Boston at 18 are Ryan Poehling, Josh Norris and Morgan Frost…however, the Bruins have gone against the grain with some of their high picks in the past two drafts, so don’t rule out the possibility that another center ends up being their target.
The other remote possibility is that they look seriously at goalie Jake Oettinger at 18th overall given that they’ve loaded up on forwards and defencemen with high picks in the last two drafts and the consensus top goalie is playing in their backyard at Boston University…just like top-pick Charlie McAvoy did last season…and that picked worked out pretty well. Given that Rask is still in his goalie prime and Malcolm Subban is waiting in the wings, this pick is less likely, but Subban could always be dealt if the Bruins are smitten with Oettinger, perhaps to a team that loses a goalie in the expansion draft, and then the Bruins might be able to pick up another top 60 pick if that is the plan…but it’s doubtful that they end up taking a goalie that high.
With the 53rd pick the Bruins will likely consider some winger prospects who have fallen out of favour that could still be high on their list, and it’s anyone’s guess who that might be. Does Matthew Strome drop that far? If Aleski Heponiemi falls because of size issues, would the Bruins snag a talented winger with the skill to one day play on their powerplay? No one is quite sure where Nikita Popugaev will go in the draft…it’s just fairly certain that he has fallen out of favour…would the Bruins pull the trigger if he’s still on the board at 53?
Another wildcard may be Jonah Gadjovich…how much does his skating hinder him on draft day? Perhaps they can overlook the inconsistent competitiveness of a talented winger like Ostap Safin and pounce on him with pick 53. The Bruins may well look at taking a forward who has one or more discernible flaw, but nevertheless has decent upside if they can ever correct or improve their imperfections.
After selecting a future third-line center in Trent Frederic in the first round last year Boston will not likely look at the likes of Mackenzie Entwistle or Zach Gallant in the second round since they also have another good two-way center recently drafted in Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson. The more likely target if they pick another center might be Alex Lipanov or even Adam Ruzicka, prospects who are more in the “boom or bust” category that have more potential upside if they reach their full potential.