Cam Neely gives honest take on disastrous 2015 draft for Bruins

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Neely gives honest take on disastrous 2015 draft for Bruins originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins were set up to be a top Stanley Cup contender for five to seven years entering the 2015 NHL Draft.

A couple shrewd moves had given the Bruins three consecutive first-round picks in that draft at No. 13, 14 and 15 overall. It was a glorious opportunity for Boston to add three quality players to a core that already included Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and others.

Instead of filling the roster with much needed young, cheap talent to supplement the veteran core, the Bruins whiffed on all three picks.

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They chose defenseman Jakub Zboril at No. 13. He's played 44 NHL games and still can't crack the lineup on a regular basis. Jake DeBrusk was the pick at No. 14. He's been solid at times -- scoring 61 goals in his first three seasons -- but he's way too inconsistent and often makes little impact if he's not scoring. Zach Senyshyn was the final selection at No. 15 and by far the worst of the three picks. He was taken much higher than most experts predicted. Senyshyn has played in just 14 NHL games over the last six years.

What happened here?

Bruins president Cam Neely was asked about this disastrous draft Wednesday during his season-ending media availability.

"I’ve looked back at that a lot, obviously. I think the timing of when we hired Don (Sweeney) and then the draft was taking place – would have been good I think to have a little bit more time between the hiring and the draft," Neely explained on a video conference call. "Not to say that Don wasn’t involved in the amateur meetings, but he wasn’t involved at the time, most of the time thinking that he was making the picks.

"I think Don did everything he needed to do leading up to that draft to get three first-round picks. I thought the moves that he made were really good and poised to set us up for the future. The guys put the list together. I think maybe during that time, we should have taken some time out – as everybody knows, we tried to move up in the draft. It didn’t work. We probably should have taken the time out and really just digested that list a little bit more. Then there was a pick that one of our scouts really thought that the player wouldn’t be available in the second round.

"Obviously, hindsight is everything we’d all love to have. moving forward and thinking about making different decisions or better decisions, I guess. You can always do that in every draft, though, no matter where you pick and how many picks you have."

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The three picks made after the Bruins were the exact choices Boston should've made itself.

  • No. 16, New York Islanders: Mathew Barzal, C

  • No. 17, Winnipeg Jets: Kyle Connor, LW

  • No. 18, Ottawa Senators: Thomas Chabot, D

Brock Boeser (No. 23), Travis Konecny (No. 24) and Anthony Beauvillier (No. 28) are among the notable players Boston could have selected in Round 1. Sebastian Aho went No. 35 overall (second round), two spots ahead of where the B's selected defenseman Brandon Carlo.

When you look at the Bruins' first six picks from the 2015 draft (three in the first round and three in the second round), only Carlo projects to be an impact player long-term. It doesn't get much worse than that for a team with six picks in the top 52.

By missing on these picks, the Bruins lacked the required scoring depth up front and blue line depth to win a Stanley Cup over the last six seasons. 

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"As we saw (in the 2021 playoffs), you can never have enough D and we never seem to have enough," Neely said Tuesday.

It's true, defensive depth is vital to winning in the playoffs. Picking a better defenseman than Zboril in Round 1 and Jeremy Lauzon in Round 2 during the 2015 draft probably would've given the B's enough blue line depth the last few years.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, their poor drafting extends beyond 2015. The 2017, 2018 and 2019 draft classes have not produced any regular NHL players, aside from maybe Jeremy Swayman (fourth-round pick in 2017). He could be Boston's starting goalie to begin the 2021-22 season.

The draft is an area the Bruins must improve in ASAP. They have arguably the league's worst prospect pool, and that doesn't paint a pretty picture for the future of the franchise.