Nick Goss

Bruins wisely take home run swing with Dean Letourneau first-round pick

Letourneau has a phenomenal skill set at 6-foot-7.

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The Boston Bruins had the No. 25 overall pick in the first round of what many experts considered a weaker-than-normal NHL Draft on Friday.

Instead of playing it safe, the B's made a potential boom-or-bust selection, and it was absolutely the right move. When you're at this stage of the first round, you take a home run swing, especially when your prospect pool -- widely ranked among the worst in the league -- badly needs an infusion of high-end talent.

The Bruins selected center Dean Letourneau with their first-round pick. He is a big presence on the ice, standing at 6-foot-7 and 214 pounds. He tallied an impressive 127 points (61 goals, 66 assists) in 56 games for St. Andrews College (Canadian prep school) last season.

Letourneau is a very good skater. He has great hands. His shot is impressive, and his playmaking ability last year was awesome. The athleticism and raw talent are immense. It's the type of skill package of someone who could be a productive top-six forward at the NHL level if his development goes according to plan.

The concern about Letourneau is whether his crazy stats and pure dominance last season will translate against much better competition. We'll find out -- at least to some degree -- fairly soon because he has committed to play for Boston College in the fall, where he'll face quality competition in the Hockey East conference.

"What stood out is obviously the frame of the player, and his skill set, to tell you the truth," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told reporters in Las Vegas on Friday night, per the team. "Not just the positional side of things, but he moves really well at that size. He has very good hands, an elite shot."

Sweeney has heard the talk about the competition Letourneau faced in 2023-24, and he's confident that BC will be a great place for him to develop against stronger competition.

"A lot of people talk about the quality of competition and the level he's played at. It'll be a big jump for him to go to Boston College next year, but the opportunity is right in front of him with (Will) Smith leaving," Sweeney said. "We think that's going to be a great development opportunity for Dean to continue to grow and fill in the gaps in his game."

Letourneau also was asked about the decision to go to St. Andrews and the league it plays in. He pushed back a bit on the quality of competition criticism.

"For me it was about the development," Letourneau told reporters after being picked by the Bruins. "I got to play 20-plus minutes a game, power play and penalty kill. I started every game and I finished every game.

"A lot of people don't like the league that I played in because it was a little lower competition, but we played U20 teams in Prague (Czech Republic) and Germany, we played U20 teams in Canada. We played all the prep schools in the United States, so that's Shattuck-St. Mary's, Northwood, Mount Saint Charles, so our competition wasn't as low as everyone kinda says it is."

What is Letourneau focusing on this coming year in terms of development?

"I think it would be to get bigger and stronger, maintain my speed," he explained. "I wanna play a bigger boys game where I'm using my size more. I'm still learning how to do that, and that's something I'm trying to work on this offseason."

One common NHL comp for Letourneau is Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson, who is a similar size at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. It took around 140 games of NHL experience for Thompson to find his footing, but once he learned how to best use his enormous size and talent, the production started to come in waves. Thompson has averaged 38 goals over the last three seasons for the Sabres, and he tallied a career-high 94 points in 2022-23. If Letourneau hits his ceiling, he could be a Thompson-like player, which would be incredible for Boston.

The Letourneau pick was a gamble by the Bruins. If it hits, this could be one of the team's best picks in a while -- similar to when they selected David Pastrnak at No. 25 overall in 2014 after many teams passed on him. It's also possible that Letourneau is never able to carry his dominance at St. Andrews to higher levels of competition.

Not all gambles are the same, though. The Bruins are betting on a unicorn-like player with great size and ability. Letourneau has the potential to be a phenomenal talent, and for a team that lacks elite-level offensive players at every level (including the NHL roster), this was absolutely a chance worth taking.

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