Nick Goss

Bruins rank dead last in The Athletic's new NHL prospect rankings

A lack of draft picks has put the Bruins in a tough spot.

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The Boston Bruins have been trying to contend for the Stanley Cup consistently for the last 15 years. This win-now mentality was the right approach given the quality of the rosters the team had during that span.

But at some point the bill comes due.

Constantly trading away draft picks and prospects for immediate help eventually has consequences, and the Bruins are about to feel the pain.

One area that's been absolutely gutted in recent years is the Bruins' prospect pool. The Athletic recently released its new ranking of every NHL team's prospect pool, and the Bruins came in dead last at No. 32 overall.

"Boston hasn’t had many picks in the last few years, and among the high picks they have had it’s hard to spot many guys who have spiked in value since then," Corey Pronman writes. "The result is the 32nd-ranked pipeline in back-to-back years. The margin between them and the next pipelines is closer than last year if that’s any better to hear for Bruins fans."

Trading away picks, especially those in the first couple rounds, is the No. 1 reason why Boston's prospect pool is so poor.

The Bruins did not have a first-round pick in 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023. They did not have a second-round pick in 2019, 2021 and 2023. It's impossible to have a good prospect pool when you consistently don't pick in the top 64 selections.

Another issue for the Bruins is just drafting the wrong players. They've missed on a lot of guys, with the 2015 first round being the most glaring example. They also swung and missed on 2017 first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen (dealt away as part of the Hampus Lindholm trade in 2022) and 2019 first-rounder John Beecher. Second-round picks Jack Studnicka (2017) and Axel Andersson (2018) contributed very little to the organization.

To be fair, the Bruins have hit on a couple middle-round players, such as 2017 fourth-rounder Jeremy Swayman. But the majority of the Bruins' recent draft picks haven't produced a whole lot at the NHL level.

This problem isn't going to get much better for the Bruins in the short term. Just look at their upcoming draft pick situation. They don't pick until the fourth round in the 2024 NHL Draft. Their next second-round pick isn't until 2026.

Two prospects with real potential to be impact players are defenseman Mason Lohrei (2020 second-round pick) and right wing Fabian Lysell (2021 first-round pick). Both players could make their NHL debuts this coming season, but a little more experience in the AHL with the Providence Bruins would be ideal for their development.

The Bruins don't intend to rebuild or even retool in the short term, based on what management has said since May and the roster transactions general manager Don Sweeney has made in the offseason. Instead of giving roles to the "kids", the Bruins have signed a bunch of veterans in free agency. Prospects could still earn roster spots in training camp and the preseason, but they will have stiff competition from these veteran additions. Not rebuilding makes sense because the Bruins have traded away so many of their own draft picks over the next two years. Tanking doesn't work in that scenario.

So, how do the Bruins improve their prospect pool in the meantime? They need to continue to develop the prospects they already have and also keep their 2025 and 2026 first-round picks. Unless the Bruins have a chance to acquire an impact player -- like a top-six center -- who can be in Boston for the long term, they shouldn't be trading those upcoming first-rounders. It made sense last season when the B's were on pace to potentially be the best team ever. Being that aggressive at the 2024 trade deadline would be a mistake, unless the team is exceeding expectations by a wide margin.

If the Bruins are going to get better quick, it'll come in the trade market and/or free agency. They could have around $30 million in salary cap space next summer. Those are the two avenues where major roster help will most likely come from. Lohrei and Lysell have lots of potential, but banking on the current prospect pool to fuel the next Stanley Cup-winning roster in Boston would be foolish.

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