The Boston Bruins have been known to go off the board with picks at the NHL Draft. In the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Don Sweeney’s first as Bruins General Manager, the Bruins surprised plenty around the NHL when they drafted Zach Senyshyn 15th overall. Fast forward five years to the 2020 NHL Draft and Don Sweeney and his scouting staff had some heads turning to say the least.
“I guess they think they’re just smarter than the rest of us!” a veteran NHL scout wrote of the Bruins’ draft picks Tuesday.
With the 58th overall pick in the NHL Draft the Boston Bruins drafted 6-4, 201-pound defenseman Mason Lohrei. Lohrei appears to have the goods to develop into an NHL talent but according to multiple scouts across the league, there was no reason to take the 19-year-old defenseman 74 picks before his NHL Central Scouting Bureau had him ranked. The fact that this was arguably the best and deepest NHL Draft since the famous 2003 NHL Draft, made it even more bewildering to see the Bruins, a team that’s looking to replenish their prospect pool do this.
Following the draft on Wednesday night, Don Sweeney was asked about blocking out the skeptic noise and believing in his amateur scouts’ internal rankings.
“I think they’re all resources,” the Bruins GM replied when asked if he values his team’s prospect rankings more than outside sources. “Obviously, the central scouting and different groups that put together mock draft lists and do exhaustive studies on their own behalf, I think they’re all resources. Ultimately, we’re really in this business, you’re paid for your expertise and your opinion. I think we put together a list, we went over it exhaustively and went back over it in terms of the players we thought had a chance to be in the spots.”
Those aforementioned resources not only had Lohrei available much deeper into the 2020 NHL Draft but also the incoming Boston College freshman center Trevor Kuntar whom the Bruins used their third round pick on with the 89th pick overall. The same scouts referenced above did say they think Kuntar could see the NHL sooner than Lohrei but taking him 54 picks before his Central Scouting ranking was still baffling.
Sweeney seemed to realize that the Bruins were taking some gambles with taking Lohrei and Kuntar so high in the NHL Draft but his scouting team clearly believed in these picks and he didn’t want to be forced into a trade to get them later in the draft.
“Obviously, you’re looking to potentially trade up or back in situations. You have to have a wide list, and you can’t just fall in love with one player. It just can’t happen,” he said. “That player can disappear right in the pick in front of you. You have to be prepared to have a group of players every time your pick comes up and do the work. That’s what we hopefully tried to do and we looked at a longer-term play with some of these players. We felt like the development upside if we provide the resources and if the player is committed to being the player they can become, then we have a chance to have some really good hockey players.”
The media and fans have been and will continue to knock Don Sweeney and the Bruins until Lohrei and Kuntar can silence them in an NHL rink right now, but the group that has helped him draft the likes of Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Jake DeBrusk has got his back and is extremely grateful for his faith in them.
“Certainly, we appreciate the support,” Bruins Associate Director of Amateur Scouting Ryan Nadeau said. “I don’t want to speak for Donny but he understands all the hard work that we put in as a group all year and the conversations that we have in terms of debating these players and using our viewings and all the other information that we have. It means a lot to have that support. To know that he trusts that we’re doing what we think is right in terms of getting the best players to help the Boston Bruins win. I think we’ve adhered to that and we just stick to our process and go with the players.”