The 2014 NHL entry draft was historically forward-heavy, and the Boston Bruins were forward thinking, too, as they fell right in line with that trend.
A record 25 forwards were taken in the first round on Friday night, and that run on forwards continued Saturday in Rounds 2 through 7. When it was all said and done, four of the Bruins’ five draft picks were forwards.
Boston’s focus on skaters up front isn’t a big surprise. The Bruins struggled at times in the playoffs with both overall team speed as well as capitalizing on scoring opportunities. With the NHL evolving into a faster, more skilled game, the Bruins showed at the draft a willingness to adapt to that trend.
The Bruins took advantage of this year’s forward surplus starting on Friday night in the first round with the 25th pick. Boston grabbed Czech forward David Pastrnak, a winger with high offensive upside who can put the puck in the net. NHL central scouting labels Pastrnak as an “offensive-minded player with smooth hands, great instincts and a very quick shot,” adding that “he’s an excellent skater with speed and acceleration.”
The Bruins didn’t stop with the forward push after drafting Pastrnak.. The second-round selection of Ryan Donato — son of former Bruins forward and Harvard head coach Ted Donato — is one Boston hopes can be a value pick. The scouting report on Donato is that he’s got goal-scoring potential, as evidenced by the 37 goals he scored in 30 games at Dexter School this past season.
Donato isn’t real fast — an NHL executive told ESPN.com that Donato’s game needs more “pace” — and he’s not a huge body at 6-feet, 174 pounds. So while he’ll need to add bulk and improve his skating game, Donato carries intangibles in addition to the scoring touch. He’s been praised for his hard work and hockey sense. The Bruins know are incredibly familiar with Donato given his family and local ties, and they know they’re going to get a worker in the 18-year-0ld.
The Bruins added two more forwards in the later rounds when they selected Canadian center/winger Danton Heinen in the fourth round and American winger Anders Bjork in the fifth. Both are committed to play NCAA hockey — Heinen at Denver and Bjork at Notre Dame — and they both offer different offensive capabilities. Heinen has goal-scoring touch, while Bjork has playmaking ability.
Even the club’s seventh-round pick, defneseman Emil Johansson, is considered a two-way defesneman who can skate and move the puck.
“I also instructed our guys that I’d like a little more skill, a little more (on the) offensive side of it.” Chiarelli told reporters after the draft. “Talking Pastrak, Donato — not so much Bjork — but Heinen, Johansson pushes the puck … It’s something we’ve looked at.”
The game is getting faster and there’s an even larger emphasis on speed and offensive skill. While the Bruins have built a team centered on responsible defensive play and toughness, this year’s forward-heavy draft class shows they’re willing to adapt to the ongoing evolution.
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