Kyle Connor is the best American forward not named Jack Eichel in this draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The annual NHL Scouting Combine will take place this coming week in Buffalo, meaning the Bruins will get a close look at the prospects they’ll consider with the 14th overall pick in June’s draft.
Here’s a quick look at some of the guys who might be around the Bruins’ range and a few for whom they’d have to trade up to secure. We’ll break these posts down into forwards and defensemen, starting with forwards today:
GUYS THE BRUINS COULD GET
Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku (Finland), 6-foot-3 1/2, 211 pounds
The top international prospect in the draft according to NHL Central Scouting, Rantanen is hyped for having a strong shot, among other qualities. He had just nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in 56 games this season in SM-liiga, Finland’s top professional league. Mock drafts have him going in the top 10, so this could be wishful thinking for the B’s.
Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia (OHL), 6-foot-3, 210 pounds
Played in the Czech Extraliga before coming over to North America. The 18-year-old was nearly a point-per-game player in his first season with the Sting, scoring 16 goals and adding 18 assists for 34 points in 37 games, but he also missed ample time with injuries. Remember: Injuries in his draft year helped David Pastrnak slide to the B’s in the late first round last year.
Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL), 6-foot-1, 209 pounds
The Switzerland native plays a heavy game and compares himself to Max Pacioretty. Meier is a left-shot right wing, similar to current Bruins Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith. Worth noting: The QMJHL has been kind to the Bruins in the past (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand), but Boston’s last first-round pick from the Q was Jordan Caron.
Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL), 5-foot-11 1/4, 175 pounds
Mike Morreale of NHL.com projected Barzal to the Bruins in his post-lottery mock draft. If that were to happen, Barzal could be quite the value pick.
Once considered a possibility to go third overall in this draft, a knee injury this past season hurt Barzal’s stock. Considered an elite offensive talent, a team prioritizing taking the best player available could capitalize should he slide. Barzal’s also an alum of the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express, which is where Milan Lucic played before the WHL.
Kyle Connor, LW, Youngstown (USHL), 6-foot-1, 177 pounds
Committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, Connor is a speedster who receives praise for his defensive play. Connor is ranked as the sixth-best player in the entire draft by TSN’s Craig Button, whereas Central Scouting ranks him as the No. 13 North American player.
Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa (OHL), 5-foot-9 3/4, 175 pounds
Konecny is a fast right-shot center whom the 67’s drafted first overall in the 2013 OHL draft. He hasn’t set the OHL on fire yet, but he has produced at more than a point-per-game pace in each of his two seasons in Ottawa.
Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL), 6-foot-1 1/4, 182 pounds
Frequently compared to David Krejci for being a well-rounded center, Harkins is the son of former Flames second-round pick Todd Harkins and the nephew of former Bruins left wing Brett Harkins.
Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, QMJHL, 6-foot-1 3/4, 199 pounds
After playing junior hockey back home in Russia for the three previous seasons, Schechnikov enjoyed a very strong first season in the QMJHL this year with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 55 games. Svechnikov brings a combination of skill and physicality.
Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL), 6-foot-0, 187 pounds
The two-way forward is ranked ninth overall on Button’s list but is the No. 27 North American skater in Central Scouting’s eyes. Boeser is committed to play at the University of North Dakota.
Nick Merkley, C/RW, Kelowna (WHL) 5-foot-10, 188 pounds
Merkley’s goals dropped from 25 to 20 this season, but he saw a mammoth increase in points thanks to his 70 assists (90 points in 72 games). A teammate of 2014 third overall pick Leon Draisaitl in Kelowna, Merkley will have the perfect opportunity to boost his stock further in Sunday’s Memorial Cup final against Oshawa.
GUYS THE BRUINS WOULD HAVE TO MOVE UP TO GET
Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL), 6-foot-3, 185 pounds
How the Bruins could get him: By trading up to No. 3 or 4
Good enough to be the first overall pick in an average draft, but this draft has two monsters at the top. Strome scored 45 goals and added 84 assists for 129 points in 68 games this season. Those numbers are outstanding; the fact that McDavid put up similar numbers (44-76–120) in just 47 games. Strome is elite, but McDavid and Eichel could be other-wordly.
Mitchell Marner, C, London (OHL), 5-foot-11, 160 pounds
How the Bruins could get him: By trading into the top five
Undersized but highly skilled, with his hands earning him more praise than anything else. Right-shot centers are always in high demand, and he’s the second-best in this draft behind Eichel.
Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston (OHL), 6-foot-4, 215 pounds
How the Bruins could get him: By trading into the top 10
Crouse has the size and is praised for playing a solid all-around game. He’s even been compared to Cam Neely, but he hasn’t scored an awful lot at the junior level. He led the Frontenacs with 51 points (29 goals, 22 assists), but that total was 61st in the OHL.
As this post from SportsNet points out, however, Milan Lucic didn’t put up points in his draft year either (just nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points), yet he proved to be well worth the Bruins’ second-round reach.