Sean Kuraly is entering his first pro season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)
When the Bruins traded Martin Jones’ rights to the Sharks last offseason, one asset they received ended up being a lot worse than expected. The first-round pick acquired in the deal, projected by many across the league to be in the top half of the order, ended up being 29th overall when the Sharks made a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
As for the other asset: Well, at least he’s here.
While the first-rounder was the centerpiece of the trade, the Bruins also received the rights to center Sean Kuraly, a fifth-round pick of the Sharks in the 2011 draft. Kuraly concluded his college career last season, after which he signed an entry level contract with the Bruins.
Given that he was drafted when he was and had played out his college career, Kuraly was a candidate to use article 8.6(c) of the CBA to his advantage the way Jimmy Vesey did and become a free agent. Considering the Bruins’ depth at center — established stars at the top and solid youngsters both in the NHL and on the way — Kuraly might have found an easier path to the NHL in a different organization. He ultimately chose against that path, however, deciding that the B’s trading for him told him all he needed to know.
“It really wasn’t much of a decision, really,” he said. “I think you want to be somewhere where they want you. Obviously in the trade that happened, that was expressed. I think it’s just something that me and my agent didn’t even think much about. We thought it was the right thing to do.”
A physical center with good size, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Kuraly had a down year on a Miami of Ohio team that had a down year altogether. After posting back-to-back 29-point seasons, Kuraly saw his production drop off to 23 points. Most jarring was his goal total, which went from 19 as a junior to six as a senior.
The Ohio native says he’s starting to consider himself a forward rather than just a center, and that might help his case for an eventual future job. The B’s have used him at both center and left wing in preseason games.
“I’m obviously more comfortable in the middle of the ice, for the most part but I’ve played a little wing now and I’m getting used to it,” he said. “There’s still things I’m still getting used to, but I would say I’m just a forward. You grow up playing center, but a ton of guys grew up playing center. I think it’s more natural to go center to wing than wing to center.”
Kuraly has his work cut out for him if he wants to play in the NHL any time soon, especially as a pivot. Boston has Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner and David Backes locking up top-nine spots, while Dominic Moore has seemingly jumped ahead of Noel Acciari as a favorite to center the fourth line. There’s also Kuraly’s former Miami teammate Austin Czarnik, who had a strong first professional season (61 points in 68 games) and has looked good in training camp. Down the road (literally) there’s Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, a 2015 second-round pick who put up 30 points in his freshman year at Boston University.
“There’s tons of competition, obviously,” Kuraly said. “At the end of the day, if you just put your best foot forward and do the best you can, I think you’ll find a way to get where you need to be. As long as you’re doing your best and you’re good enough, I think things have a way of working themselves out. You’re just doing the best you can every day and making sure you’re making the most of the situation you’re in.
“Competition is good. That’s not something we were trying to get away from. That’s something that was the situation, and you just deal with it and make the best of it.”