With the 18th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins will have some tough choices to make regarding which player they select. While this years draft isn't as deep as the previous years, there are still going to be some good players available to the Bruins...lets take a look at who they should be targeting.
Kristian Vesalainen - RW/LW - 6'3" 209 lbs :
Vesalainen is about as complete of a package as you will find in this years draft outside of the top 10. He has ample experience playing both the left and right wings, while playing a solid two-way game. His hockey IQ is high with a skill set to match. Vesalainen is big and tall but knows how to use his size and wing span to win puck battles while also beating players to loose pucks. A true power forward in the making who can pass and score, he also doesn't shy away from the front of the net and also makes sure he plays a responsible game that spans across 3 zones. Vesalainen is not a lock to be available to the Bruins at #18, but if he is this is a pick that should be made with no hesitation.
Lias Andersson - C -5'11" 198 lbs
The Bruins have been rebuilding their team the way future championship rosters do, from the defense out. In the past few years of the draft they have acquired some very good, game changing defensemen including the franchise potential in Charlie McAvoy. Now this draft could focus on some offense and bulking up down the middle by picking a center, meet Lias Andersson.
Andersson is an 18 year old Swedish center who prides himself on a two-way style of the play in which the Bruins would be chomping at the bit to acquire. Despite playing a two-way game, the kid is a pretty impressive talent on the offensive side of the game as well. When he played for HV71 U20's team he posted 59 points in 37 games. Andersson isn't the biggest guy on the ice, but he is a very strong player who knows his strengths and weakness, this results in a strong NHL center in the making. Many projections have Andersson within reach of the Bruins at #18, if he is indeed there then this is a good option if the team wants a center.
Elias Pettersson - C - 6'2" 161lbs
The first thing you'll notice about Pettersson is that his hockey IQ and hockey sense is off the charts. He is a very skilled center who is dynamic across all three zones, creating space and opportunity anywhere he might be on the ice. At 6'2" and only 161 pounds he needs to add more size and strength, but don't let that distract you from a future star in the making. Pettersson had an excellent year for Timra posting 41 points in 43 games on top of playing a sound two-way game. He is also a true competitor who isn't afraid to battle and has shown that he also has that hard-nosed drive that the Bruins love. If Pettersson is on the board at #18 (also might be a close call) the Bruins should absolutely considering taking him. The kid wants to win and also wants to improve upon himself to get better every game.
Here is where the Bruins are best suited to pick at #18 given that most of the elite forwards will be in the top 10 due to a lack of depth this year. The defensemen available could end up being late round steals for the Bruins, one of them may even have superstar potential in them. Here are our top choices.
Connor Timmins - RHD - 6'1" 181 lbs
Left out from most hockey media outlets and websites, Timmins is projected to be a late selection in the 1st round at best. Some places even have him going in the 2nd round which is crazy given what he brings to the table. One of the better puck moving defenders in the draft, Timmins exploded this year for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds where he had 61 points in 67 games played. He has great defensive awareness and is already a tremendous skater who carves up and down the ice effortlessly. He is strongest 5v5 but also as a good point man on the man advantage, along with being a good defensemen to throw out there on the PK or when you need a lead protected. Timmins is a strong puck moving defensemen who has some very good offensive upside. The Bruins have their top 4 RHD of the future in McAvoy and Carlo already, however given how skilled Timmins is the pick would be a steal.
Pierre-Olivier Joseph - LHD - 6'2" 160 lbs
Racking up 39 points in 62 games for Charlottetown of the QMJL, Pierre-Olivier Joseph has shown off quick an impressive toolset. Given that he only weighs 160 lbs he will clearly need to add size and strength to become the impact blue liner he's destined to be. Starting with his hockey IQ, he thinks the game very well and makes good decisions no matter where he is on the ice. His overall ability is complete and all he needs is some time to be a very, very good NHL defensemen. Given that most teams out there are looking for RHD, the lefties such as Pierre-Olivier Joseph should be on the board for the Bruins. If this is the case, Bruins could afford to pick him and allow him to develop for a few years before he is ready.
Erik Brannstrom - LHD - 5'10" 173 lbs
Remember earlier when we said some players in the draft are potential superstars in the making? Well this is exactly the player we had in mind. Meet Erik Brannstrom, the offensive defensemen who has all the skills and tools to become another NHL super star on the blue line. Despite his lack of size, he makes up for it with the superb puck and stick skills, along with having offensive ability that would make any fan stop and stare. In the SuperElit league for U18, he is actually the all time leader in PPG among defensemen...who are the next two players behind him? Erik Karlsson and Hedman, outstanding company is an understatement. With 23 points in 19 games this season, he continues his streak of averaging over one point per game. Brannstrom is a tremendous, rare talent who not only has the skills, but also has the compete and drive to win. He is one of those players who teams will be wishing they drafted for many years to come. he needs some more time to develop, but this is the guy the Bruins should pick. When Chara retires after next season, the left side of the blue line will consist of Krug being the only proven top 4 defensemen. Granted, Lauzon and Zboril are both on track to develop into that role, it doesn't hurt to add another potential super star into the mix. Brannstrom is our top choice of the draft, we can only hope that the Bruins like him as much as we do.