The 2021 NHL Draft is almost upon us and in a year with so much uncertainty, it’s going to be a unique one. The top-10 is wide open, there’s no clear consensus on what is going to go down throughout it. Just outside of the top-20 is where the Boston Bruins find themselves picking at 21st overall. There’s sure to be plenty of talent left for the taking. I have five players in mind that I think could very well be taken by the Bruins at 21st overall.
At the top of my wish list, we have Shawinigan Cataractes forward Xavier Bourgault. One of the oldest players in the 2021 draft class, Bourgault boasts an electric set of offensive skills. The two things that stick out to me the most are his great hands and high hockey IQ. His ability to play center and on the wing is nice, but I believe whoever drafts him will see him as a center.
Clocking in at the 20 spot on TSN’s Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings, there’s a decent chance that Bourgault will be available for the Bruins at 21st overall. The Bruins need to further stockpile their group of center prospects for life past Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
If the Bruins are looking for a player branded as an effective three-zone player, Francesco Pinelli might be the guy. Pinelli took his talents to Slovenia and the AlpsHL with HDD Jesenice as a result of the OHL not having a season. One thing that sticks out in his draft-eligible season is his performance at the Under-18 World Championships. His 11 points in seven games were good for second in the tournament behind future draft phenoms Shane Wright and Connor Bedard. He also picked up a gold medal from the tournament, which never hurts.
Ranked 23rd by Bob McKenzie, there’s a good likelihood that Pinelli could be available for the Bruins. His fantastic hockey sense and puck skills should absolutely appeal to them. He’s another player that falls into the same category as Bourgault as someone who could help restock the center core for the Bruins.
Like Bourgault and Pinelli, Rimouski Océanic forward Zachary Bolduc falls into the center potential prospect category for the Bruins. Bolduc is the highest-ranked player by Bob McKenzie of those in which I will mention, at the 19 spot.
His ability to find holes in opposing defenses and put his impressive release to use will be hard to pass up if he is available at 21st overall. In a situation where any, if not all of the center prospects that I’ve mentioned to this point are available and that is the area of focus, the Bruins will have a tough decision to make.
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If the Bruins were to go the defensive route, Carson Lambos would be the most ideal target, to me. His once-top-10 draft stock has taken a hit due to him being shut down in late March for the remainder of the season with a leg injury. That doesn’t change the fact that he is a great defensive prospect, though.
If the Bruins go with defense at 21st overall, I’d prefer it be a left-handed defenseman like Lambos. Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo will be holding it down in the top four for years to come on the right side. They have some solid left-handed defensemen well, but could use a fresh face in Lambos. He is ranked at 21st overall by Bob McKenzie, right on the money. Whoever takes him around this range has the chance to be rewarded handsomely with a player that was once seen as a top-10 prospect in the class.
It’s no secret that the Bruins covet NCAA talent with draft eligibles, and Corson Ceulemans is set to head to the University of Wisconsin in the fall. Wisco is a school that Bruins brass has some recent familiarity with, drafting the likes of Cameron Hughes and Trent Frederic. Ceulemans is seen as the 23rd best prospect in the draft by Bob McKenzie.
Ceulemans is a defensive prospect that many people out there seem to think is a good fit for the Bruins. The one thing that holds me back a bit on him is something I mentioned previously. That is the fact that the Bruins are pretty set on the right side of the blue line. This is not meant to diminish Ceulemans as a prospect in any way, I just think adding a top center prospect should be the priority.
While Xavier Bourgault is at the top of my list, I’d be fine with the Bruins selecting any of these five players, in varying degrees. An exciting week in the NHL lies ahead, with the second of two kinds of drafts highlighting the weekend. It should be a fun draft as always.