During the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins made headlines and raised some eyebrows by making three consecutive picks in the first round. They failed to trade up and acquire an immediate top player, such as Noah Hanifin and were thus forced to use all three picks. Each of those picks, Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn are all expected to eventually be valuable contributors for the Black and Gold in the years to come. However, it is their first pick of the second round, defenseman Brandon Carlo, who may have the biggest and most immediate impact in Boston.
The 19-year-old stands at 6’5” and checks in at just over 200 pounds. With that size, he has the body to be physical with opponents on both ends of the ice. He still hasn’t fully filled out and says he plans to report to Bruins training camp between 210-215 pounds. If he can do that, he will have a real shot to showcase his skills for a Bruins defense corps that as of now is sorely lacking in talent and production.
Carlo skates well and has packed some offensive punch, but he’s no Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns. He began 2015-2016 with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL and notched five goals with 22 assists in 52 games this season. After the Americans season ended, Carlo got a chance to play at the AHL level with the Providence Bruins. With Providence, had one assist and a plus three rating in seven games, including one playoff contest. He has also been on the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship the last two years, including a two goal and two assist performance in seven games in 2016.
He has shown strength in defending at the blue line, which is important in today’s NHL. He needs to improve how he battles for pucks along the boards down low, but that is something that will likely get better with age and experience. He can be physical, but will struggle with bigger players until he adds some more muscle. Because he skates so well, he will be able to contribute in the offensive and neutral zones as well as the defensive zone.
Part of the reason Carlo could have such a huge impact is the current personnel the Bruins lean on for defensemen. He is not an immediate heir apparent to Zdeno Chara, but he would potentially be an upgrade over Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid or Zach Trotman, three players that Claude Julien often used on the bottom pairing. If the Bruins are to continue to move forward, they will need to give Carlo and fellow promising youngster Colin Miller substantial chances next season. Each of them could project into a top four role with experience and would help ease some of the lapses and lack of blue-line energy the Bruins have had over the past two seasons.
Carlo obviously has some growing to do and will have hiccups as the stage gets bigger, but he has the skills and size to be a productive NHL defenseman. He will enter training camp with a real chance to win a spot in the top six for the Bruins and if he does, he will contribute right away.