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Cam Neely Looks Back On Bruins' 2015 Draft: 'Hindsight Is Everything'

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- For six years now, the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft has -- to varying degrees -- hung over the Boston Bruins organization like a dark cloud. The team's second-round playoff series against the Islanders helped to stir back all of those bad memories.

That's because Mathew Barzal --  the 16th overall pick in that draft -- helped end the Bruins' season with three goals and three assists in Games 2-5 in that playoff series. That included what stood as the game-winner in Game 4, a strike late in the third period that broke a 1-1 tie in an eventual 4-1 Islanders win to tie the series at 2-2. (The Islanders scored two empty-net goals to ice the victory.) New York didn't lose again in the series.

His goal late in the first period of Game 5 tied that game at 1-1 after the Bruins completely dominated the first 18 minutes of that particular game.

Prior to Barzal's selection by the Islanders, the Bruins owned three consecutive picks. After trying -- and failing -- to trade up in the first round, the Bruins had to make all three of those picks. They went with defenseman Jakub Zboril, forward Jake DeBrusk, and forward Zach Senyshyn.

Of the three, only DeBrusk has since become a regular NHL player ... and he was a healthy scratch when Barzal was scoring that power-play goal in Game 5.

Mathew Barzal
Mathew Barzal celebrates his Game 4 goal vs. Boston. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Partially because of that recent history, and partially because the Bruins' pipeline of prospects has essentially dried up, Bruins president Cam Neely was asked about those decisions from the 2015 draft when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.

"I've looked back at that a lot, obviously," Neely said. "I think the timing of when we hired Don [Sweeney] and then the draft was taking place, [it] would have been good I think to have a little bit more time between the hiring and the draft. Not to say that Don wasn't involved in the amateur meetings, but he wasn't involved at the time, most of the time, thinking that he was making the picks."

The Bruins hired Sweeney on May 20, 2015, after he had been the team's assistant general manager. The first round of the draft was held more than a month later on June 26.

Neely acknowledged that the Bruins desired to trade up into one of the top spots of the first round, using that mid-round trio of picks to do so. When that didn't happen, Neely seemed to indicate that the decision-making process was a bit flawed.

"I think Don did everything he needed to do leading up to that draft to get three first-round picks. I thought the moves that he made were really good and poised to set us up for the future," Neely said. "The guys [in the front office] put the list together. I think maybe during that time, we should have taken some time out. As everybody knows, we tried to move up in the draft. It didn't work. We probably should have taken the time out and really just digested that list a little bit more. Then there was a pick that one of our scouts really thought that the player wouldn't be available in the second round."

To date, DeBrusk has played in 244 regular-season games, scoring 67 goals with 67 assists. He's also played in 59 playoff games, scoring 16 goals and registering 10 assists.

Zboril entered the past season having played just two NHL games. He did play in 42 games this season -- registering nine assists and an even rating -- before suffering an injury.

Senyshyn has played in just 14 NHL games, in which he's scored one goal with two assists.

Meanwhile, Barzal has scored 76 goals and 176 assists in 289 games with the Islanders. Kyle Connor -- the 17th overall pick -- has 120 goals and 251 assists in 305 games for Winnipeg. Defenseman Thomas Chabot -- the 18th overall pick -- has 150 points from the blue line in 254 games played for the Senators.

Brock Boeser (23rd overall, Vancouver) has 98 goals and 210 points in 253 NHL games. Travis Konecny (24th overall, Philadelphia) has 219 points in 349 NHL games. Anthony Beauvillier (28th overall, Islanders) has 155 points and 333 NHL games played.

In total, 10 of the 13 players selected after Senyshyn have played at least 200 games at the NHL level. The Bruins did draft D-man Brandon Carlo in the second round, but the missed evaluations in the first round certainly sting a bit extra, with the Bruins being in their current position.

"Obviously, hindsight is everything we'd all love to have. But moving forward and thinking about making different decisions or better decisions, I guess," Neely said. "You can always do that in every draft though, no matter where you pick and how many picks you have."

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