When Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was asked whether Vancouver Giants Right Winger and Bruins Prospect Fabian Lysell could join the Providence Bruins following his Western Hockey League season, the GM responded with eleven words that sent Bruins fans scrambling to social media.
It took Sweeney 3.35 seconds to utter theses words: “He could join either club to tell you the honest truth.” It took less then half that time for the debate to begin.
It divided Bruins fans into two categories. 1) There is the much larger group that welcomed the news and 2) a very much smaller group that feels Lysell isn’t ready to battle in the NHL.
Where do Lysell and the Vancouver Giants stand right now?
The WHL regular season ends on April 16 for the Giants. They are currently in sixth place in the Western Conference with a seven-point bulge separating them from a playoff birth to a non playoff birth. They are also 4 points up on seventh place Victoria Royals with 4 games in hand and 24 points behind fifth place Kelowna Rockets. That means they are pretty much locked into the sixth seed.
That sixth seed finish means a matchup against the Portland Winterhawks who sit 35 points ahead of the Giants. Does it sound like a daunting task for the Giants? Consider this: Vancouver won all three matchups versus Portland: 3-1, 3-2 (OT) and 6-5. But if you ask anyone following the WHL (except Giants fans) 99% of them wouldn’t give the Giants much of a chance.
The Giants “best case scenario” (short of winning) would be to stretch the series to seven games, and that means an April 30 conclusion, one day after the Bruins play their regular season game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto. But if the Giants got swept? You’re looking around April 23. Is that enough time to get work visas in order?
Would the Bruins actually throw a 19-year-old rookie who has never played an NHL game straight into a playoff series? Personally, I think the Bruins would have to be pretty banged up for that to happen. Maybe Sweeney meant he could join the Bruins as a black ace for the playoffs. But only he knows what he truly meant.
There is no denying Lysell is a phenomenal athlete. He’s a world class skater who is learning to do what he does on a smaller North American ice surface. There is also no denying he has superb offensive instincts and abilities. But he is doing it against Junior level defencemen and learning that smaller ice surface at the same time. He will not get the same kind of space in the NHL against NHL defencemen, especially in the playoffs.
Defensively he has some work to do, but you could say that about every player at this level. He needs to add some bulk and while he won’t be intimidated and pushed around – he will give it back – these are still junior players who are not built like NHL players.
I have been bombarded with questions asking if Lysell would even be eligible to play in the AHL playoffs (which is the most likely scenario) since he wasn’t on the Providence roster on “all clear day” and the short answer is yes. This is from the Professional Hockey Player’s Association (the AHL union equivalent to the NHLPA):
During the Playoffs, no players other than those included on the team’s Reserve List upon the completion of the regular season, on loan to it, or on emergency or free recall to a loaning club, players eligible under AHL By-Law 26, signed draft choices and players signed to an amateur tryout after their Junior hockey team has concluded competition in the regular season or playoffs, shall be eligible to participate for the team and may play only for that AHL team while in the AHL, for the balance of the playoffs.
The Bruins have done just that recently with Jack Studnicka and Kyle Keyser in 2019,
But the NHL playoffs where the intensity, physicality and tight checking are exponentially at another level?
There’s also the business side that must be considered here. Because Lysell signed his entry level contract as an 18-year-old (same applies to 19-year-old) unless he plays in 10 NHL games, the contract slides for a year, AHL games do not count for 18 and 19-year-old players who have signed NHL contracts.
Do the Bruins really want to burn that year(s) off when you have Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm deals kicking in next year? And let’s not forget David Pastrnak will need a new deal following next season. Having Lysell on an ELC for 3 years in the NHL while the salary cap begins to rise ever so slowly could be a huge bonanza for the Bruins. As I said earlier. Unless the Bruins right side is decimated by injuries, I personally don’t see it.
But I have been wrong before.