Bruins

Bruins ‘excited’ with first-round pick Fabian Lysell despite possible concerns

Lysell, 18, was selected with the No. 21 overall pick.

Bruce Bennett
Fabian Lysell sizes up his Bruins hat after he was selected at No. 21. Bruce Bennett

The Boston Bruins had their eye on Fabian Lysell for quite a while.

The COVID-19 pandemic threw everything into a loop. Every team faced unique challenges scouting future National Hockey League players from all over the globe.

Don Sweeney had a luxury in his scouting department, specifically in Sweden. The eighth-year Bruins GM had a reliable scout in former teammate P.J. Axelsson and a couple of other scouts cornering Lysell for the better part of two years. The playmaking winger from Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League found himself ranked ninth in the NHL’s final central scouting rankings among European skaters. Yet, he fell down the draft board as reported character issues found their way to the public domain.

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“There’s growing up to be done for all young men and women, and Fabian’s no different,” Sweeney said of Lysell’s off-ice character. “We felt satisfied that he’s made a lot of strides growing into a young man and beyond.”

Whatever the reason for the character issues label, the Bruins didn’t hesitate. They liked what they saw from the dynamic playmaker, both on and off the ice.

Without needing to move up to acquire their desired target, Sweeney and company went ahead with their plans and selected Lysell with the 21st pick of the 2021 Entry Draft.

“It really heated up in the middle of the round where teams were starting to jockey, and we were part of it,” Sweeney said of the draft movement. “When the player that we wanted was there, we were real comfortable making that pick and excited.” 

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So what will the Bruins get in Lysell whenever he arrives on the NHL scene?

Well, for starters, he still has to grow physically. But even at 5-foot-10 and 172 lbs. the 18-year-old already has a bit of professional experience in Europe following a strong performance for Team Sweden at the U-18 World Junior Championships.

“That’s a transition that’s tough,” Lysell said in his introductory Zoom call with the Boston media. “Playing against a men’s team is a challenge, so that’s a tough league for sure. It’s really competitive and you’ve got to be prepared for each game. That was obviously a jump to do, but I really enjoyed doing that for sure, and just being in that environment with the older guys and learning from them has helped me a lot. That’s something I’m going to bring into the future, so it’s been a really fun year for sure.” 

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A little added muscle and an adjustment period to the North American game — whenever he arrives — will only help complement his quickness and offensive skillset. And he isn’t shy about challenging opposing defenses with his crafty puck-handling.

“I think I’m a dynamic player,” Lysell said. “I like to challenge opponents with pace — I try to use my skating to create separation from myself and to be in those dangerous scoring areas.” 

Even with the pandemic forcing the draft to a virtual setting for the second year in a row, Lysell enjoyed the process. He hopes to make the long trek to Boston for the first time during the beginning of August for Development Camp.

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Aside from his conversations with Axelsson, Sweeney, and a few other scouts, Lysell doesn’t have any familiarity with the organization. But it didn’t prevent him from learning about the club through a pair of stout top-line playmakers.

“Boston is one of the better teams in the NHL. They have super good guys like [David] Pastrnak and [Patrice] Bergeron, those guys that I tend to watch a lot,” Lysell said. “I think just from watching them; I know a few things about the team. I’ve heard great things about the city as well. As I said before, I think this is just a dream come true for me. Hopefully, I can work hard to play there one day, and that’s my main goal right now.”

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Lysell entered the draft as one of the more skilled players of his class. After falling to 21, the Bruins, following a trend of troubling draft results during Sweeney’s tenure, hope they have a gem in Lysell, thus providing a much-needed shot in the arm for their prospect system.

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