Holy moly do I love me some Chucky Mac.
Are their any Bruins fans out there who watch Charlie McAvoy play and aren’t filled with hope for the team moving forward? If you’re one of them, I urge you to consider the following:
The Real McAvoy
* An early Calder trophy favorite, McAvoy is on pace to record roughly 13 goals and 50 points this season anchoring the Bruins top D-pair.
* He leads all NHL rookies in average time on ice, skating just over 23 minutes per game. The next closest rookie sits at just over 19 minutes. McAvoy’s TOI also puts him in the top 35 of ALL NHL players, on par with teammate Zdeno Chara, Dmitry Orlov of the Capitals, and Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers.
* McAvoy has a rating +/- rating of +7 to this point in the season, while often matching up with opponents’ most skilled forwards. This number leads all Bruins defensemen.
* Oh yeah- he’s straight CASH in the shootout.
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) December 22, 2017
The skating, the hands, the vision, the poise. A little physicality. Excellent puck control. It’s. All. There. And he’s only 20 years old.
Bruins fans (myself included) may not be able to stop themselves from thinking we’ve got the next Orr or Bourque on our hands. That we have a franchise-altering talent to lead the D corps for the next decade and beyond. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, now. Some perspective: Ray Bourque put up a whopping 65 points in his rookie season. Bobby Orr finished his with a total of 41- but in only 61 games. Both went on to win Rookie of the Year. As hard as it is to believe, McAvoy would have to increase his offensive production even more to match the inaugural seasons of numbers 4 and 77.
But just because this season could fall short statistically of past Bruins’ legends doesn’t mean McAvoy doesn’t have the stuff to become one himself. I think by all accounts, he’s got the raw talent and hockey sense to make him an elite player within a few years. But there are two additional things that I think will help to support his development into an upper-echelon defenseman.
For one thing: his supporting cast.
And more specifically, guys like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. McAvoy is often paired with Chara at the back end, and what better way to learn how to lead a team than from the longest-tenured captain in the NHL. Chara has won a Stanley Cup, a Norris trophy (for the league’s top defenseman), and played in the Olympics. Been there, done that. I know it sounds cliche, but McAvoy can learn how to become a fixture on the team and a leader in the locker room by following Chara’s lead. And let’s not forget about Bergeron. McAvoy has the chance to play with one of the game’s all-time great two-way forwards, who is touted by fans and players alike for his smart play and silent leadership. The opportunity is here for McAvoy to learn how to become an all-time Bruin from a couple of current all-time Bruins themselves, both on the ice and in the locker room.
Second thing: the system.
Under new coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have made it a point to play the young guys consistently (they have something like 10 skaters this season 25 years or younger who have played in games). Cassidy and the Bruins staff also seem comfortable in letting guys work out their growing pains, too. For example, Jake Debrusk and Anders Bjork each had weeks where they were healthy scratches for lack of production. But instead of relegation to the Minors, or a more permanent spot on the ninth level, Cassidy brought them each back after a few games off only to see their play improve. Under former coach Claude Julien, rookie and young players had a significantly shorter leash- how many times would David Pastrnak be benched for the remainder of periods a one neutral-zone turnover the last few seasons? (That used to drive me BANANAS.) Cassidy has created a system that enables young guys to stretch their wings a bit and develop, regardless of the mistakes in their play that young guys tend to make. Given this, McAvoy will be sure to get his minutes even if he goes through a rough patch, something he will only be better for in the long run. No need to worry about his minutes seeing a sharp decline if his play were to take a dip.
So I encourage Bruins fans to try their best not to imagine number 73 hanging in the TD Garden rafters just yet. There’s still a hell of a long way to go. But I think we know a generational talent when we see it. And McAvoy is it. My tip for the Bruins?
It’s never too early to talk contract extensions with this kid. LOCK HIM UP.
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