Tyler Smith | Follow Me On Twitter @foxboro_ty
After the sting of a second-round postseason loss, unfulfilled expectations, and a window closing, the Bruins have many questions going into next season. One development that could go a long way toward keeping the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup contenders for the next decade is the emergence of Charlie McAvoy and his potential as a Norris Trophy candidate as the best defenseman in the National Hockey League.
I know…I know…you are probably thinking to yourself, “Emergence?” McAvoy is already the Bruins’ number one defenseman as he leads the team in average time on ice with over twenty-three minutes per game. The former BU standout was the leader among all Bruins’ defensemen in blocked shots and hits while posting a +24 plus-minus rating in 2019-2020. McAvoy’s defensive game is exceptional and continues to improve game to game. Charlie’s offensive game has shown improvement as he tied a career-high in points with thirty-two; however, McAvoy’s defensive game is still ahead of his offense. Some say McAvoy would be better suited to play with a more mobile partner like Matt Grzelcyk to open up his offensive game. With the almost certain reduced roll of Zdeno Chara (if he returns), it appears McAvoy will get that chance.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Charlie McAvoy has had moments where he takes over games and is the best player on the ice. The 22-year old is making great outlet passes, rushing the puck, jumping up into the offense, shooting more often, and delivering bone-crushing hits. This is the player the Bruins need on a more consistent basis. Developing this consistency is the difference between the elite players in the league and the very good players. Jake DeBrusk is a perfect example as the left-winger is streaky and looks like a forty goal scorer for a month and then disappears for games at a time.
Victor Hedman is widely regarded as one of the best defensemen in the game today and had his breakout season with the Tampa Bay Lightning five years into his career, one of those years being a strike-shortened season. Essentially it was four full years into the league before Hedman established himself as elite. The 2020-21 season will be McAvoy’s fourth year in the NHL. It is time for the young star to put it all together. Though the defense is there and is getting better, it is the offense that needs to make “the leap.”
Whether it’s on merit or a track record with Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk deserves first crack on the top D pair, and to take on more responsibility at 5v5 and on the power play. Column for @BlackNGoldPod: https://t.co/rMFfKUUFDt #NHLBruins #Bruins #BruinsFam #NHL #HockeyTwitter— Patrick Donnelly (@PatDonn12) September 11, 2020
McAvoy needs to shoot the puck more. The Bruins rearguard has 257 total shots in 184 career games. That is not enough for a top-pair defenseman with his skill set. Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators had 260 shots on goal in 2019-2020 alone. Not having enough power-play time is affecting those numbers. The Bruins defenseman should see more time on the first power-play unit this upcoming season with the probable departure of Torey Krug. McAvoy’s passing has always been exceptional and will be an asset if inserted as the power-play quarterback and increases his point totals.
McAvoy is an underrated skater with a powerful stride and good speed, which allows him to join the rush while having the ability to recover if plays do not materialize. Charlie delivers big hits and physicality, some of which change game momentum and energize the team. With a few improvements and continued development, the Long Beach, New York native has all the tools to be the next great Bruins defenseman and become the dominating presence on the back end that the Bruins envisioned when selecting him in the first round of the 2016 draft. I am predicting a breakout season for McAvoy with over 10 goals and over 50 points. The twenty-two-year-old may sneak into the Norris conversation, and once number 73 gets talked about in that regard, he will remain there for years.