Predicting The Future Performance Of The Bruins’ Next Core

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By Leon Lifschutz | Follow me @LeonLifschutz

Introduction

Welcome back for Part Three of our series predicting the performance of the Bruins’ core players. In Part One we examined aging curves and decided on who made up the Bruins’ veteran and young cores. In Part Two we analyzed the past performances and trends of the Bruins’ veterans in order to predict what the future might hold for each player and the group as a whole. In Part Three we will take a look at the players the Bruins organization hope will make up their next wave of key players. These are players already making an impact on the team. The organization can only hope that their trajectory and longevity mimics that of the current veteran core. We will again use the same formula as laid it in Part One to examine player’s past performance and current career trajectories. We will then try and make some assessments. We will ponder if the young core is capable of helping the veteran core achieve greatness one last time. With some recent trade rumors in the air, especially in such an uncertain world, it will also be worth considering if this is a group capable of taking the proverbial torch and leading the Bruins’ franchise to success in the years to come.

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David Pastrnak

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Contract: $6,666,666 AAV through 2022-23

What we learned: Pastrnak grades out as one of the best players in the league and that was recently recognized in the form of Hart Trophy votes. As a teenager in a limited role, he showed he belonged in the NHL. Once he turned 20 and saw his responsibility increase, he blossomed. Over the course of his career his efficiency has continued to improve. He has driven play and generated opportunities consistently since that 20 year old season but he has become more lethal. His shooting percentage has increased year over year as does his ability to make dangerous plays.

Outlook: Entering his 24 year old season Pasta should be able to maintain his level of play for the foreseeable future. While aging curves suggest he has another year to get better, he already was the leagues co-best goal scorer this year. Even if Pastrnak’s shooting percentage regresses a bit he is still a threat to score 40 goals every season for a number of years. It is also evident he makes players around him better evidenced by the increased output from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand over the last few years. While not known for his defense, Pasta is capable in his own end. Pastrnak is a player you can build a team around. Barring any major injuries or issues Pasta is the future of the Bruin’s core.

Charlie Coyle

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Contract: $5,250,000 AAV through 2025-2026

What we learned: Coyle is the oldest of the young core. By hockey standards he is no longer young and coupled with his years of service in the NHL can be considered grizzled vet. Coyle’s trends have a little bit of noise to them. The first noisy piece is a decline in his mid 20s due to a diminished role towards the tail end of his time with the Minnesota Wild. Second, a tough start to his Bruins’ career after a late season trade over a small sample messes with the visual and trendlines. Having said that, he is most recent season’s numbers are on par with his performance earlier in his career. Coyle is done developing at least from an offensive standpoint as he approaches his mid 20s. He is also signed to a very long term contract.

Outlook: Coyle’s play this past year is pretty much career average and probably a clear indicator of who he was and is as a player. He is a bit of a swiss army knife under head coach Bruce Cassidy playing up and down the lineup as needed. In general, he is a solid middle-6 forward ideally suited for 3C, a slot he can really impact the game. At 28, Coyle will not see a spike in offense. However as a trusted player in Cassidy’s lineup, 15 goals and 40 points seems reasonable for the next couple of seasons. In the short term he provides great depth and can step up in the lineup when needed. If David Krejci moves on he can move up to 2C though he is better suited for the third unit. He also seems a quality professional with some leadership ability. However, as he enters his 30s Bs fans may end up regretting the length of his contract.

Jake Debrusk

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Contract: Restricted Free Agent

What we learned: Debrusk burst onto the scene three seasons ago and had instant chemistry with David Krejci. He increased his goal scoring output in his sophomore year largely on the back of a high shooting percentage. In year three his goals and points declined a bit as his shooting percentage regressed and the early career chemistry with Krejci faded. Throughout his young career Debrusk has been a bit on the streaky side. In other words, a little inconsistent. Debrusk has had a small but steady uptick in individual expected goals though that has not really translated into an increase in points.

Outlook: Debrusk is at a make or break point in his career. He has been given every chance to succeed with the Bruins playing on their second line, receiving favorable offensive zone starts, and getting time with the first and second powerplay units. Entering his 24 year old season, Debrusk must prove he is more than a middle-6 complimentary player. In all likelihood though Debrusk is what he is, a 20 goal, 45-50 point player. That is by no means bad but you always get the feeling Debrusk has the potential to be more.

Charlie McAvoy

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Contract: $4,900,000 AAV through 2021-22

What we learned: McAvoy has quickly become the Bruins top defender. The chart doesn’t show his increase in ice time or the difficulty of the competition he plays against night in and night out. He has done so the last couple of years with an aging Zdeno Chara (or occasionally the undrafted Matt Grzelcyk) and still managed to post positive numbers. The NHL media recognized McAvoy’s play recently in the form of votes for this season’s Norris Trophy. McAvoy’s offensive production though has not ascended to the level of other elite two-way defensemen. His numbers are stagnant partially because of a decrease in powerplay time after his first season. His percentages have also decreased despite generating more shots and individual expected goals.

Outlook: McAvoy is no doubt a number one defenseman currently playing on a bargain contract. Just turning 23, he also has a little time to round out his game. If McAvoy can add a little more quality to his offensive chances and get a little more opportunity on the power play he has the potential to enter the upper echelons of NHL defensemen and be part of Norris conversations for years to come. The Long Beach, NY native also showed some durability in 2019-20 after dealing with injuries and time missed in his first couple of seasons. If McAvoy stays healthy and can bump up his offense a touch he should be able to shutdown top lines and produce 40-50 points a season for the foreseeable future.

Brandon Carlo

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Contract: $2,850,000 AAV through 2020-21

What we learned: Carlo will never be known for his offense though he has shown some improvement in that area in his young professional career. Strong numbers his rookie year are the result of unsustainable percentages but his underlying offensive numbers have improved. The Bruins don’t need Carlo to develop into an offensive juggernaut. They need him to be a stopper, a guy that plays hard minutes against top-6 forwards and locks it down on the penalty kill. Carlo is an able penalty killer. His 5v5 possession numbers though regressed alongside Torey Krug this past season. Is this past season an outlier or is tough competition a little too much for Carlo to handle?

Outlook: Carlo is a big man and sometimes it takes players with larger frames a little more time to fill out and find their way. Entering his 24 year old season, and a contract year, it will be imperative for Carlo to figure things out. A little more offense would be nice but in particular he needs to show that the Bruins can drive possession while he is on the ice even against tougher competition. 20 Points isn’t unreasonable to expect from Carlo over the next few years. In all likelihood he will have a new partner next year as well which could help or hurt Carlo in the long-term. This year will either solidify Carlo as a reliable top-4 defender or make him expendable as a depth defender. Carlo’s history, coupled with just a little more development, suggest he can be the former.

Summing Up The Young Core

The Bruins have a current superstar in David Pastrnak and a budding star in Charlie McAvoy. Both have the potential to get even a little better and should be top players in the league for a number of years. Charlie Coyle will not carry a team but is an important player who can be relied upon in all situations, move up and down the lineup, and provide secondary scoring. Coyle should be able to provide that for at least the first half of his contract.

Jake Debrusk and Brandon Carlo are at career crossroads. Both turning 24, they must prove they are more than complimentary pieces and are integral to the team. Both have recently been linked to trade rumors suggesting the Bruins are questioning whether they are part of the organization’s long term plans or the time is right to sell high on their potential. In all likelihood, both can be useful players but are best suited to the middle of the lineup on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it all the way through our three part series, first of all thanks for reading! In Part Two of our series we surmised the Bruins veteran core is likely on it’s last year as a group with potentially three of the five players moving on in 2021. At minimum, only Bergeron and Marchand are likely to continue in their current roles beyond next season. When looking at our young core there are two star players in Pastrnak and McAvoy. Coyle is a very reliable veteran. All three can likely fill the void if the Krejci and Chara move move on or continue to decline. However, to be a true Stanley Cup team the Bruins will need a couple more pieces. This upcoming season will indicate if Carlo and Debrusk can reach their potential and prove they should be long term parts of the team’s core. Otherwise, the Bs will need youngsters like Jack Studnicka or others to show they can be the part of the future core or look towards trades and free agency. The Bruins will also need to find a replacement in net for Rask either at the end of this current contract or as his play declines in the coming years.

There is much lineup uncertainty beyond this year. The Bruins must assess which veterans to move on from and which young players can fill the void when they do. By 2021-22 the Bruins will have a new core but have some key pieces that could sustain success moving forward if surrounded by the right pieces. Having said that, the 2020-21 season should be win at all costs mode for the Bs with much up in the air in the very near future.

All data courtesy of Naturalstattrick, Hockey-Reference, and Puckpedia

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