(Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21

While most of the credit for the Bruins success this season is handed to forwards Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron along with goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, Bruins defender Charlie McAvoy has taken his game to the next level. The former 14th overall pick is playing the best hockey of his young career as a leader on a young Bruins defense, one that lost Torey Krug as well as longtime former-captain Zdeno Chara. Before this season, McAvoy played most of his shifts with Chara and has since switched to playing with 23-year-old Jeremy Lauzon this season.

McAvoy, thus far, has added on nearly two minutes of time on ice per game since his rookie season, averaging 24:24 TOI this season compared to last season’s 23:10. With more ice time and a new partner, the points have followed suit. McAvoy has tallied ten points in 11 games this season, nine of them assists. He also has a +/- of 4. His career-high of 32 points was reached last season and his rookie season, and McAvoy is currently on pace to handsomely surpass that mark in the shortened 2020-21 campaign.

With injured defenseman Matt Grzelcyk expected to make his return this upcoming week, McAvoy will have better help and more support than ever. In Grzelcyk’s absence, and with the permanent departure of former Bruin Torey Krug, McAvoy has anchored the top power-play unit and logged more minutes, excelling with more responsibility. He has already grabbed three power-play points thus far this season, one more than he had all of last season. This is his defense to lead, and he has proven that with great play in every game this season. Bruins fans knew of his potential when he potted his first career goal in his first career game just over three years ago.

The Bruins forecheck is also a big help to McAvoy’s game. While the Bruins have one forward in the high slot in the offensive zone during their forecheck, McAvoy now has the support required to make a good pinch and be aggressive at the blue line if he desires. It’s a reason why the Bruins have been able to have so much zone time while he’s out there with Lauzon during 5-on-5.

McAvoy’s success this season can be a combined result of more freedom on the ice. The departure of Chara, who was McAvoy’s best teacher for his previous three seasons, has arguably given McAvoy more vision to play and be aggressive however he wants under guidance from head coach Bruce Cassidy. He doesn’t have Chara to lean on for assistance, but rather a young Lauzon who is looking to support and learn from him. He has been able to transition play from the defensive zone to the offensive zone quicker than ever and has the ability to control the play from the blue line so long as the Bruins forwards can help him. McAvoy, 24, has truly stepped up this season and has plenty of time and room to improve on what already has been a great start, which is a promising and delightful reality for Bruins fans.