( Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports )

By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26

Jake DeBrusk has reached new heights as a 200-foot player and has had a breakout year offensively with the Boston Bruins. The 26-year-old forward is set to eclipse his former career-high in goals and points when he tallied 27 goals in the 2018-19 season and 43 points in his rookie campaign in 2017-18. In his sixth National Hockey League season, the Edmonton, Alberta native has 16 goals (second in Bruins goalscoring) and 14 assists through 34 games this year, including two goals in the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park on January 2nd. While he’s provided a massive scoring punch to the Bruins’ top-six, he’s also earned an increased responsibility on the defensive side of the puck.

In previous years, DeBrusk was known as a streaky player, as he’d get on the scoresheet for consecutive games and then go quiet for long stretches. Last season, DeBrusk silenced the critics and found a way to be an impact player night in and night out by becoming a two-way forward. With the help of Bruins’ captain Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and head coach Jim Montgomery, DeBrusk has continued to impress this season with his effort in the defensive zone, forechecking, and puck retrieval.

With DeBrusk’s consistent two-way play, Jim Montgomery has awarded the winger a more prominent role on Boston’s special teams and increased his time on ice (17:08 average time on ice) this year. Offensively, the Bruins winger was on pace for 36 goals and 67 points in an entire 82-game sleight. Unfortunately, he may not reach these projected offensive numbers as he was placed on LTIR when he fractured his fibula in the Winter Classic and will be out for at least four weeks.

In the meantime, the Bruins will temporarily search internally for a forward to fill the top-line right wing position. While it’ll be difficult to replace what DeBrusk has brought to the Bruins’ top-six this season, Boston luckily have a ton of offensive depth. Montgomery rotated David Pastrnak and Craig Smith as the top-line right wing in the Bruins’ trip out west to California. Both players are familiar playing with Bergeron and Marchand, so they will likely continue to split time on the first line for the next month.

With DeBrusk on LTIR, the Bruins organization made a couple of internal moves to fill the open roster spot. They first called up Chris Wagner from the Providence Bruins, who skated in his first game with Boston this season against the Anaheim Ducks. Then on Wednesday, they returned Wagner to the AHL and called up Joona Koppanen, who will be skating in his first NHL game tonight versus the Seattle Kraken.

On the plus side, the NHL will embark on the NHL All-Star break come February 2nd, where the Bruins will have nine days off before they’re back in action versus the Washington Capitals on February 11th. This will give DeBrusk some time to recover from his injury before he returns to the lineup. Despite DeBrusk’s setback injury, it’s encouraging to see how he’s been able to bounce back and become a 200-foot player in the NHL.