By: Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter @adbblue
Two seasons ago, Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk requested a trade out of Boston, but surprisingly he signed a two-year $8 million contract extension at the 2022 trade deadline. He then caught fire finishing the 2021-22 season with 25 goals. Last season he had arguably the best season yet, setting a career-high in points with 50 and matching his career high in goals with 27. He also missed 18 games after suffering a broken foot in his gutsy Winter Classic performance.
With Debrusk entering the final season of his two-year bridge contract, this coming season would be the best time, more than ever, for DeBrusk to take another leap. The 26-year-old is entering the seventh season of his NHL career and has yet to sign a long-term contract. If he takes another leap during the 2023-24 season, he would, without a doubt, put himself in a position to earn his biggest contract yet. It would also be a win for the Bruins, giving them another asset with options.
One thing that isn’t discussed much about DeBrusk is how he struggled with mental health during the 2020-21 season, greatly impacting his performance on the ice, saying, “The game isn’t fun when you’re struggling.” Fast forward to the 2022-23 season, he fought through his struggles and had arguably the best season of his career. Along with the numbers, it was very easy to tell DeBrusk had improved his all-around game, as he was often one of the most noticeable players on the ice on a regular basis.
He was relentless on the forecheck and backcheck, hustling on both ends of the ice every shift. Furthermore, his board play and puck cycling were consistently solid, and his puck retrieval and protection were impeccable. It was also noticeable how much more burst his skating had. Along with his knack for scoring timely goals, he was undoubtedly one of Boston’s best special teams players last season.
DeBrusk averaged 1:22 of shorthanded time on ice per game, which was fifth on the team among forwards, and tallied 14 power-play points. His defensive game was also noticeably improved as he finished a +26, by far the best of his career, beating his previous high, which was +13.
It has been easy to tell from doing the little things that DeBrusk has drastically improved as a hockey player. Any hockey coach will say that doing the little things right will lead to better results on the score sheet, and DeBrusk has been a prime example of that over the last two seasons. If he keeps that up, it would be to no one’s surprise that he takes another leap this coming season, and the production will increase even more.
It is still unclear who the Edmonton, Alberta native will play with come opening night. With how his individual game has blossomed, that shouldn’t be an issue as it has previously been. DeBrusk has primarily played with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand the last two seasons, but the left-shooting winger proved he could produce with other players as the lines in the playoffs were moved around with Bergeron and David Krejci’s injuries. DeBrusk had four goals and two assists for six points in the first round of the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If DeBrusk takes another leap, it would be beyond ideal for him and the Bruins. It would mean Boston has another 30-plus goal scorer who can kill penalties and play on the power play. It would also give the Bruins options. They could offer a contract extension or seek a trade at the deadline that would yield a high return value if the team decides to sell.
Bruins fans would probably hope that’s not the case, however. For DeBrusk personally, taking another leap in a contract year would assure him a longer, higher money deal, whether with the Bruins or elsewhere, if he is traded or tests free agency.