(Photo Credit: Jason Mowry/Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

When the Boston Bruins acquired Charlie Coyle at the trade deadline during the 2018-19 NHL season, they were looking for a consistent third-line center who would provide scoring depth to round out the roster’s bottom six forwards. Known for his ability to protect the puck and make plays for his linemates, Coyle was the perfect mid-season addition for a Bruins team looking to make a run in the playoffs.

Although Boston couldn’t fulfill their Stanley Cup dreams that spring, Coyle has proven to be one of Don Sweeney’s most successful acquisitions as general manager. After a down year in 2020-21, where Coyle tallied just 16 points in 51 games, he appeared to reach his maximum potential in the following two seasons when he surpassed the 40-point mark twice.

That’s not the case for the 13-year veteran. At the quarter-mark of the 2023-24 season, Coyle has been a near point-per-game player, posting 19 points in 21 games thus far for the Bruins. Coyle ranks second on the team in goals (nine) and is tied for second in points along with Brad Marchand while slotting into a second-line role to fill the void of David Krejci.

After spending his first six seasons in Minnesota, the trade to Boston marked a homecoming for Coyle. A Weymouth, MA, native, Coyle was a standout player at Weymouth High School before playing college hockey at Boston University. Drafted in the first round by the San Jose Sharks in 2010, Coyle was then dealt to the Wild, where he’d immediately impact the league. The 6’3″, 220-pound power forward established himself as a dynamic two-way center with a knack for possessing the puck. He exploded for 56 points in the 2016-17 season, primarily due to his career-high 38 assists. However, after defining himself as a playmaker for most of his career, Coyle is on pace to shatter his single-season goal record of 21 this season in Boston.

Coyle has dominated in November, highlighted by his first career hat-trick in a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on November 9th before his five-game point streak later in the month. Anchoring a second line between James van Riemsdyk and Trent Frederic, Coyle has found the soft spots around the net for easy tap-in goals. In his first two tallies against the Islanders leading up to his third-period empty-netter, Coyle capitalized on proper-net front positioning: he one-timed a feed from Pavel Zacha on the power play before tapping in a cross-crease pass from van Riemsdyk on a powerful net drive.

“It feels good,” Coyle said following his first career hat trick. “I was just on the end result of a lot of good plays and passing plays, and sometimes it just goes that way.”

Van Riemsdyk and Frederic have been ideal linemates for Coyle. Using their physicality and tenacity in the offensive zone, the trio has complemented each other to create a handful of opportunities this season. In Boston’s ugly 7-4 loss to the New York Rangers last weekend, Coyle and his linemates still combined for another score in one of the few positive takeaways from a disappointing performance. In Coyle’s first of two goals that game, Frederic used his speed to enter the attacking zone before winning a puck battle in the corner. He then snapped the puck to a wide-open Coyle, capitalizing on another net-front chance.

Coyle is on pace for roughly 35 goals and 39 assists for 74 points this season if he stays consistent with his current trajectory, which would shatter his season-high point record of 56 in Minnesota’s 2016-17 season. Although it’s unlikely the 31-year-old will reach that number this season, he’s provided steady scoring for the Bruins through the first 21 games.