(Photo Credit: Marta Lavandier/AP Photo)

By: Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter / X @adbblue

At the 2019 NHL trade deadline, GM Don Sweeney traded Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick for Charlie Coyle. It has undoubtedly been one of the best trades Sweeney has made, and Coyle has been an essential player since he’s been with the Black and Gold. 

With Patrice Bergeron retiring this past off-season, the Bruins needed one of their centers to rise up and fill his shoes as a shutdown defensive forward. Coyle has stepped up to the plate and done a solid job helping provide that role. 

The Weymouth, Massachusetts native has played with numerous combinations of wingers this season but has still managed to grow his defensive game. Although +1 on the season, Coyle has played very well against opponents’ top players. He is often assigned by head coach Jim Montgomy to match up with their opponents’ most offensive productive line.

He’s made several different plays against elite players this year, which was not seen as frequently previously. The most recent example is him shutting down Nathan MacKinnon against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night. MacKinnon is widely regarded as a top-five player in the league, and Coyle stayed with him for most of the night. The Avalanche superstar recorded an assist on the power play, which Coyle was not on the ice for.

Furthermore, the 6’3 Bruins center has sacrificed his body consistently, leading the team in blocked shots among forwards with 30. He has also recorded 47 hits, fifth on the team and just 21 away from his total from last season. Forcing turnovers is another thing Coyle has provided the Bruins with this season, having 27 takeaways, which is currently second on the team. His back-checking has also been solid, and he always hustles back from the attacking zone.  

Since he’s gotten to Boston, the former first-round pick has played in five and a quarter seasons. His defensive stats have improved in most categories; in every season, he’s worn the spoked B. His face-off winning percentage has increased at least a point in the last three years. It’s currently only one point lower than it was last season at 51.6%. Coyle is averaging 17:52 of time on ice per game, which is currently the highest average of his career, and is fourth on the team among forwards. He is also the leader in shorthanded time on ice per game among forwards by almost a minute at 2:51 and has been a key part of the Bruin’s penalty kill.

From watching him, it’s clear Colye has drastically improved his defensive game since he arrived with the organization. The Bruins inked him to a six-year $31.5 million contract in November of 2019 and is a $5.25 million cap hit this season. That is great overall value for the services he’s provided the team, especially as he improved each year. The 31-year-old has two more seasons left on his contract after this season, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep improving to possibly earn another contract.