(Photo Credit: Vitor Munhoz/NHLI)

By Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

Perhaps no skater on the current iteration of the Boston Bruins is more polarizing than Jake DeBrusk. The 2015 first-round pick has been criticized for his Jekyll and Hyde game, with many fans pointing to his prolonged droughts of pointless hockey as a reason to leave him behind in the 2024 offseason. Those naysayers have been silenced since the calendar turned over to March, and DeBrusk is making it clear that he belongs in Boston.

However you slice it, DeBrusk has been red hot since the calendar turned over to March. He has six points in his last five games (three goals and three assists), eight points in seven games since the NHL Trade Deadline (four goals and four assists), and 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in the 11 games the Bruins have played in this month.

DeBrusk’s numbers over the team’s recent stretch are even more impressive when considering how they compare to skaters around the league. Over the last month, DeBrusk’s 12 points are tied for 14th in the NHL among forwards, while his five goals are tied for ninth, and his seven assists are tied for 11th. He has more points than Aleksander Barkov, more goals than Mika Zibanejad, and more assists than Jack Eichel. No matter how you look at DeBrusk’s play, he’s been one of the best players in the NHL in that span.

Some may dismiss DeBrusk’s most recent hot streak as nothing more than a flash in the pan, but when you look at his season, it’s clear that he’s still an influential top-six winger who helps his team every time he’s on the ice. The Edmonton native is on pace for another 40-point season (18-21-39 with ten games remaining), which would be the fifth of his career and third in a row. He also has the potential to reach the 20-goal plateau despite his slow start and multiple goal droughts. My overall point is this: despite the litany of criticism and backlash he’s faced for what people have deemed a ‘down year,’ he’s still on pace to put up solid numbers.

I’ll admit that DeBrusk’s streakiness can be maddening, but when the rubber meets the road, he’s a productive scorer and a 200-foot winger who would be a valuable addition to any team’s top two lines. According to Natural Stat Trick, he’s currently second among Bruins forwards in expected goals, third in scoring chances, and second in high-danger chances. The only forwards ahead of him in those three categories are Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

With the lifelong Bruins set to hit free agency and a decision looming on his future in Boston, Don Sweeney has plenty to consider regarding DeBrusk. As this season lurches towards the playoffs, it’s becoming increasingly evident that DeBrusk belongs in Boston and that the team would be wise to lock him up.