Expectations entering this season may have been greater than usual for Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy after making his debut in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs look so easy.But the frenetic pace of playoff hockey never seemed to rattle the 19-year-old.
McAvoy (6-foot 208 pounds) was the No. 14 pick and the fourth defenseman taken in the 2016 NHL Draft. He Mikhail Sergachev (No. 9) and Jakob Chychrun (No. 16) are in the NHL though Chychrun had knee surgery on Aug. 4 and didn’t resume skating with the Arizona Coyotes until Saturday.
McAvoy is still learning and he’s the first to admit the true test is enduring and surviving the NHL’s 82-game regular season.
McAvoy finished with three assists and five shots on goal in six playoff games and averaged 26:12 in ice time playing mostly with Boston captain Zdeno Chara. He’s gotten off to a productive start through seven games this season with seven points (one goal six assists) and nine shots on goal. He’s second on the Bruins in average ice time (21:03).
The Bruins control 53.85 percent of shot attempts with McAvoy on the ice best among Boston defensemen who’ve played at least two games including 53.19 percent when the Bruins lead. McAvoy has been paired with Kevan Miller for much of the season.
Despite his early success he’s not thinking about winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie.
NHL Central Scouting had McAvoy ranked No. 6 on its final list of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 draft. At the time he was listed as a player who not only would soon be starring in the NHL but one with the potential to be a perennial all star.
“I was fortunate to get some experience in the playoffs even when they had older guys and still gave it to me,” McAvoy said. “It’s awesome because the organization drafts guys and they want to see these guys pan out and be successful. It feels as though we all want the same things. As players we want to play in the NHL and contribute and win a Stanley Cup and management wants to see that as well. So when you get this chance you have to make the most of it.”
Clayton Keller C Arizona Coyotes (2016 Draft No. 7): Keller (5-10 168) 19 is tied for second among rookies with eight points (six goals two assists) and has averaged 19:46 of ice time. He’s scored one power-play goal and nine of his 30 shots have come with the man-advantage.
“I’m not going to compare him to [Sidney] Crosby but he gets the puck in the corner and his heart rate goes down,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet told The Boston Globe. “He doesn’t throw pucks away. He can find the good ice and make a play or he can hold it.”
Jakub Vrana LW Washington Capitals (2014 Draft No. 13): He spent a majority of the past two seasons with Hershey of the American Hockey League and is beginning to refine his game without the puck. Coach Barry Trotz has given the 21-year-old a golden opportunity placing him on a line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and right wing Alex Ovechkin and he has five points (two goals three assists) and 22 shots on goal in nine games. Vrana (6-foot 197 pounds) is averaging 13:54 of ice time.
Mikhail Sergachev D Tampa Bay Lightning (2016 Draft No. 9 Montreal Canadiens): Sergachev (6-3 215) has six points (three goals three assists) during a three-game point streak and eight points (three goals five assists) in nine games for the Lightning. The 19-year-old left-hand shot was acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens for forward Jonathan Drouin on June 15 and has averaged 12:36 in ice time.
“He’s got the size strength vision and shot,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He just has to learn the NHL; you don’t just step into the League and play that position and say ‘I’ve arrived where’s the Norris Trophy.’ It takes 200 or 300 games to get a legitimate feel for the League but you can’t help but really be excited about his upside and what he can bring for us.”
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