Charlie McAvoy is very good at hockey. This is a simple sentence, but also one that cannot be refuted as McAvoy has been among the best defenders in the NHL since making his regular season debut in the 2017-18 season and he’s only gotten better each season.
Offseason shoulder surgery would serve as an unfortunate hitch in McAvoy’s 2022-23 season plans and would force him to miss the first 13 games of the Bruins’ schedule. He’d hit the ground running in his debut, scoring a goal and logging 19:18 of ice time with five hits and two blocks against the Calgary Flames in his first NHL game since May 14 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Fast forward to his fifth game of the season and McAvoy has proven that any rust he should have had on his game following such a long layover between games (as well as surgery and rehabbing his injury in between), was virtually non-existent. Instead, McAvoy has hit the ground running and picked up exactly where he left off prior to his injury.
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Last season, McAvoy would score 10 goals and 56 points, good for the fifth-most points on the Bruins and far-and-away the highest mark among defenders on the team. This season, McAvoy has recorded at least one point in four out of his five games, including a four-point effort Saturday in the Bruins’ 6-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. McAvoy is also averaging just over 21 minutes of ice time through five games this season. While the average ice time seems lower than past seasons, this is by design as head coach Jim Montgomery has made it clear that the team’s depth has allowed them to ease McAvoy back into the fray and keep him fresh throughout the season.
Prior to McAvoy’s debut against the Flames, this is what Montgomery had to say of his star defender:
“We’re very fortunate with the ‘D’ corps we have that we don’t need him to play 24 minutes, but I expect him to play 20 tonight.”
The Bruins have been the NHL’s best team this season and have scored the most goals while allowing the fewest goals-against. Having someone like Hampus Lindholm on the backend to carry the load in McAvoy’s absence and help ease No. 73 back into action has been a luxury for the Bruins. So far, this plan has worked well as McAvoy has been a focal point of the defense since his return but hasn’t been tasked with playing 24-plus minutes a night.
Still, McAvoy is the team’s top blueliner and Montgomery would also illustrate exactly why he is so important to the Bruins and such a dominant defender each and every game.
“Just how he impacts the game in all three zones,” said Montgomery. “It doesn’t seem like he takes a second off, whether he’s pressuring pucks, he’s ending plays, he’s hitting someone, or he’s taking the puck from the breakout through the neutral zone, kicking it out and driving the net, getting a chance at the net.”
McAvoy’s Offensive Production Continually Improving
Defensively, McAvoy’s contributions have never been in question. Offensively, however, there were certainly whispers early in his career about whether he could take the next step and be a truly elite No. 1 defender without the offensive production to back it. These discussions often failed to mention McAvoy’s limited exposure on the power play with former-Bruin Torey Krug finding himself as a mainstay on the top power-play unit throughout his tenure in Boston, inherently limiting McAvoy’s opportunities.
With a spot on the top power-play unit and over 300 games of NHL under his belt, McAvoy is a force on both ends of the ice. Any questions or discussions about McAvoy’s status as an elite blueliner should have been entirely dispelled last season, but he’s proving now that the 2021-22 season was also far from a flash-in-the-pan. With one goal and seven points through five games this season, McAvoy has been electric already this season and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
McAvoy’s ability to bounce back from injuries has also been notable early in his career as the 24-year-old has unfortunately dealt with his fair share of ailments already. Still, the Bruins weighed his injury history against his importance to the team and deemed that he was absolutely deserving of a long-term extension. Worth every penny of his $9.5 million annual cap hit that kicked in this season, McAvoy should be a fixture on this Bruins’ blue line for years to come.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.