This past week, the Boston Bruins made waves after signing undrafted, college free agent Marc McLaughlin. The Boston College product has gained attention for his terrific college career, where he had 76 points in 130 games, and helped earn him a spot on the United States men’s hockey team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. A native of North Billerica, he is the latest in a string of local, homegrown, Massachusetts’ talents to join the organization.
In addition to McLaughlin, the Bruins also acquired the rights to Michael Callahan, another Massachusetts native currently playing at Providence College back in February in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick. He had been drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL Entry Level Draft at pick 142 in the fifth round. He recently played his first professional hockey game in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Providence Bruins.
Massachusetts has always had success with producing NHL-level talent. In recent years, the Bruins have been able to reap the benefits with several local guys becoming contributors on the current roster and even more being added into the system with hopes of becoming full time NHLers in the near future.
Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie Coyle
You can’t have an article about the current state of Massachusetts players in the Bruins system and not start with Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie Coyle. Grzelcyk is from Charlestown, walking distance of TD Garden, while Coyle grew up in Weymouth on the South Shore.
This season, Grzelcyk has 20 points in 54 games and is a plus-16. In the game on March 15 against the Chicago Blackhawks, he scored the overtime-winning goal. The 28-year-old was selected by Boston at pick No. 85 in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Level Draft. He played college hockey at Boston University (a truly hometown talent) for four seasons, and was even captain for two of them. He made his NHL debut in the 2016-17 season and become a full-time NHL player in the 2018-19 season.
Unlike Grzelcyk, Coyle was not drafted by the Bruins. He was taken at pick 28 in the first round of the 2010 Entry Level Draft by the San Jose Sharks and was later traded to the Minnesota Wild. He made his NHL debut in the 2012-13 season after two years of playing college hockey for Boston University.
Coyle returned to Boston in the 2018-19 season as part of a trade that sent the Wild Ryan Donato, another Massachusetts product drafted by the Bruins and a 2019 fifth-round draft pick. This season, he has bounced back from a rough 2020-21 season that saw him only score six goals and 16 points in 51 games. In 61 games this season, he has 33 points, including 14 goals.
While neither Grzelcyk or Coyle are necessary elite superstars, they are both two important pieces of this current Bruins’ lineup. Grzelcyk has spent large portions of this season playing with Charlie McAvoy as the first pair defensemen while Coyle has been making important contributions on the third line. They are both terrific ambassadors for the team in the community in addition to everything they do on the ice.
Other Local Talent in the System
Chris Wagner, who was sent down to Providence of the AHL this season, is another local product from Walpole, Massachusetts. He had a breakout season in 2018-19 after signing with the Bruins in free agency, and won the 7th Player Award, given yearly to the player who exceeds expectations.
Also currently on the Providence Bruins’ roster is Matt Filipe out of Lynnfield, Massachusetts who played collegiate hockey at Northeastern. Though drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes and not the Bruins, he signed an entry-level contract after finishing his four years at Northeastern.
Another local product is Riley Duran out of Woburn, Massachusetts. He was selected by the Bruins in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Level Draft and is currently in his freshman season with Providence College. In 38 games this season, he has 10 goals and 19 total points.
Playing Hockey Home in Boston
Over the years, plenty of attention has been given to Canadian stars who return home to play for their childhood teams. Who can forget the fervor of John Tavares and his Toronto Maple Leafs-themed childhood bedsheets when he signed with the team as a free agent? It’s a smart move by teams and the NHL to market when guys return home because the fans love it, especially kids who can dream that they, too, can one day play for their childhood team like Tavares or Coyle or Grzelcyk.
But it also carries an extra weight for the players, which I’m sure plays some deterring factor in why more players don’t “return home” when they have the opportunity to do so. There is an added weight of expectation when playing for the team one grew up cheering for and an extra level of scrutiny. There are very few Bruins games where it isn’t brought up that Coyle and Grzelcyk are from Weymouth and Charlestown.
For the Bruins, it is a no brainer to want to try and bring home local talent. It creates great feel good stories in the news and further ingrains the sports team into the very fabric of the community in which they play in. These are guys who truly know who the fans are, what the city is, and what the team means to Boston.
You obviously can’t have a roster of all Massachusetts-born players, but the Bruins have really found some great talents from the local pool in recent years. The McLaughlin signing this week and the signing of Callahan last month are just the latest examples. Both bring tremendous skills and experiences. As mentioned above, McLaughlin recently returned from playing in the Beijing Olympics and the 6-foot-2 Callahan provides more depth at the left side of the defense where the team has struggled most of the season.
They also both bring leadership experience. McLaughlin was captain at Boston College his last two seasons and had 31 points in 33 games this season. Callahan was captain for three seasons at Providence, contributing 14 points in 38 games this season and was a plus-6.
We’ll have to wait and see if they become full time NHLers, but as the Bruins begin to fill out a relatively weak prospect pool, they should continue to look to homegrown, local players as options to sign. Especially if they bring the tangibles that the team needs like McLaughlin and Callahan.
I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting at Boston University. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.