The Boston Bruins have found quite a bit of success in the last decade with their Czech players, which has led to them having the most Czech players on a roster in the NHL this season. All six have been making headlines so far in the 2022-23 season, though not all are good.
The Bruins are off to one of their best starts in franchise history and don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Many players are looking like they are heading for career years, including several of their Czech players. With 15 NHL games under the team’s belt, it feels like a good time to czech in (bet you’ve never heard that one before) on the Czech contingent.
What a start David Pastrnak has had to his season. He’s been an elite scorer since coming into the NHL, but has taken it to the next level so far this season. In 15 games so far, he has nine goals, 14 assists, and 23 total points. He’s currently ranked fourth in the league in points (Mikko Rantanen has one more goal than him, giving him the third-place spot even though they have the same amount of total points). He also only trails Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for total points across the whole league. If he keeps this up, he may just turn into a dark horse candidate for the Art Ross Trophy at the end of the season.
Pastrnak has been a difference-maker every time he’s been on the ice this season. He’s scoring from everywhere in the offensive zone, and beyond the stat sheet, he’s playing more physical and aggressive than we’ve seen him previously. The incredible play led to him being named the second star by the NHL for the month of October.
This breakthrough could not be coming at a better time for Pastrnak. He’s in the final year of a six-year contract and has yet to sign an extension. With each point, he’s surely upping the value of that next deal just a bit higher.
One of the Bruins’ struggles last season was not having a viable replacement for David Krejci after he decided to play back home in the Czech league. Having him back this season has been a big reason why the depth has been so strong to start 2022-23. He is a legitimate second-line center, and having him there stabilizes the line. This allows for other players to be placed in spots that are better suited to their style of play or role. Charlie Coyle, for example, has been excellent on the third line, whereas last season, he struggled when pushed up to the second line spot. Having Krejci back doesn’t just give the team a great player, but allows for others to truly find their best roles in the lineup.
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So far, Krejci has two goals and nine points in 12 games. Goal scoring has never been the strongest part of his game, so it’s not surprising to see only two goals from him so far. But, he’s shooting at a higher rate than he has in his past two NHL seasons, so hopefully that will see him finish the year with more goals. The biggest concern so far in terms of stats, is his minus-5. He hasn’t finished a season in the minus column since 2016-17.
Krejci may be 36 years old, but he isn’t anywhere near to being past his prime. While the Bruins did not have the cap space to make a big splash during the offseason, one cannot understate the importance of getting him back. With his addition, they didn’t need to make a big free agent signing or orchestrate a blockbuster trade.
The 25-year-old was the Bruins’ major acquisition this past offseason and so far, it’s been paying off quite nicely. While Pavel Zacha traditionally plays center, he’s spent lots of time on the wing, even getting some time on the first line with Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk in the early games of 2022-23. He recently played his 400th NHL game, and prior to this season, all of those games were with the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him sixth overall in 2015, though he never quite lived up to the expectations of being a top 10 pick.
The Bruins have been a good match for him as he doesn’t have the same pressure as he did in New Jersey, and has been able to slot into a nice depth position in the lineup. He has eight points in 15 games, including two goals, and is sitting even in the plus/minus column. Zacha is a minus-66 for his career, so that is another area where he has seen an improvement since coming to Boston.
Things are looking up for Zacha. He’s on pace for a career-high 43 points, easily surpassing his high of 36 last season, and looks like a more confident player on the ice. The Bruins really may be the right fit for him.
Jakub Zboril has had a long road to the NHL than one might expect from a first-round draft pick, but in the last year, he’s carved out a nice spot for himself on the Bruins. Last year, his season was cut short due to an ACL tear. This year, he had a terrific training camp and preseason and beat out several others to earn a roster spot.
It has not been perfect for him so far this season, and he has been the odd man out for a few games, but it is clear he’s putting in the work. He scored his first-ever NHL goal on Nov. 12 against the Buffalo Sabres, the game-winner. In addition, he has a real opportunity to step up in the absence of Derek Forbort, who is expected to be sidelined for at least another month.
Jakub Lauko was a surprise to make the roster out of training camp this season. The 2018 draft pick is the youngest of the Czechs at only 22 years old. He beat out other prospects, such as Jack Studnicka, who was later traded to the Vancouver Canucks, Marc McLaughlin, and Oskar Steen.
Lauko has only played in seven games for the Bruins, spending time between Boston and the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL). He was used sparingly in those games, averaging around 10 minutes of ice time a night. Still, he’s made the most of the time given to him, scoring his first NHL goal and two assists for three points in seven games. Not too shabby.
In his one AHL game so far this season, he’s scored a goal as well. Expect to see him again in Boston at some point this season.
All of the Czechs have been off to great starts to their seasons, which has been quite a surprise in some cases. Unfortunately, Tomas Nosek has been one of the players who has struggled the most for the Bruins so far this season. He is also the only regular forward who has yet to score a goal in 2022-23.
Still, there have been some positive contributions from Nosek. He was instrumental in Zboril’s first NHL goal with a beautiful setup, and he and Nick Foligno on the fourth line have been momentum changers in the game, playing aggressively and creating opportunities while being defensively sound. While he isn’t scoring goals, he’s had some solid chances, and eventually, he’ll have a puck find the back of the net.
The Bruins are Rolling
There isn’t a lot to critique in the Bruins’ on-ice performance so far this season. The Czech contingent is a perfect embodiment of the roster in general right now: the elite players are playing like the elite players they are and the depth guys are fitting in nicely to their roles and contributing where and when they are needed.
So the conclusion of czeching in on the Czechs? They’re doing just fine. See them and the rest of the Bruins in action again tonight against the Vancouver Canucks and on Thursday, Nov. 17 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
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.