With the 25th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins selected David Pastrnak.
After signing an entry-level contract with the Bruins, the Czech native made his way to North America to make his mark on the hockey world. In 25 games with the Providence Bruins of the AHL during the 2014-15 season, Pastrnak potted 11 goals and 17 assists. In November of that season, the then-18-year-old earned a call-up and stepped onto NHL ice for the first time.
It took the winger seven games to notch his first NHL goal – a long time compared to the Pastrnak we know today. When he did score he did it in bunches. In consecutive wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, Pastrnak had back-to-back two-goal games. He ended his rookie season with 27 points in 46 games.
Pastrnak went down with an injury just 10 games into the 2015-16 season and missed over two months of action. By the end of the campaign, the forward had appeared in 51 games and recorded 26 points. At that point in his career, it was clear that the Bruins had an NHL-ready winger. What was not clear was his ceiling. In his rookie season, he was on pace for 48 points while he was on pace for nearly 42 points in his sophomore season. How much more could the Bruins expect going forward?
David “Pasta” Pastrnak
During his third NHL campaign, Pastrnak rose to stardom. In his first game of the 2016-17 season, the then-20-year-old tallied two goals and two assists in 15:11 of ice time. He followed this up with a point in each of his next three appearances. Boston had officially caught the Pastrnak fever.
The young forward was dubbed “Pasta” – a nickname he has embraced. As the media’s pasta puns piled up, so did the goals. Pastrnak went on to score 34 times in 75 games with an extra 36 helpers. He had registered 70 points and was averaging nearly 18 minutes per game, finding a home on Boston’s top power-play unit. During the postseason, he notched two goals and two assists in six games.
The best season of his young career couldn’t have come at a better time. Pastrnak was due for a contract renewal during the 2017 offseason. It was a long summer in Boston, as the winger had yet to be locked down by the end of July. Then August came and went, and Bruins fans grew more and more anxious.
Boston’s nightmare was becoming a reality: Pastrnak would holdout and leave the Bruins without their promising winger. It was a nightmare the Toronto Maple Leafs lived through during the early stages of this season with William Nylander. However, general manager Don Sweeney refused to accept that fate. Days before the start of the preseason, Pastrnak signed his first standard NHL contract at the age of 21. The deal was worth $6.67 million annually over of six seasons.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 14, 2017
He proved to be worth every penny during the 2017-18 campaign. He appeared in all 82 regular-season contests, recording 35 goals and 45 assists – both career highs. As much skill as the winger displayed, he also had help from his linemates: Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Both forwards have had a lot of experience playing together, and their playing styles suited Pastrnak’s as well.
Marchand appeared in just 68 games that season but was able to come up with 34 goals and 51 assists. Bergeron missed time as well, only appearing in 64 games, producing 30 goals and 33 assists. With Pastrnak added to the equation, the Bruins had a full line of 30-goal scorers. They were widely considered one of the best active lines in the NHL and still are today.
In the playoffs, the top line carried the team into the second round. Individually, Pastrnak recorded six goals and 14 assists in 12 postseason contests. While the season didn’t end the way the Bruins wanted, the top-line trio became the core of Boston’s offense, and handed Pastrnak two elite linemates.
Pastrnak the All-Star
Of course, Pastrnak is representing the Bruins at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game this weekend. Now at the age of 22, he has completed the journey from prospect to superstar. However, his 2018-19 campaign is not complete.
In 49 games this season, Pastrnak has potted 27 goals and 29 assists. As a result, he is on pace for just shy of 94 points by the end of the season. He is also on pace to break both of his career highs in goals (on pace for 45) and assists (on pace for 48) by season’s end. It has been a jaw-dropping campaign for the Czech native who seems to be getting better by the day.
How high can Pastrnak fly? While he is outside the top 10 in goals, assists, and points on the NHL’s leaderboards, he seems destined for personal greatness. The Rocket Richard, Art Ross, and even Hart Trophies aren’t out of the winger’s reach in the future given how much he has escalated his level of play over the course of the last three seasons.
On and off the ice, eyes snap to Pastrnak. Whether it’s a highlight-reel goal or a charity ping pong tournament, No. 88 is a skilled and well-respected athlete. He will be appearing in his first NHL All-Star Game on Saturday night, and it’s likely that there will be many more All-Star weekends in his future.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.