To say that Jake DeBrusk has had an up-and-down career so far with the Boston Bruins is an understatement. Actually, it’s a huge understatement. He has gone from a top-six forward to a bottom-six forward, then a fourth-line forward all in a span of two seasons. You can see how the youngster’s confidence could be fragile.
Last season DeBrusk had one of the better second half’s of the season in the NHL and the Bruins needed every single shift they got from him. Entering the 2022-23 season, first-year coach Jim Montgomery is going to be missing his first-line left wing in Brad Marchand who is recovering from double-hip surgery this offseason. Add in the lack of depth on the right wing behind David Pastrnak, and the Black and Gold are going to need a consistent DeBrusk early and often this upcoming season.
DeBrusk’s Up and Down Career
The 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft, DeBrusk had 16 goals and 27 assists in his rookie season of 2017-18, before scoring a career-high 27 goals with 15 assists in 2018-19 in the regular season. He then scored four goals and finishing with 11 points in the Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Final.
In the shortened 2019-20 season because of the coronavirus outbreak, DeBrusk had 19 goals and 16 assists, but things started to take a turn in the Toronto playoff bubble. In 13 games, he had just four goals, but really went South in the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season. He had five goals and 14 points in 41 games while bouncing in and out of the lineup under former coach Bruce Cassidy. DeBrusk struggled in the middle-six and caught the ire of Cassidy, which called out the Edmonton native in the media, and eventually, it led to multiple healthy scratches, while he also had a bout with COVID-19.
Related: 3 Bruins Who Could Be X-Factors in 2022-23
The frustrating regular season carried over into the playoffs where he found himself as a healthy scratch in a pivotal Game 5 in the second round against the New York Islanders with the series tied 2-2. The Bruins lost the final two games and DeBrusk returned to play in Game 6.
DeBrusk Requests Trade, Then Rescinds It
After being a healthy scratch against the Vancouver Canucks in late April, it was made public that DeBrusk requested a trade from the Bruins through his agent. Over the next two-plus months, he would play with the request hanging over him and his play was sputtering like it did in the previous season. Things all changed in late February.
Cassidy moved DeBrusk to the top line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on a West Coast trip and the 25-year-old responded in a big way. He won the first game of the trip with an individual effort game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken, before recording his first career hat trick in a 7-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings. He ended up finishing the season on the top line and was turning into the 2018-19 DeBrusk, the one Boston was hoping to get after that season.
Following the firing of Cassidy, DeBrusk rescinded his trade request in early July, three months after signing a two-year contract extension for $8 million. Now he has the opportunity to be a big part of the 2022-23 Black and Gold.
DeBrusk’s Opportunity This Upcoming Season
Now that DeBrusk’s trade request has been rescinded, he has a golden opportunity ahead of him under Montgomery. With Marchand out and lack of right wing depth, he’ll more than likely begin the season on the first line with Bergeron and Pavel Zacha, which Montgomery hinted at on Tuesday.
“I think Jake DeBrusk is a player that the Bruins need, and he wants, to go from being an everyday consistent player to an everyday impactful player.”Jim Montgomery (from ‘ Montgomery’s vision for Bruins comes into focus,’ Boston Herald, Aug. 21, 2022)
There is no doubt that DeBrusk has the skill set to be a top-six forward. As he has shown in the past, finishing around the net, getting to the dirty spots in the offensive zone, and being aggressive on the forecheck is when he’s on the top of his game. He will also not have Cassidy’s voice behind him and have to check over his shoulder every day each time he makes a mistake. With no pressure on him, if he be can a consistent player, especially at the beginning of the season, he has a chance to take a big step in his career.