Bruins: David Pastrnak’s Evolution From Prospect to Elite

It goes without saying that the Boston Bruins key player thus far is David Pastrnak. With nine goals in eight games and 15 points total, he is well on his way to a 100-point (or more) season.

Last week was a stellar one for the 23-year-old forward as he was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week, became the first Bruin in roughly 15 years to score at least five consecutive team goals and became the 19th player in franchise history to net four goals in a single game.

It all seems to be coming together for him and at a remarkable pace. Like any job, success comes from hard work and dedication. Two characteristics he has possessed since the day he was drafted.

The Beginning: NHL Draft and 2015-16 Season

In 2014, the biggest question that surrounded Pastrnak was whether or not he was tough enough to make it at the NHL level. He had offensive potential that was astounding with his quick speed and impressive stick skills, but would he be able to play against bigger and stronger players?

He was selected 25th overall in the NHL Draft by the Bruins and dominated the AHL with 28 points in 25 games. In turn, he was called up to the big club, making his NHL debut at the age of 18. Through 46 games, he tallied 27 points and was slated as a top-six forward.

David Pastrnak on Draft Day, selected in the first round at pick #25. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Skating alongside David Krejci and Matt Beleskey, he had a record-breaking year becoming the first teenaged Bruin to score a game-winning overtime goal and the youngest to score a penalty shot. He did suffer a couple of injuries during the 2015-16 campaign, but he was still able to post 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games.

His biggest drawback at this point in his career were his giveaways – he would force plays that weren’t there or would essentially be too fancy with the puck and cause turnovers. Admittedly, this is still a work in progress for him, but also a strong point as he forces teammates to make a move and produce more which isn’t exactly a bad thing when your secondary scoring is lacking.

The Breakout Season: 2016-17

The 2016-17 season served as an important season for Pastrnak who had some big shoes to fill with the offseason departure of Loui Eriksson.
Despite being 19, he quickly silenced the questionssurrounding whether or not he was tough enough to survive at the NHL level. In fact, he was often noticed for his ability to crash the net and not back down against his bigger and tougher opponents.

He came into the season confident and ready to make moves. Through the first five games of the season, he was credited for four goals and seven points. His new-found confidence and scoring prowess had him looking less like a kid and more like the professional everyone knew he could be.

Brad Marchand David Pastrnak Patrice Bergeron Bruins
Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron are known as one of the most dynamic lines in the NHL. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Throughout the season his defensive play really developed courtesy of some time spent alongside Patrice Bergeron. He started evolving into an elite two-way forward, proving he was more than just a speedy, puck-possessing point producer. He finished off the season with 34 goals and 70 points in 75 games becoming known as one of the most dynamic offensive threats in the entire NHL.

Despite some concern during the offseason about whether Pastrnak would return to the Bruins or go play in the KHL, the Bruins were able to reach an agreement and extend his contract. In Sept. 2017, he signed a six-year contract extension worth $40 million. Through the 2017-18 campaign, Pastrnak appeared in all 82 games and recorded 35 goals and 45 assists alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand who each had 30-goal seasons despite missing some time, quickly dubbing themselves as one of the best active lines in the NHL.

Here and Now: The Elite All-Star

During the 2018-19 campaign, Pastrnak was the only Bruins player to be named to the All-Star team and it served as the first selection of his career. He participated in the accuracy shooting drillwhere he hit all five targets in 11.3 seconds, winning the contest, bragging rights for a year, and nice sum of $25,000.

Despite the Atlantic team losing 7-4 to the Metropolitan Division, he was credited for an impressive cross-ice backhanded pass to Jack Eichel for a goal.

To finish the season, he missed 16 games after being sidelined with a thumb injury that required surgery. However, he came back to score another seven goals and eight assists in the final ten-game stretch of the regular season.

The postseason was a bit more difficult for Pastrnak as opponents realized his worth and targeted him, containing him to a mere 9 goals and 19 points in 24 contests. He was extremely close to reaching the 50-goal mark in 2018-19 last year and is expected to exceed those numbers based on his current production thus far. This will be attainable if he has a full and healthy 82-game season. Should he achieve 50 goals, he would become the first Bruin to do so in 25 years.

Boston Bruins Connor Clifton Matt Grzelcyk, Brad Marchand David Pastrnak
Boston Bruins Connor Clifton Matt Grzelcyk, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak celebrating a goal. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

“For me, it’s a new year. So as soon as the season started I tried to be a better player than last year,” Pastrnak said. “Every year — coming into a new season — I just want to be a better player than the year before, and that’s what I’m working on.”(from ‘3 takeaways: David Pastrnak’s career day sparks Bruins past Ducks’, – 10/14/19)

At the young age of 23, he has gone from being a budding prospect to an elite hockey player all in the course of five years, not too shabby.

Tell us your thoughts; do you think Pastrnak can stay healthy enough to become a 50-goal scorer this season?