There are a select few that want to remember how things went for the Boston Bruins last season.
However, it could have been much worse without 18-year-old rookie David Pastrnak.
Boston’s first-round pick last year did everything in his power to keep the Bruins playoff bubble from bursting. After his second call-up from Providence in January, Pastrnak recorded back-to-back two-goal games against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay to cement his place with the parent club.
Soon after, former general manager Peter Chiarelli announced the Bruins would begin Pastrnak’s three-year entry-level contract. Head coach Claude Julien paired him up with young center Ryan Spooner and now-departed winger Milan Lucic not too long after that.
They would go on to be the most productive line down the stretch. Pastrnak, Spooner, and Lucic combined for 15 goals and 37 points in 15 March contests. Right-winger Pastrnak averaged a staggering four points per 60 minutes of ice time throughout the month and was a beast on the ice.
With a new season on the horizon, the six-foot forward will enter his second professional season in North America and is a virtual lock to start the year in Boston. Pastrnak has all the tools to be a potential game changer; speed off the wing, great vision with the puck and a wicked shot.
However, there are still some questions surrounding what he can do this season.
The Dreaded Sophomore Slump
When asked about the NHL’s “sophomore slump”, Pastrnak didn’t seem too deterred by it according to Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe.
“I heard many times the second season in the NHL is the worst one, but I can change it. I just worked out in summer same as like I did last year and I can change anything else. I just have to work hard every day.”
It’s an encouraging thing for Bruins fans to hear, especially considering how much potential he possesses. Pastrnak has had all summer to prepare for what many in the League believe to be one of the most difficult seasons in any player’s career.
Given the situation the Bruins are in regarding the uncertainty of their offense, the 19-year old may feel a bit of an extra burden this season. Pastrnak piled up plenty of helpers down the stretch (10 in final 20 games) but only scored one goal, an overtime marker in Carolina, in the final 15 games last season. Julien and the Bruins brass may look at him as their up-and-coming elite goal-scoring forward but it’s unfair to expect him to mold into that as a second-year pro.
The potential is there but Boston has to be careful to guide him along and not pile on the pressure on one of their most prized possessions.
Where Should He Play?
This is an intriguing question with the growing speculation that Pastrnak could find himself on the top line alongside fellow Czech, David Krejci. The Havirov native (Pastrnak) spoke glowingly of having the opportunity the play alongside the Sternberk native (Krejci).
“We have country chemistry and we have on-the-ice chemistry, so I would love to play with [Krejci]. It’s something different when I can play with a player like [him].”
Indeed, playing alongside Krejci bodes well for any winger since his vision and passing abilities are top notch.
However, one cannot ignore the chemistry Pastrnak and Spooner shared down the stretch six months ago. In his preseason line combinations, my colleague Kirk Vance had them paired up on the third line with offseason acquisition Jimmy Hayes. It makes sense because it almost mirrors the situation last season: two young, speedy players and a big body to cash in on rebounds.
The Bruins will need any bit of offense they can get this season given the fact that scoring of the club last season was a bit of a struggle.
Krejci is a top notch playmaker in his own right and Pastrnak would see more ice time to improve on his point totals. However, it’s more about the development of the player rather than padding his stats. Pastrnak is bound to be a star in this league and requires steady development. After all, would you rather have one stellar season or a consistent career?
The young winger may find himself playing alongside Krejci at some point this year but should start the season with Spooner because of their chemistry from late last campaign.
The sophomore season awaits for David Pastrnak. Can he avoid the dreaded slump and play a noticeable role in Boston’s postseason chase? Where should he start the season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me your opinions!
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW