As the No. 1 ranked prospect in the National Hockey League, Charlie McAvoy has a lot of weight on his shoulders. The 19-year-old, whose only taste of NHL action came during last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, will likely be thrust right back into the thick of things from the start of the season, as the Boston Bruins finally begin to take action on the youth movement they’ve been preparing for years.
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, McAvoy’s stock has risen. The 6-foot-1 defenseman was phenomenal at Boston University last season, and led the United States to a U20 World Junior Championship earlier this year, where he was named Player of the Game in the gold medal match against Canada.
In April, a battered Bruins blueline forced B’s head coach Don Sweeney to give the youngster top-line minutes during the postseason and McAvoy shined.
Now, just a few months later, the former Terrier will begin his rookie campaign as a favorite for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top rookie of the season. But, what will it take to get there?
McAvoy a Two-Way Threat
As a defenseman, McAvoy’s primary goal is simple: Keep the puck out of Boston’s net. But, as an offensive-defenseman by trade, the Long Beach, NY native will need to do more than that to earn the Calder.
His ability to generate offense is what separates him from the pack and he demonstrated those talents in his limited opportunity with the NHL squad last season, notching three assists in Boston’s six playoff games against the Ottawa Senators.
Of course, those six games are a small sample size. This season, McAvoy will get his share of opportunities to produce. Last season’s playoff campaign, while short, showed that Sweeney was comfortable giving the right-shot defenseman an average of 26:12 of ice time per game and he played a key role on Boston’s power play over the course of the series.
McAvoy is expected to start with top-four responsibilities, and with Torey Krug’s injury, he’ll probably get the first nod to run the Bruins’ power play.
As far as Calder projections go, it’s difficult to say exactly how much McAvoy needs to produce to take home the trophy. The last two defensemen to win it, Aaron Eklbad (2014-15) and Tyler Myers (2009-10), posted 39 points and 48 points, respectively. If McAvoy can break the 40-point plateau then he should be a top contender. Of course, his effectiveness off of the scoresheet will be just as important which makes the 40-point mark a flexible number.
If you’ve watched McAvoy play, then the hype surrounding him probably doesn’t come as a surprise. For a 19-year-old, he has an absurd amount of skill and he’s already shown Bruins fans flashes of his brilliance. He’s a very strong skater with a superb hockey IQ, and his assertiveness makes him a threat at either end of the ice.
But, like many rookies, the skill-set is not the question. Instead, it’s the consistency that people are curious about. If McAvoy wants to finish the season as a finalist for the Calder, then he’ll need to have a consistently good 2017-18 campaign.
— Terrier Hockey (@BU_Hockey5) September 23, 2017
That consistency is about more than just offense. The rookie needs to prove he can regularly play with the league’s best. McAvoy has the size to pester opposing forwards in the defensive zone, and he’s been successful in using his body to effectively eliminate threats in his own end. But, as anyone who’s been there will tell you, the NHL is a different beast than college hockey. There’s little question that McAvoy has the ability to be effective. Right now, it’s a matter of whether or not he can live up to the hype.
As the 2017-18 season progresses, keep an eye on McAvoy as well as the rest of the Bruins rookies. The youth movement that Bruins fans have been waiting for is finally being implemented, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!