The biggest storyline for the Boston Bruins thus far this offseason has been the significant turnover on the back end.
Torey Krug is gone after signing a big free agent deal with the St. Louis Blues and Zdeno Chara’s future is cloudy with the Black and Gold as he continues to hover unsigned with nearly a month gone by since the opening of NHL free agency. That leaves a young core group on the B’s back end with the associated questions that go along with a youth movement within a hockey club with Stanley Cup aspirations.
But there is clearly one place among the Boston Bruins defensemen where experts don’t have any reservations, and that’s No. 1 guy Charlie McAvoy. The 22-year-old McAvoy has come in ranked No. 9 in this year’s top-20 NHL Defensemen Right Now on the NHL Network ahead of other big-name defenders like Brent Burns, Zach Werenski, Shea Weber and Drew Doughty.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) November 2, 2020
McAvoy has a long way to go to approach the consensus top NHL defenseman in Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman smack dab in the very prime of his career, but he’s closer to the top spot than the bottom just three years into his time with the Bruins. Certainly the $4.9 million cap hit for the next couple of seasons makes him one of the biggest bargains on the top-20 defensemen list and that’s a very good thing for the Bruins.
NHL fans had McAvoy ranked at 13th among the top-20 NHL defensemen in the game right now, but either way that puts him among some pretty select company entering a season where the Boston Bruins will need him at his best. McAvoy will head a young group with both Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk expected to be key performers, and with it looking like former BU teammates McAvoy and Grzelcyk could be the top pair entering next season.
Either way, the five goals and 32 points in 67 games last season for McAvoy while averaging 23:10 of ice time per game is setting some solid groundwork for bigger production numbers and responsibilities moving forward. With Krug gone there is a vacuum with McAvoy expected to step up with more power play opportunities, and clearly there will be defensive slack to pick up if the 6-foot-9 Chara is no longer still around.
The talented McAvoy will need to fine tune the accuracy of his point shot and his offense/defense instincts still need work when it comes time to take risks to make a play. But none of that is uncommon with a gifted young defenseman that can skate, hit, shoot, pass and move the puck while defend at an extremely high level already.
Carlo told Boston Hockey Now last week that McAvoy, Carlo and Grzelcyk are ready to lead a young Boston Bruins group that could include youngsters like Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen next season as well.
“I think we’re prepared. [Bruce Cassidy] has done a great job easing us along on that path. There’s a transition period where there will obviously be a few games to adjust to [new] roles, but I think we’re all smart enough and have enough confidence at this point to step up in all aspects,” said Carlo. “I was really happy that Gryz was able to sign back and Charlie is obviously an amazing player. They’re looking toward us to step up and I think we’d all really like to.”
Here are the top-20 NHL defensemen right now, according to the NHL Network:
- Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
- John Carlson, Washington Capitals
- Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights
- Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
- Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
- Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
- Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars
- Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
- Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
- Shea Theodore, Vegas Golden Knights
- Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
- Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
- Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
- Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks
- Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators
- Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs