It wasn’t all that long ago Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy was modeling his game after Los Angeles Kings defenseman and perennial Norris Trophy contender Drew Doughty.
Now the 23-year-old McAvoy is developing into the defenseman that younger players are paying attention to on the ice, and with that comes chatter about his own chances for a Norris Trophy sooner rather than later.
“When I was in college [Doughty] was definitely the guy I wanted to pull things from. He was definitely the ceiling as far as I wanted to be like him,” said McAvoy. “Since I’ve been in the league, you kind of understand as you’re growing, maturing and rounding your game out, you understand what you’re good at and what needs improvement. You understand that every player is unique. Everybody has comparable players, but nobody is exactly the same.
“I think I’ve established myself in terms of what I’m able to do well, and I just try do it consistently night in and night out. It’s cool [being mentioned for Norris]. I look at all the defenseman around the league and a lot of them [were] around before I was even here. So, you look up to those guys and want to pull things from their games. To be in that mix and that conversation is really neat, but you deflect it all to team success. I want to just be a part of a team that competes every night and wins.”
McAvoy leads all Boston Bruins defenseman with four goals and 21 points in 32 games this season along with a plus-9 rating, and he’s been the workhorse averaging 24:11 of ice time per game while playing all situations. The fancy stats crew loves him when paired with Matt Grzelcyk as a puck-moving duo that rarely needs to even defend because they are so adept advancing into the offensive zone.
And he’s picking his spots more and more frequently to dazzle with the puck like he did here while carving up the Sabres defense before feeding Nick Ritchie for a tap-in goal.
Charlie McAvoy goes for a stroll against the Sabres — and sets up Nick Ritchie’s equalizer. pic.twitter.com/zcrBhNgxG4
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 27, 2021
The 10 goals ands 54 points he’s on pace for over an 82-game season would be career-highs for him and he’s only three goals and 11 points away from busting his previous career-highs at the NHL level. Perhaps the best thing about McAvoy is his throwback two-way style as he blocks shots, shuts down the other team’s best players and kills penalties in addition to puck-moving and kick-starting offense like he did scoring a third period goal in Tuesday night’s 5-4 Boston Bruins comeback win over the New Jersey Devils.
Clearly there is some stiff competition for the Norris with established guys like Victor Hedman, John Carlson and Shea Theodore having great seasons, and a youngster like Adam Fox playing his way into the conversation as a rookie with the New York Rangers.
And McAvoy’s numbers put him in the top-20 (18th in ice time, 22nd in PPG, 37th in blocked shots) among NHL defenseman rather than the top-10 in most of the traditional categories where blueliners are evaluated.
But the old hockey axiom also holds true that players like McAvoy usually don’t get strong consideration for NHL Awards until the year after they fully break through, so this may not end up being his “season” knowing the patterns of awards voters out there. There is still another level the youngster can reach when it comes to playing at an elite level every single night, but McAvoy is approaching that very quickly at an age and experience level where truly elite NHL D-men ascend to the top.
Make no mistake about it: McAvoy is turning heads this season as the unquestioned No. 1 defenseman for the Bruins, and he’s turning heads as the guy that’s putting a young, unproven group of back-end players on his shoulders.
That’s the kind of stuff that awards like the Norris are all about and McAvoy is showing his worthiness on a nightly basis as he builds his season resume.