BUFFALO – It’s pretty convenient, and cost-effective for those traveling budgets, for the Boston Bruins when their scouts don’t even have to exit city limits to scout the next generation of prospects.
That could be exactly the case three weeks from now when GM Don Sweeney steps to the podium to make Boston’s early first round selection at the No. 14 spot. One of the leading candidates for the first of two first round picks could be Boston University freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who made plenty of fans in the scouting community during a standout first season for the Terriers after a solid two-year career with the US National Development Team.
McAvoy was paired with Bruins prospect and senior D-man Matt Grzelcyk on many nights for BU last season, and finished with three goals and 25 points in 37 games as one of the youngest players in Hockey East.
McAvoy brought the skating, the passing, shooting and the solid physicality needed from every blue chip defenseman, but he relied on older guys like “Grizz” for knowledge and wisdom that comes only with seasons of playing experience.
“Matt was the best guy I could have played with. He taught me so much on and off the ice,” said McAvoy. “He helped me grow up and mature, and I think without him I’m not sure I would have had the kind of season that I ended up having.”
He also fell in love with the city of Boston after living here for the past year, which is no easy feat for a kid that’s a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker.
“It’s a great city. Boston University is a great school, and I was surrounded by a lot of great people, players and coaches,” said McAvoy. “I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, and I wouldn’t change anything about my decision to go there. I think we’re going to have a great team next year willing that everybody [recruited] comes, and that we get everybody in. I think the sky is the limit for our team.”
While the Long Island, New York native might not be quite the same lofty draft prospect as the NHL player he models his game after, Drew Doughty, the Terriers defenseman is a skilled offensive player that wants to excel in all aspects of the game.
Part of his reputation in the scouting community is being able to excel in every situation on the ice, and that’s exactly the kind of guy that’s needed with the Bruins.
“I just tried to play great two-way hockey,” said McAvoy, who met with 29 of the 30 NHL teams, including the Black and Gold, during the scouting combine week. “I think the level of hockey I played against was very demanding (in Hockey East), playing against older guys, stronger and more physical guys. I think it was a testament to the kind of player I am to have the success I did at that level. I’m proud of my season, and I’m proud of the body of work that I was able to put together.
“From a development standpoint, I played against competition that was more like the next level. On any given night, I was playing against guys who were from one to six years older. That kind of competition only prepared me to get better. At BU I’m in a good environment to learn, to continue to grow offensively and on the defensive side. I also felt like as a team that we had a very good season.”
The 6-foot, 206-pounder admitted he had things to learn upon entering the Comm. Ave campus as a self-described “power play guy that likes to join the rush as much as he can”: playing competitive defense and getting into real hockey shape where chief among them. But McAvoy embraced those challenges last season as an 18-year-old with a BU program that closely mirrors the NHL with their strength and training regimen, and with their state-of-the-art facilities.
The proof was obvious to those within the BU hockey program, and to the scouts that watched him thrive as a very young freshman in a challenging environment.
“Charlie stepped in and made an impact on an NCAA team as a freshman, and that’s a hard, difficult thing to do,” said NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr. “He had a very consistent year. We like the fact that he’s a solid, two-way player and the coach is able to use him at any time of the game, in any situation, to get the job done.”
The improvement is clearly obvious to the player himself as well as the scouts, and undoubtedly has colored McAvoy’s year-by-year approach when it comes to college hockey.
The 18-year-old said he’ll stay with the NCAAs for as long as he and whatever team that drafts him believe it’s still good for his development. But it was also clear that McAvoy isn’t locked into four years of college hockey if the pros start calling to him, and he couldn’t help but smile a little when asked if earning his college degree was important to him.
“It’s not my main thing. I don’t think about it too much,” said McAvoy. “But at the end of the day if I could go back and get my degree, it would mean a lot to me and mean a lot to my family.”
Regardless of whether the BU standout gets selected by the Bruins in the middle of the first round, he’ll be going someplace among the top 30 teams and might just be a little too busy to get that piece of paper from Boston University for the next 10-15 years.
Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs