BRIGHTON, Mass – When 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy suits up for Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, he’ll be meeting head-to-head for the first time with one of the NHL stars he models his game after in Kings defenseman and Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty.
McAvoy has a goal and seven points in eight games this season, and is averaging 20:53 of ice time for the Bruins in his first go-round through the league, so it would seem whatever he’s doing to tailor his game is working.
The teenager has been impressive in his early role as smooth puck-mover and efficient power play quarterback, and will be even more so when he gains greater confidence and assertiveness as a highly skilled, highly dangerous defenseman. McAvoy was given favorable comparisons to Doughty all the way back when he was drafted by the Bruins two-plus years ago, and nothing he’s done since has dampened those early comparisons.
“There definitely a lot of inspirations in the last generation in the NHL and this generation in the NHL that’s playing right now. There are a lot of guys where I can try to pull things from their game and make it into my own,” said McAvoy. “[Doughty] has achieved the label of what I want over my career, which is a complete defenseman that can kill penalties, play the power play, play a lot of minutes every night and be reliable and responsible while still being able to contribute all over the ice.
“He’s made that name and he has that reputation he can go out and do that. There’s a little bit of a comparison there. He goes out and uses his body in a physical way and that’s something I can definitely do too. He’s somebody I look up and he’s a phenomenal player, and if I can continue to look at different aspects of his game then I’ll be a better player for it.”
It’s perfectly okay that McAvoy will never be an Erik Karlsson-type offensive machine revolutionizing the position or a strict stay-at-home grunt grinding it out on the back end, but should instead be a defenseman with zero weaknesses that can skate, pass, shoot, throw big hits, defend and play a ton of minutes. Those kinds of D-men are worth their weight in gold.
"[McAvoy's got] composure play to break pucks out late in the game. A lot of good things out of him. We’ve got a head start about him [from the playoffs] obviously, but he’s another [rookie] that fits in that category that’s coming along,” said Bruce Cassidy. “As the temperature of the game goes up, his ability to play in those games is what separates him as a young guy. And we need it. If you can put out fires by breaking pucks out of your own end cleanly under a heavy fore-check, you’re going to be a successful team, because you’re going to be on the move the other way and attacking. We’ve got some guys that can finish.”
Much like Doughty, McAvoy has loftier goals than simply topping out as an offensive defenseman racking up points on the power play, avoiding rolling up of his sleeves for the dirty work required by good hockey teams. McAvoy wants to do everything well whether it’s killing penalties, shutting down top lines or throwing his weight around, and he has already begun to show those signs just a couple of weeks into the season. McAvoy has begun pushing into PK duty with Adam McQuaid sidelined with the broken leg, and had a huge block of a teed up slap shot while killing a penalty in the closing minutes of Thursday night’s win over the San Jose Sharks.
It’s that kind of full-bodied, workhorse duty that McAvoy is looking to develop where he can become another Doughty capable of playing in all situations, impacting a game heavily at both ends of the ice and perhaps someday winning a Norris Trophy and leading his team to a Stanley Cup. For now, however, McAvoy will simply be flattered by any comparisons between himself and Doughty, and just keep on maturing and using his growing experience to become the all-around D-man that his talents dictate that he will be.
“There are a lot of people I like to take aspects from. Drew Doughty is one of them. Tyson Barrie is another one I like to watch. I think Kris Letang is an unbelievable defenseman with skating and ability both offensively and defensively,” said McAvoy. “All of these guys are complete players on their teams, they compete in every aspect and they’re all relied on for every situation. Those are the kind of guys I look up to, and it’s really special to be in the same league as them now.”
The long-term plan is for McAvoy to become a true No. 1 defenseman workhorse for the Bruins capable of doing everything on the ice, and that’s exactly the kind of player that will vault the B’s back into a legit Stanley Cup contender. It may be a couple of years down the line before McAvoy completely gets there, but the Bruins have that kind of time as they continue to introduce young talent into their reloading lineup.
The D-man prodigy has certainly begun living up to that billing in his first full month in the NHL, and things like time, experience and good health are going to be the keys for McAvoy truly becoming the Doughty of the next generation.