The rookie season in the NHL has been a series of firsts for 20-year-old Jake DeBrusk, and most of them have been pretty great.
The tops would obviously be DeBrusk scoring his first NHL goal on opening night in front of his family, but there have been some good moments little more than a month into his NHL career. There also the inevitable lows as well with the left winger sporting a team-worst minus-10 rating on the season and accounting for just one goal in his last 11 games.
Perhaps sensing that DeBrusk needed to “hit the reset button”, Bruce Cassidy made the young forward a healthy scratch for the first time all season in Saturday night’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. DeBrusk understood the reasoning behind it and was hoping to turn it into a positive at a point where the Bruins badly need difference-makers up front.
“When I get back in I want to be ready to go, and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said DeBrusk, who had zero shots on net and just 9:43 of ice time in the Friday night loss to Toronto in the last game he played. “I think the biggest thing right now is that you need to stick with it, and play with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder. You want to get it. That’s the kind of approach I need to take right now. You hit the reset button and just kind of go after it.
“It’s never a good situation. You’re sitting up in the press box while your team is playing, and you want to help your team. But there are positives that can be taken from it. I think it shows your character in what you do after it, and it’s another test for me. There are things I know I need to change and things I know I need to correct, and it’s pretty evident I need to change them quickly.”
What kinds of things does DeBrusk need to change in order to keep his name penciled in the lineup at the NHL level?
“I think I just need to calm down and play hockey, and do what I was doing in training camp being one of the fastest guys and just buzzing around out there,” said DeBrusk. “It’s being a hound on the fore-check…simple things like that while not thinking so much. The next game I’m going to do everything I can to have those [skating] legs and then the rest will fall into place.”
Cassidy expected he’d be putting DeBrusk right back into the thick of things on Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks, and the fact he’s also presumably down both Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork makes that decision a little bit easier.
“Jake will most likely go back in,” said Cassidy. “The message to him was watch a game from up top. There are certain areas of your game that need to be better, and there are certain areas of your game that we like and need to be there every night. We talked about his energy and his legs. If he’s skating then everything else seems to fall into place for Jake, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
It’s the first time DeBrusk has been scratched at the NHL level, but it may not be the last given the nature of young rookie players adjusting to the intensity and daily grind. The challenge for a conscientious, hard-working kid like DeBrusk will be how he responds to all this with the Bruins facing a big challenge on a three-game road swing through California.