Bruins

20 Under 25 Candidates: Jake DeBrusk turning into a big-game player

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

20 Under 25 Candidates: Jake DeBrusk turning into a big-game player

It’s more than three years after the NHL Draft when the Bruins famously made three consecutive picks in the middle of the first round. Three-plus years later, it’s 22-year-old winger Jake DeBrusk as the only one of the three picks who has established himself at the NHL level and played his way into the long-term future for the Bruins.

That certainly says something about DeBrusk just as it says something about the other two players -- Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn -- taken in that first round.  

DeBrusk finished with a strong, steady 16 goals and 43 points in 70 games for the Bruins while manning the left wing beside David Krejci as a rookie, and stepped up even more in the playoffs as a go-to goal scorer in the Toronto series behind the big three of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. DeBrusk is an interesting mix as a player: none of his skills really jump out at you, but he’s strong, fast and smart with a good, accurate shot, and that package comes along with very clearly being a big game player.

At the beginning of December, DeBrusk actually ranked second on the Bruins in goals behind only Pastrnak and ahead of the injured Bergeron and the snake-bitten Marchand. He continues to show the requisite offensive skill along with the willingness to go to the danger areas that could make him a perennial 20-goal scorer, and both his ideal makeup and strong character as a person make him somebody the Bruins will want as a part of their long-term picture.

Will DeBrusk ever be an All-Star at the NHL level or even reach the 30-goal plateau that separates the good players from the potentially great ones?

It might never be the case, as DeBrusk feels like a player capable of something in the 20-goal/50-point range when he reaches his maximum potential, but that’s plenty good enough for the Black and Gold after selecting him in the middle of the first round three years ago. DeBrusk is in the NHL and playing well just like so many other talented players taken in the first round of that loaded 2015 NHL Draft, and he’ll be in Boston for years to come as a gritty, productive top-6 winger. 

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Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings

Almost three weeks remain in the regular season, and the battle for the President's Trophy is already over, with the Lightning (116 points and counting) already wrapping up home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But even though the top spot has already been clinched, the homestretch of the season features a ton of interesting battles for playoff positioning.

Although they're in the same division as Tampa, the Bruins have a chance to finish with the second-best record in hockey and square off against the Maple Leafs in the first round for a second consecutive season.

The Flames and Sharks have both clinched playoff spots already, with Calgary holding a slim three-point lead for the top seed in the Western Conference.

While those teams will look to make noise in the playoffs, many teams are fighting and clawing just to get in, with Columbus leading Montreal by one point for the eighth spot in the East, and Arizona trying to hold off Minnesota and Colorado for the eighth spot in the West.

How do all 31 teams stack up in Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings? Click here to find out.

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Five Bruins storylines to watch before 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs arrive

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USA TODAY Sports

Five Bruins storylines to watch before 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs arrive

The Boston Bruins know there's an extremely high chance they'll play the rival Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs for the second year in a row, but there's still a lot for them to figure out before the postseason begins in April.

The Bruins need a few struggling players to bust out of their slumps, the team needs to get healthier, and the scoring depth that was a major weakness in last season's playoffs needs to improve. 

Boston has nine games remaining to develop good habits and address any issues with their performance entering the playoffs. With that in mind, let's take a look at five Bruins storylines to watch before the postseason arrives.

Click for five Bruins storylines to watch before the playoffs

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