Bruins Summer Series: Jake DeBrusk looking to improve after a quiet postseason

Bruins Summer Series: Jake DeBrusk looking to improve after a quiet postseason

Today’s piece on Jake DeBrusk is the seventh in a 10-part series over the next two weeks breaking down the core Bruins group of players, and where they stand headed into next season after last spring’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

The belief was that Jake DeBrusk was going to be a difference-maker for the Bruins in these playoffs.

After scoring six goals a year ago in his first postseason experience just two rounds into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the thought was that the 22-year-old DeBrusk would be a big offense driver after scoring 27 goals in 68 games during the regular season.

Unfortunately for both DeBrusk and the Bruins, that isn’t the way it all shook out for the second-year left winger. Instead he got embroiled into a nasty little exchange with Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri that left him dinged up, and then fighting to find his game for most of the rest of Boston’s long playoff run.

There were some good games in there to be sure, and he still wound up with four goals and 11 points while ending up a plus-4 through four rounds of the postseason.

Still, newly acquired forwards like Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle outplayed DeBrusk during the postseason and left the Bruins brass hoping that the experience will make him a more effective playoff player moving forward.

“I thought we might see more from Jake, but then again it’s a learning experience. A couple of years ago he had a really strong playoff, especially against Toronto,” said Bruins President Cam Neely in an exclusive 1-on-1 with NBC Sports Boston. “But you’ve got to go through these experiences and hopefully learn from them and grow. That’s what I expect from Jake. I know these guys are all proud players and they understand the importance of playing well in the playoffs and not just in the regular season.

“That’s what I say to these guys. 'You really want to be known as a playoff player.' That’s what we all play for — to win the Cup. I expect Jake to learn from this and improve, not only during the regular season but you’ll see some growth in the playoffs because of this.”

Certainly, there is a streakiness to DeBrusk’s game that hasn’t really sraightened out over two seasons, and four rounds of postseason pressure is considerable for even the most talented of young players. There’s also an element of DeBrusk fully developing into what he’s going to be when things get nasty in the playoffs. Is he going to be a tough-minded, physical power forward type who can bring size and strength to the table as he matures? Or is he going to be another in a long line of skill players that rely on speed, hands and scoring ability to do all their damage?

At 6-feet tall there’s a chance for DeBrusk to continue adding strength and muscle to his frame as he gets a little older and perhaps bring a little more physical oomph when his skating legs aren’t moving at their top speed. But there’s also the simple fact that DeBrusk is doing plenty right already with 43 goals scored in his first two NHL seasons.

The Bruins just have to hope the experience of getting to a Stanley Cup Final is going to make DeBrusk a more complete player in every facet. And the 22-year-old keeps developing the playmaking, two-way ability and consistency factors within his game that still need some improvement after two very solid seasons to begin his NHL career.  

Key stat: 4 – The number of goals for DeBrusk in 24 playoff games for the Bruins this spring. DeBrusk had six goals in eight playoff games the prior spring.

DeBrusk in his own words: “I’m just trying to see the positives out of this year in general, but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t win the last game of the year. We all believed that we were going to win it. We were right there.”

The biggest question he faces: How much better can DeBrusk get as a top-6 winger after scoring 27 goals during the regular season, but only scoring one more point overall in his second NHL season. There’s no question that the goal-scoring area was a big success for him in Year No. 2, but DeBrusk could stand to build the other areas of his game. Obviously, DeBrusk also needs to step up his playoff game after scoring just four goals in four rounds of the postseason this spring as well. Can DeBrusk regain his reputation as a playoff performer next season and beyond? That’s up to him to decide.  

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Torey Krug hoping he's "part of next wave of players" to get deals with Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy taken care of

Torey Krug hoping he's "part of next wave of players" to get deals with Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy taken care of

BRIGHTON, Mass – Torey Krug long assumed that the reason he hadn’t talked contract extension this summer with the Bruins was that they were busy working on deals for restricted free agent D-men Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Now that both McAvoy and Carlo are back in the fold with reasonable cap numbers for the next few years, Bruins general manager admitted a couple of days ago that the team can move on to future forecasts and discussions with looming free agents. As of a couple of days later the Bruins and Krug hadn’t started a dialogue on a contract extension, but the productive offensive defenseman is eagerly looking forward to those discussions as he readies for the final year of a current deal paying him $5.25 million per season.

“It’s been no secret that it’s been at the forefront getting those two deals done because [McAvoy and Carlo] are a big part of our team,” said Krug. “At least we have them locked up for the near future. So you just hope that you’re part of the next wave of guys that will get dealt with.

“I’ve made no secret that I want to be part of this room, part of this organization and part of this city [beyond this season]. So I’m hoping sooner than later it gets dealt with so I can clear my mind and focus on hockey. But that being said, it’s never a distraction. I’ve done it year after in my career aside from the [current] four-year deal.”

Only Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and John Carlson have scored more points than Krug’s 163 points over the last three seasons among NHL defensemen, and three out of those four have won Norris Trophies over that time span. Sure Krug has also been a minus-12 over that span as well, but there’s no denying his offensive prowess when he’s averaged nine goals and 54 points a season while playing top-4 minutes on the back end.

The 28-year-old also finally showed he can stay healthy during the postseason last spring and posted two goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games last spring. If the Bruins had won the Cup then Krug would have been in the middle of the Conn Smythe discussion, but instead his spring performance just added to his current value headed into a contract year.

Given all of the above and the fact the Bruins don’t have anybody – Matt Grzelcyk may never be that guy and McAvoy hasn’t developed to that point as of yet -- ready to replace Krug’s offense, re-signing the 5-foot-8 undrafted D-man should be a priority. Krug had a career-high 30 points on the power play last season as the top unit quarterback and continues to be an aggressive, smart catalyst perfectly cast in Bruce Cassidy’s offense that caters to creativity and hockey intelligence.

Best of all, Krug is willing to take a hometown discount similar to the way Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all took a little less to remain in Black and Gold.

It's a far cry from the $10 million-plus per season salaries doled out to Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner in Toronto, and Krug has made it clear he’s not looking to get every last nickel on the table when it comes to staying in Boston.

“Absolutely. I think that’s something each individual player takes into account with the situation that they’re in. The role that they play on each individual team, how good their team is and how good their team will be moving forward. [Those are all] things that I’ve definitely considered. We’ll see what happens,” said Krug. “There’s a fine between protecting yourself and what you bring to the table, and also being happy and living in a place that you love, and your family loves. I have a little girl that I have to think about now. All of these things sound cliché, but they are things you have to take into account and worry about. We’ll see what happens.”   

One thing is for sure: Krug is going to get paid somewhere. He may take a little less to keep the band together in Boston moving forward, but the seven-year, $53.025 million contract signed by Jared Spurgeon in Minnesota would seem like fair market value for Krug should he become a free agent on July 1. That’s obviously a long way from now and Sweeney and Co. will get every opportunity to come up with something fair that could keep Krug in Boston for the long haul.

But if Krug does get to free agency, he doesn’t exactly sound worried about that prospect either given the money and potential suitors that would be there vying for him.

“It’s a good problem to have, right? That being said my focus is on the Boston Bruins and the here and now, and hopefully getting some clarity [on his contract]. I’m well aware that what I do in this league is something that people want and desire, especially with the way that the game is moving,” said Krug. “The transition game is so crucial to team success and the power play helps you win hockey games in the regular season and in the playoffs. These are things that I do well and I’m sure would be things that a lot of teams would be happy to have. But I’m just worried about the Bruins here and now.”

The Bruins have said all along that they’re well aware of Krug’s importance to everything that they do on the ice. Now is a golden chance for the B’s to prove it by showing just how much of a priority it is to retain Krug beyond this season while the player is admittedly looking for “some clarity” on his future in Boston.

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Highlights from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Flyers in preseason

Highlights from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Flyers in preseason

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 3, Flyers 1

IN BRIEF: The Bruins grabbed their first win of the preseason in convincing fashion over the Flyers Thursday night. Danton Heinen, Peter Cehlarik and Connor Clifton netted goals for Boston in this one. 









@ Blackhawks, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
vs Flyers, Monday, 7:00 p.m., NHL Network 

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