Bruins

Charlie McAvoy was not perfect, but definitely thrilled to be back

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Charlie McAvoy was not perfect, but definitely thrilled to be back

BOSTON – It wasn’t a perfect return to the lineup for rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy, but the 20-year-old was just happy to be healthy and back in the swing of things after missing four games following a heart procedure to deal with an abnormal heart rhythm. McAvoy returned slightly ahead of the two week timetable initially set out for him, and skated a shade under 19 minutes of ice time for the Bruins in a dominant 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

It wasn’t a highly eventful night for McAvoy as he finished without any shots on net, points or registered hits, but he was just understandably happy to be in the saddle with the Black and Gold.

“You know, you want to see where you’re at physically, and mentally when you don’t play in a couple games. You miss out and you want to come back and get back into it and the game speed, and decision making,” said McAvoy. “Overall it was a good game and when you come out on top against a division rival like that it is awesome. We’re really happy in here.

MORE BRUINS: Zdeno Chara: fantastic at forty

“I think there was more good than bad. Coming back is never easy when you want to get right back into game speed and start making plays and [do] the stuff you were doing before. That will come and that’s fine. There were glimpses of that tonight where I’m coming back and making these plays, and they’re going to continue to come. So I feel good.”

Clearly McAvoy was a little rusty reading the play, reacting to pressure and engaging in the battle in the key areas on the ice, and it showed in the first period when a Mitch Marner point shot bounced off his stick and into the net for Toronto’s only goal in the game. It was a case of bad luck for the talented rookie, and goalie Tuukka Rask was quick to show as much when he gave McAvoy a quick after the Leafs scoring play went down. 

MORE BRUINS: Bruins shutdown the Leafs in 4-1 win

The actual goal probably could have happened to anybody in a wrong place/wrong time kind of scenario, but McAvoy did appear a little more tentative and conservative with the puck than he is when fully in the flow of things.

“I knew it was going to be a little rust, simply because you miss time and then why you missed the time, and then we didn’t have team practices so he couldn’t get acclimated to the banging and the confrontation part of it,” said Cassidy. “You can skate all you want, but until you get in there and jostle a little bit, it’s tough, so he got that under his belt.

MORE BRUINS: Teflon Tuukka

‘I’m sure it’ll get better as it goes along. He still gave us some quality minutes, made good plays, but you could tell obviously that he had been out a little while. Obviously, the other guys picked him up when they needed to, but still made his plays, and was a good player for us.”

With the first game out of the way and everything on the up and up with McAvoy, the sky is now the limit for the young defenseman as he gets stronger, faster and savvier now that the 20-year-old is again armed with a clean bill of health.

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B's set sights on Day 2 of NHL draft after "excruciating" first round

B's set sights on Day 2 of NHL draft after "excruciating" first round

DALLAS – With the opening night of the 2018 NHL draft behind them, the Boston Bruins are looking forward to making their five draft picks on Saturday morning’s second day at the American Airlines Center home of the Dallas Stars. 

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B’s general manager Don Sweeney is also looking forward to trying not to repeat Friday night again, which became the Bruins essentially sitting on their hands without a first round pick as they watched 31 picks unfold around them. The B’s shipped their first round pick, the 26th overall selection, to the New York Rangers in the Rick Nash deal, and rued not having a pick of their own while not exactly regretting the “go for it” move they made at the deadline. 

“Painful. That was excruciating. Let’s try not to let that happen again,” said Sweeney. “You’re really disappointed that you’re coming out empty-handed [on Friday] night. I’ve said all along that draft and development is going to be a lifeline. I still don’t regret at the time making the decision. We were really looking upon our hockey club and we all said that we were in it to win it. 

“So we could put ourselves back in that position. I’ll never say that I would never do it again, but I would just like to have a better result. Bottom line.”

So now the Bruins focus on Saturday’s second day of the draft: Their picks include the 57th overall pick in the second round, the 77th overall pick in the third round, the 119th overall pick in the fourth round, the 181st pick in the sixth round and the 212th overall pick in the sixth round. 

The Bruins have done well in the second round under Sweeney with Jack Studnicka, Ryan Lindgren, Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon as their top Day 2 selections over the last three years. Some names to keep in mind with one of those expected to be in the mix for the Black and Gold, Hingham’s Jay O’Brien, scooped up in the first round on Friday night with the 19th overall pick going to the Philadelphia Flyers:

Bode Wilde, defenseman (US National Development Team): Armed with one of the best hockey names in the draft, the 6-2, 196-pound Wilde has ideal size and skill set to match on the back end. Wilde is strong and durable with all of the key ingredients to be able to play big minutes in all situations, has an excellent first step to get into fast gear with his skating game and also boasts a big, booming shot to really check off all the boxes at defenseman. Wilde was expected to be a first-round pick on the opening night of the draft, so he would make a really nice acquisition in the second round for a Bruins organization that’s done a really good job of collecting talent the past handful of years. The B’s may need to trade up higher in the second round to get Wilde, but there are several players like Ryan McLeod, Mattias Samuelsson, Akil Thomas, Jacob Olofsson and Benoit-Oliver Groulx that are first round talents still available when things open on Saturday morning.    

Oskar Back – center (Farjestads): The 6-foot-2, 192-pound center has the size and tools that you look for in a frontline center and posted 10 goals and 32 points in 38 games for his Swedish junior team this past season. The Bruins already have a wave of young center prospects in Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Jack Studnicka, but you can never have too much depth or quality down the middle of your lineup. Back didn’t score in a 14-game audition in the Swedish Elite League last season, but just the fact that he was there for that many games says something about his game and the high ceiling for his hockey talent. His overall performance doesn’t scream out anything dynamic offensively, but the reports indicate he’s smart, strong along the boards and makes his teammates better when he’s out on the ice. He’d be a pretty safe pick at the 57th spot, but given his size/strength and the intangibles in his game, it certainly sounds like there’s some serious NHL potential there even if he doesn’t turn out to be a top-6 center. Why the Bruins would select Back: They certainly value prospects coming out of Sweden and he checks off many boxes at the point that the Bruins will be selecting at the very end of the second round. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Back: He sounds like another potential third line center in an organization where they’ve already got a couple of those guys in Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.

Aidan Dudas – center/right wing (Owen Sound): The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Dudas is the kind of player that seems to be finding a lot of success at the NHL level these days. He’s extremely undersized, but he’s also fast, creative and highly productive offensively. The Bruins have already passed on a couple of these type players in the draft having bypassed both Alex DeBrincat and Kailer Yamamoto in recent years, and perhaps they’ll make up for that by zeroing in on Dudas. The right-shooting center-wing finished his draft season with 31 goals and 65 points in 68 games for the Owen Sound Attack, and really elevated his draft stock this year after a quiet rookie season in the OHL. The fact he also busted out for a pair of goals and three points in the CHL Top Prospects Game against the best and brightest of his peers also showed that size and strength levels will play beyond junior hockey. His blistering shot and release are probably his most NHL-ready attributes and certainly could carry him a long way. Why the Bruins would select Dudas: You can never have enough speed and skill, and Dudas has both of those things in large amounts even if he doesn’t have the prototypical size to go along with it. Plus the kid is from Parry Sound, and things worked out pretty well for the Bruins the last time they took the best player from that area. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Dudas: They’ve passed on smaller skill players like DeBrincat and Yamamoto before, so they certainly could do it again as they’re already size and strength-challenged a bit on the wing. 

Kevin Bahl – defenseman (Ottawa): The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Bahl is one of the biggest players in this year’s draft and has consistently been a winner and among the best shutdown D-men of his age group throughout his amateur hockey career. Bahl is intimidating at his size and strength level, using his stick very well for a younger player and also skates pretty smoothly despite his massive frame. He hasn’t shown much offense at all to this point in his career and may be a fairly one-dimensional shutdown defenseman at the NHL level. Still, there is room for those kinds of players at Bahl’s size. The one thing that seems to be an issue for Bahl at this point in his career is his willingness to throw his weight around and play a more physical game. That’s something he’s going to need to do if he’s going to consistently play at the NHL level without much offensive skill. For the Bruins, it’s certainly a good value pick if you can get an accomplished, mammoth shutdown D-man at the end of the second round. Why the Bruins would select Bahl: With Zdeno Chara turning 42 years old this upcoming season, the idea of drafting a huge, left-shot shutdown defenseman is pretty sound logic. Bahl has been a winner throughout his career as well, and the Bruins value those kinds of players. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Bahl: They already have Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vaakanainen in the system, and may not want to use their top selection in this draft on another left shot D-man. We’ll see.

Stanislav Demin – defenseman (Wenatchee): The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Demin was extremely productive in the BCHL with nine goals and 45 points in 57 games for the Wenatchee Wild. The California native is the highest-rated prospect coming out of the BCHL and had a strong playoff as well for the Wild. He’s committed to the University of Denver in the fall and could be a good, long-range defenseman prospect that the Bruins could let develop at the college ranks for a bit. The size and skill level is good as is the skating game for a solid D-man that’s only real question is going to be the competition level he faced in the BCHL. Why the Bruins would select Demin: He’s good value at the end of the second round as he looks and sounds like a prospect that could turn into a very useful and productive NHL player. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Demin: They’ve taken a defenseman with their top pick in each of the last three drafts and might decide to go in a different direction this time around, though it shouldn’t really matter if he’s the best player available.

Justin Almeida – center (Moose Jaw): The 5-foot-10, 163-pound Almeida didn’t look like he was going to be much of a high-end draft prospect headed into this season, and then he absolutely exploded for the Moose Jaw Warriors this year. Almeida used his speed and high-end scoring ability to rack up 43 goals and 98 points in 72 games this season before piling up another six goals and 13 points in 14 playoff games for Moose Jaw. He’s obviously a bit of a project given his current size and he’s only got the one dominant season on his resume after being a bit of an underachiever earlier in his junior career, but it’s hard to ignore the kind of production and dominance he showed as a center/left wing this season in the WHL. Why the Bruins would select Almeida: The skills are there and if he’d done a bit more consistently, he’d probably be talked about as a possible first-round selection even though he’s already 19 years old. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Almeida: He was a bit of an underachiever prior to his one excellent season, so it’s difficult to gauge what exactly he’s going to be at the next level where he projected as a bottom-6 prospect prior to this season.

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Sweeney indicates ball is in Kovalchuk's court after Friday meeting

Sweeney indicates ball is in Kovalchuk's court after Friday meeting

DALLAS – The beat goes on in the chase for winger Ilya Kovalchuk as his camp had discussions on Friday afternoon with the four finalists for the Russian free agent, the Bruins, Kings, Golden Knights, and Sharks. Don Sweeney indicated that the ball is now in the 35-year-old winger’s court, and it’s up to him to decide.

“We put our position forth. He’s got plenty of options that he’s mulling over as we discussed, and he said he’d get back to us,” said Don Sweeney. “Really, it’s on their time frame. [We talked about] about where you have to be at, and what they predict the range is. Maybe all bids aren’t in and maybe that range will move. But they certainly gave a range and an indication of where you need to be. The terms can always vary until you get something agreed upon on paper. We’ve been consistent that we’d be in the ballpark.”

The high range could be, as was reported on NBCSportsBoston.com, that Kovalchuk’s camp is looking for a comparable deal to the three-year, $18.75 million contract Patrick Marleau signed with Toronto ahead of this past season. But there are a lot of factors that make Kovalchuk less than comparable to Marleau at this point in time. It’s been five seasons since Kovalchuk played in the NHL and the Russian winger bolted out on his last contract with the New Jersey Devils prior to jumping to the KHL. 

The more comparable low-end-of-the-range player to Kovalchuk in terms of circumstance is Alexander Radulov, who signed a one-year, $5.25 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens after returning from Russia following his time with the Nashville Predators. He signed his big deal with the Dallas Stars after posting 18 goals and 54 points with the Habs in the 2016-17 season.

Clearly, Kovalchuk deserves a little more than Radulov based on his past accomplishments at the NHL level, so splitting the high/low difference would leave an offer in the two-year, $13 million range that would be fair to both sides. That should be the ballpark that the Bruins are currently in, and the lengths that they go in terms of term and money for a 35-year-old player that has some things prove all over again in a league that’s much faster and skill-oriented than in his previous go-round.

The B’s are in a position where they don’t need to over-extend for a player like Kovalchuk and get themselves into a situation where they pay too much for an aging free agent as they did with Matt Beleskey and David Backes in previous years. 

If things don’t work out with Kovalchuk, then expect things will start kicking up with free agent power forwards like Rick Nash and James van Riemsdyk as the Bruins look for that offensive punch on their second line. 

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