From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Charlie McAvoy.
Charlie McAvoy didn’t end up winning the Calder Trophy and probably didn’t have the complete rookie season he envisioned, but the 20-year-old also showed a lot of resiliency and regularly flashed the goods that will make him a future No. 1 defenseman in Boston. It was a year in which a little bit of everything was thrown at him, but it ended on a high note with McAvoy finding his game in the second round against Tampa Bay and playing very well for Team USA at the IIHF World Championships. As with David Pastrnak, the sky is the limit for McAvoy, an ultra-talented player who's going to be a part of the long-term plans in Boston.
What Happened Last Year: After getting his feet wet in the playoffs two seasons ago, McAvoy was a full time D-man from training camp through the playoffs. The former BU star finished with strong numbers for a rookie defenseman (seven goals, 32 points) despite undergoing an in-season heart procedure and then suffering a late-season knee injury that left a lot of rust on his game when the playoffs began. When heatlhy, McAvoy had some strong and impressive individual performances and worked into a successful top-pairing D-partnership with Zdeno Chara. When the season was over, there was little doubt McAvoy is on track to become the No. 1 defenseman in Boston and will be in Black and Gold for a long, long time.
Questions To Be Answered This Season: The biggest is probably his ability to remain healthy, considering the amount of contact he’ll absorb as a workhorse-type D-man in the NHL. Given his sturdy frame (6-foot, 205 pounds) and his ability, prior to last year, to remain healthy, it’s easy to give McAvoy a pass and assume those were outliers rather than signs to come. Beyond that, the only question for McAvoy is how quickly he'll develop. He’s already shown he can play 25-plus minutes per night and that he can do everything well, so now McAvoy simple needs to beat the sophomore jinx and keep improving after a rock-solid rookie campaign.
In Their Words: “I think I grew mentally from [the adversity]. It’s good sometimes to go through something like that and have that experience. I thought that coming back [from the knee injury] was a little tough, but then I felt like I played my best hockey of the year when it mattered, towards the end, in that last series against Tampa. I thought I gave it everything I had and left it out there in Game 5, and unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Like I said, there are some big things that you can pull from, and I’m going to pull from them and, you know, hopefully be a lot better next year for it.” –Charlie McAvoy, on the challenges of his rookie season and how they can make him a better player moving forward.
Overall Outlook: McAvoy came into his rookie season with a lot of hype after his strong NHL debut during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, and he largely lived up to it while finishing among the top five for Calder Trophy voting. The challenge is to build on that while more gets thrown on his shoulders by a Bruins team that clearly has big plans for him. It'll be interesting to see what kind of season McAvoy has in 2018-19 with his entry level deal up after this season and a big second contract potentially sitting there. McAvoy has Drew Doughty-type potential at the NHL level, and now it’s just a matter of how quickly he can get there.