Bruins

Countdown to Camp: Charlie McAvoy

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Countdown to Camp: Charlie McAvoy

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Highlights of Boston Bruins' 5-2 exhibition win over Washington Capitals

Highlights of Boston Bruins' 5-2 exhibition win over Washington Capitals

FINAL SCORE

5-2, Bruins

IN BRIEF

Jakub Lauko scored for the second straight game, and Zach Senyshyn tacked on two goals of his own in the B's third exhibition victory. Click here for today's box score.

BRUINS EXHIBITION RECORD

3-0-0

HIGHLIGHTS

WHAT'S NEXT

  • WEDNESDAY: vs. Flames in second game of China Series, 7:30 a.m. EDT
  • SATURDAY: at Red Wings, 7 p.m.
  • MONDAY: at Flyers, 7 p.m.

 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Stempniak, Winnik face uphill battle for Bruins roster spot

Stempniak, Winnik face uphill battle for Bruins roster spot

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was a little surprising when there were no veteran tryouts originally announced for the Bruins training camp roster a couple of weeks ago. That changed quickly when the two groups were split into those 23 players making the trip to China and those sticking behind in Boston, as the B’s also announced that veteran NHL forwards Daniel Winnik and Lee Stempniak would be in camp with the Black and Gold.

Both players have had long, solid NHL careers with a litany of teams after starring for New England college hockey programs, Stempniak with Dartmouth and Winnik with UNH, and both players are now veterans that will need to sing for their NHL supper in training camp. The 35-year-old Stempniak is obviously a familiar face having played for the Black and Gold a couple of seasons ago, and being a regular captain’s practice attendee given his permanent Boston residence.

Stempniak is coming off a tough season where injuries limited him to just 37 games with the Carolina Hurricanes with three goals and nine points, and the way things played out made things even more difficult. Stempniak was injured in training camp and then fractured his collarbone just minutes into his first game on a rehab stint, and that put him in futile catch-up mode for the rest of the season.

Given the way things ended for Stempniak last year it’s easy to see why he’s on a PTO looking for a job this season, but Stempniak is just happy to be healthy and making his preseason debut on Tuesday night for the Bruins.

“Last year was a tough one for me,” admitted Stempniak. “I got hurt in camp, got injured when I came back for rehab and didn’t even get into a game with Carolina until the middle of January. I just never felt like I was able to catch up to where everybody else was at that point, and you really just don’t feel like a part of the team in the first few months of the season when you’re coming back from injuries.

“I feel good now and last season is behind me now, so I come in here with a good chance to show what I can do. That’s all you can really ask for.”

Given his experience playing the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand during his last stint with the B’s, Stempniak provides Boston with a steady, solid and productive alternative if all of their young options aren’t ready for prime time. It may very well not play out that way for Stempniak with players like Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen off to strong starts, but the comfortable situation with Boston should put the veteran in a good spot to show other NHL teams what he can do as well.

“It’s great to be in a place where you know the people in the organization and there’s plenty of familiarity with the players,” said Stempniak. “There’s the added benefit of living here as well, so this was just a really good fit for me when I was looking for a spot in a training camp. Given how last season went I’m not all that surprised to be coming in on a PTO, and now it’s just about working hard and competing for a job.”

It’s a bit of a different story for Winnik, who is coming off a solid season as a bottom-6 forward with the Minnesota Wild and showed he can still play at a high level last season. The 33-year-old had six goals and 23 points in 81 games, had a plus-5 rating and provided the versatility of playing both left wing and center in a third or fourth line role. He’s had to go the PTO route a couple of times in recent seasons, so it wasn’t a big shock to come to Boston competing for an energy line spot with guys like Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom and others that already hold guaranteed NHL deals with the Black and Gold.

Winnik had a decent debut with the B’s on Sunday afternoon when he finished with a couple of shots on net, won more than 50 percent of his draws and showed his penalty kill abilities while playing with the B’s group that stayed behind in Boston.

“Last year I was on a PTO, so it’s similar to that. But even in year’s past I feel like I’ve always had to establish myself on the roster no matter how firm I might be set by a contract. There were always young guys trying to take my position,” said Winnik. “Signing with the Bruins would obviously be the best case for me. We’ll see how it goes. I thought I was off to a good start in that last game.

“I think it’s the way the league is going that PTO’s are just becoming more popular. I don’t know how many guys are on them this season, but in year’s past there have been tons of guys in camps on PTO’s, and they’re all well-established guys that are third or fourth line players like myself. For older guys it’s harder to get jobs these days.”

The bottom line is this for both veteran players: It’s going to take injuries and under-performance from younger players to open up an NHL roster spot for either Stempniak or Winnik to start the regular season.