Pastrnak shows he's well on his way to NHL superstardom

Pastrnak shows he's well on his way to NHL superstardom

BRIGHTON – In each of David Pastrnak’s first four seasons with the Bruins, he’s legitimately taken a big step forward with each passing year from starting off as the youngest player in the NHL as an 18-year-old Czech kid fresh out of the Swedish League. It was that again that case in his fourth year with the Black and Gold as Pastrnak led the team in goals (35 goals, for the record) for the first time during the regular season, and then went absolutely nuclear in the playoffs with six goals and 20 points in 12 games for the Bruins. 

Certainly, Pastrnak’s three-goal, six-point effort in Game 2 against the Maple Leafs is something that’s going to be remembered in Boston for a long, long time as another chapter in a 21-year-old crossing into the threshold of NHL superstardom. 

“We’ve had some good memories in our time together since the season has ended, and remembering special moments throughout the year. If you look at the playoffs, I think Pasta’s six-point night against Toronto in the playoffs is something that’s a special moment that you don’t get to see or be a part of very often,” said David Backes. “I think we’ll look back on this year and say that [game for Pastrnak] was a very special moment.”

Amazingly enough, the top five current scoring leaders in the playoffs are all from eliminated teams in Pittsburgh and Boston, and Pastrnak is one of those five players just behind Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby for the league lead. Clearly, the 21-year-old would have loved to keep going in the Stanley Cup playoffs rather than preparing to head over to Denmark to join Team Czech Republic in the IIHF World Championships, but it was also a pretty darn good season for a player just coming into his own as an NHL superstar. 

With the offseason officially started, Pastrnak planned to take some time, decompress and get some separation from this season before thinking about next year, and another full year as one-third of the league’s best forward line along with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Perhaps even bigger and better things lie ahead for Pastrnak, and for his two veteran linemates where he’s become the third piece they were looking for the last couple of seasons.  

“They are great players, and we’ve played together for a long time. So, obviously, the chemistry only gets better when you play with somebody for a while, right?” said Pastrnak. “Especially with those two guys, they’re trying to get better every day and they just drag me with them. So, it’s been a pleasure for me to play with them, and I’m excited for next year.

“[The taste of the playoffs] is definitely something that’s going to keep me going. I want to bring it home [to Boston]. It’s all mental, you know? The points come when you’re playing well and you’re not thinking about it. I just go out there and do my best. I’m a good offensive player, so I know that the points will come if I take care of the other stuff like the D-zone, and taking care of the puck.” 

So what does Pastrnak plan for an encore next season as he continues that ascension toward NHL stardom at such a young age?

“I need to sit down and think about it a little bit and talk to my coach [in Czech Republic]. He probably has plans for me about what to get better at. I’ve been with him for a few years so he knows me and I know him, and he knows my weaknesses,” said Pastrnak. “We have a meeting, he lets me know and I just do it.

“Hopefully [Pastrnak’s line with Marchand and Bergeron] keeps getting better and better, you know? We'll work on some new plays in the summer, and have a new playbook [next season].”

There’s some true nightmare fuel for the NHL. Pastrnak is going to be even bigger, faster and stronger next season as he continues to enter his prime as an NHL player, and the NHL’s best trio of forwards could be even better next season as a result of that. Much of that is about the greatness of Bergeron and Marchand obviously, but a rapidly growing part of is a burgeoning superstar in Pastrnak that took a massive step forward this season.


Countdown to Bruins training camp: Peter Cehlarik

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Peter Cehlarik

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: Peter Cehlarik.

While the numbers aren’t gaudy for the 23-year-old Cehlarik during his first two pro seasons for the Bruins organization, the Slovakian-born winger has shown some pretty high-end talent in flashes during his brief stints in Boston. Perhaps most importantly Cehlarik brings a different element than many of the other young Bruins wingers as he has the size at 6-foot-2, 202-pounds and plays with a little more size, strength and puck possession than many of his winger peers. The former third-round pick isn’t at the top of the B’s prospect list, but he’s a player that could surprise in training camp as a top-6 forward candidate if given a chance to really pop. 

What Happened Last Year: It was a frustrating season for the talented Cehlarik to be sure as he suited up for just 41 games between Boston and Providence, and battled injuries just as he was beginning to get things going at the NHL level. Shortly after scoring his first career NHL goal in Boston, Cehlarik suffered a leg injury that wiped him out for a month and relegated him back to the AHL ranks once he was healthy enough to return to game action. Once back in Providence Cehlarik also went through the worst dry spell of his pro career as he endured a full month without a goal. The big winger finished with 11 goals and 23 points in 35 games for the P-Bruins and regained his offensive groove in the second half of the AHL season, so there’s still plenty of optimism about his offensive game after putting up 31 goals in Providence over the past two seasons.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: Cehlarik had a slow start to training camp after coming off shoulder surgery a summer ago, and the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder missed a big chunk of time in the middle of the season due to a leg injury suffered in Boston. So the biggest question about the big-bodied winger is whether he can stay healthy enough to stick on the ice for a full season and show what he can do with his skills and talent. Cehlarik stayed on the ice long enough to suit up for 49 games with the P-Bruins two seasons ago and posted a 20-goal season in Providence, but he yet again battled through some injury issues in that first North American season as well. So the biggest single question Cehlarik will face is his ability to remain healthy in order to see how good he can be at the NHL level. The talent is there and Cehlarik has some things (puck possession, finishing ability around the net) that could translate very well at the NHL level, but he needs to stay on the ice to prove it.  

In Their Words: “He has the hockey IQ and the hands, big enough body guy. You just don’t know when they come up – if they can handle the pace, the pressure, time and space issues.” –Bruce Cassidy, on Cehlarik.  

Overall Outlook: The 23-year-old Cehlarik isn’t the flashiest prospect or the young winger with the most buzz behind him, but he should very much be in the mix for a winger spot on the NHL roster along with other young players. Cehlarik is bigger and stronger than most of his B’s prospect peers and can play a little more of a puck possession game to go along with the offense, so there are some areas where he could really fit a need for the Black and Gold. But it goes without saying that Cehlarik is going to need to remain healthy to make that happen, and he’s going to need a dominant training camp in order to secure a key spot on Boston’s roster. He showed last year during a brief mid-season stint with Boston that he’s capable of playing with David Krejci, and showed that he can provide some offense in that kind of a spot. This time around is much more of a make-or-break chance for Cehlarik after banking experience in each of the last two seasons, but the opportunities will definitely be there for him with all things being equal. 


Morning Skate: Try to keep up with Chara's offseason workout

Morning Skate: Try to keep up with Chara's offseason workout

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while watching Captain America’s entrance to Avengers: Infinity War on a 24/7 loop. It’s just that good.

*Cool Instagram video from Zdeno Chara that shows a peek behind the curtain of his offseason workout with crazy strength, balance and conditioning drills for a 6-foot-9 man on the wrong side of 40. It’s no wonder he’s a physical marvel still at his advanced age, and that the end of his Hall of Fame career doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon. Chara may be older, he may no longer be a viable Norris Trophy candidate and his body may be starting to break down just a little bit more given his age, but the man is a true freak of nature with his strength, size and conditioning. There are no two ways about that.

*Ryan Ellis has signed a long-term extension with the Nashville Predators for a cap friendly number as the Preds continue to build and sustain a long-term winner.

*Interesting piece on Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley’s wife, Karin, running for a Senate seat in Minnesota.

*Pro Hockey Talk says that Ilya Kovalchuk is under pressure as he begins a big three-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

*Boy, it sure sounds like the Arizona Coyotes are in a heap of financial trouble as their fiscal losses continue to mount.

*For something completely different: Pretty interesting interview with Michelle MacLaren, the director from this week’s "Better Call Saul" that gives some good insight into the characters on the show, and the exciting direction its headed toward Breaking Bad-ville.