BRIGHTON, Mass – Now that Matt Grzelcyk has put a full NHL season under his belt and holds a two-year NHL contract for $2.8 million after signing with the Bruins last week as a restricted free agent, it’s on to becoming the best player he can be.
The 24-year-old posted an impressive three goals and 15 points in 61 games last season as a rookie who really never looked back after winning a job early last season.
Grzelcyk showed excellent skating wheels and a real knack for breaking the puck out of the defensive zone without a lot of hesitation or costly mistakes normally associated with a first-year D-man. Even better, he managed to avoid opponents taking advantage of his 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame. Now, Grzelcyk is looking to remove some of the weaknesses in his game.
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“I don’t ever want to be too comfortable and I always want to make sure I earn everything that I get,” said Grzelcyk, while talking about his new deal in the Bruins dressing room at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday afternoon. “It helps from a piece of mind standpoint to not constantly be looking over your shoulder, but there’s still a lot of competition. I’m looking to forward to coming into camp stronger and healthier, and ready to earn my ice time.”
Some of that is about the obvious: as one of the smallest D-men in the NHL, he'll need to get bigger and stronger. Grzelcyk is also looking to improve his shot from the point, a skill that could make him a much more attractive candidate on the Bruins power play. Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy are the main trigger men on the PPs with big cannon shots from the point. That’s the kind of company Grzelcyk would like to join if he can turn his long-distance shot into a weapon.
“I can always get bigger and stronger. That’s something I’m always working on,” said Grzelcyk. “I think offensively I can use my feet to my advantage more on the blue line and obviously my shot is pretty much the No. 1 thing I’m looking to improve this [upcoming] year. I’m working hard toward that, so hopefully, that will pay a difference come training camp.”
“[I really learned] what I need to do to be successful and help the team, which is using my feet to my advantage. I think that’s huge as a smaller defenseman. Just getting that number of games under my belt and knowing what I have to do each night on the ice to get the wins, it gives me a lot more confidence and allows me to work more on my weaknesses.”
Clearly, a bigger shot and a bigger role in the offense would mean bigger point production for Grzelcyk, but it remains to be seen how high his offensive ceiling can be after a promising NHL beginning.
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The question now is, how much bigger his role might be next season after averaging 16:44 of ice time last season as a bottom-pairing D-man? There is certainly room to grow, but it will all depend on how the rest of the roster comes together this fall after what’s expected to be a fairly action-packed offseason for Bruins GM Don Sweeney.
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