With 150 points combined in his first two full NHL seasons with the Boston Bruins, David Pastrnak is not a surprise anymore. Did any of us predict he would sit second in playoff scoring with 18 points through nine games? OK, maybe not. But when you look at the pedigree of the player and the situation the Bruins have put him in, it becomes a little more obvious why Pastrnak is succeeding.
Playing on The Best Line in Hockey (yes, I’m trying to make this a thing) with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Pastrnak is getting the best kind of on-the-job training a 21-year-old pro could get as he strives for his first Stanley Cup title.
“We’ve played together for a long time and they’ve been in the league for awhile,” Pastrnak said. “They’ve won a Cup, so they know what it takes and it’s easy for me to listen to them and get better every day.”
Pastrnak is a textbook example of an organization identifying a talent and cashing in at the draft. As much grief as Boston has taken for the 2015 draft (and hey, Jake DeBrusk’s looking OK, isn’t he?), let’s not forget that the Bruins got Pastrnak 25th overall in 2014. Only Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl has more points in the NHL so far from that draft class, while No. 1 pick Aaron Ekblad is still pretty darn good when he’s healthy. But who else would you rather have right now? Maybe William Nylander or Nikolaj Ehlers, but neither has the defensive chops of Pastrnak right now and the Bruins right winger still puts big points up. The fact Pastrnak was able to play half an NHL season straight from the podium was a great indicator of future returns.
In the here and now, Boston is engaged in a crackling series with Tampa Bay (who also scored in 2014 with Brayden Point, after whiffing in the first round on Anthony D’Angelo) and the big line is still fearsome.
“We try to do everything,” Pastrnak said. “Bergy’s a great positional player and Marchy is fast, so we try to be in a good position for Bergy in the ‘D’ zone because he does a great job in the offensive zone for us. I think I’m the shooter, though Marchy has a great shot, too. Any of us can score, any of us can defend. We have a great chemistry.”
And this line can be great for years to come. Bergeron has the “shortest” contract and he’s locked in until 2022. What’s more, the Bruins are setting themselves up for a smooth transition as some of their veteran stars head towards the twilights of their careers. Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy are the best example on the defense corps, but up front the B’s have a lot of nice talent bubbling up.
Danton Heinen, for example, scored a crucial goal against Toronto in the first round, while Ryan Donato has a ton of skills just waiting to be unleashed on the NHL in full measure. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson could be the next David Krejci, while Trent Frederic also has the chops to be a solid two-way player. Jack Studnicka is another youngster that plays hard and skilled, and he seems to play his best when the pressure on.
That’s a lot of talent at the disposal of a team that is already one of the best in the league and under coach Bruce Cassidy, this squad is playing with more pace than it did under Claude Julien.
Of course, when you’ve got talents like Pastrnak on your side, why wouldn’t you try to push your opponents as much as possible?