It’s been an exciting few months for Charlie McAvoy.
The Boston Bruins’ first pick (14th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft has been a part of some big-stage hockey games in recent months, including a march to the gold medal with Team USA at the world junior championship and during his time at Boston University.
However, none of those games could compare to Wednesday night, when the 19-year-old defenseman made his NHL debut in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series against the Ottawa Senators.
McAvoy’s NHL debut was due in large part to thin depth on the Bruins’ blue line. After Torey Krug (lower body) and Brandon Carlo (concussion) went down with injuries, McAvoy’s signing of an entry-level contract with the B’s on April 10 made it apparent that he’d soon see ice time on the professional level.
However, it remained unknown just how involved McAvoy would be for the Bruins heading into Wednesday night at Canadian Tire Centre. But after Boston’s impressive 2-1 victory in Game 1, one thing became clear: McAvoy is here to play.
In his first ever NHL game, McAvoy logged the second-most time on ice for the B’s (24:11), just behind Zdeno Chara (25:32), who made his NHL debut 32 days before McAvoy was born. The young blueliner also was heavily featured on the Bruins’ power play, where he’d demonstrate his puck-distributing abilities.
The most notable takeaway from McAvoy’s debut was his poise and composure. Inexperienced and playing on the grand stage that is the Stanley Cup playoffs, he still maintained a sense of belonging throughout the contest. After he got settled in and the game progressed, it was hard to remember that he’s still a teenager.
While McAvoy’s offensive skills have been touted, his defensive showing had to have been a pleasant surprise for the Bruins. In his first game against bigger, faster and stronger competition, McAvoy hung tough against veteran forwards such as Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan. While Ottawa had to have viewed McAvoy as an area to target going into Wednesday night, it soon learned the rookie can compete at the highest level.
The Bruins must be thrilled with McAvoy’s performance, especially considering the circumstances. In addition to Krug and Carlo’s injuries, Colin Miller exited Game 1 in the second period after colliding knee-to-knee with Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki. With an already hobbled defensive unit, McAvoy provided a much-needed lift for Boston.
While Krug, Carlo and Miller’s statuses still are unclear, it’s hard to imagine head coach Bruce Cassidy removing McAvoy from the lineup anytime soon. His abilities on both ends of the ice are too valuable to put to waste, which was all but confirmed Wednesday.
Yes, it was just one game, but it usually takes NHL newcomers quite some time to get adjusted to the professional level. The fact that McAvoy excelled in his first NHL game, in the Stanley Cup playoffs no less, is a great sign for the Bruins.
Thumbnail photo via NHL TV