Jake DeBrusk is arriving at a crossroads in his NHL career.
The Boston Bruins winger once looked like a budding star, totaling a career-high 43 points as a rookie in 2017-18 and scoring a career-high 27 goals as a sophomore in 2018-19. But back-to-back seasons plagued by regression, including a 2020-21 campaign in which he was limited to just five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 41 games, have sent the 24-year-old back to the drawing board.
“I need to revamp some stuff,” DeBrusk said Friday during a video conference. “Obviously, there’s a lot of factors that went into this year — some things that I could control and couldn’t control. I dealt with a lot of negativity, as well. It’s one of those things that it’s something you just have to learn, as you sign up. I’m a big boy, I can handle that. It’s something that I just became a little bit of an easy target. So, my haters had a lot to say this year.
“But it’s one of those things where, like I said, just need to revamp some things with training and different mindset. My mindset’s in an interesting place right now. Every year, it’s obviously different. It’s disappointing, obviously, emotions are still high. I’m disappointed for myself and obviously the team. But I’m looking forward to this year. I’ve got to prove a lot of people wrong.”
This was an unusual season for everyone due the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was especially difficult for DeBrusk, who tested positive for the coronavirus and missed time as a result.
It felt like DeBrusk constantly faced an uphill climb, and a lack of production forced Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to healthy scratch the young forward on more than one occasion, including Game 5 of Boston’s second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Islanders.
As for the “negativity,” DeBrusk couldn’t pinpoint the exact root of it. Instead, he spoke in general terms Friday, two days after the Islanders eliminated the Bruins in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum, and emphasized the importance of pushing through for those wearing the same uniform.
“I don’t really know, if that makes any sense. It just felt like there’s a lot (of negativity). It’s just one of those things where you just feel it. Not really pointing out anyone,” DeBrusk said. “The one thing that I did learn is that you obviously play for your teammates and the people in this room. That’s all that I really look for now, is just kind of doing it for the guy beside you.”
The Bruins surely remain hopeful that DeBrusk will bounce back and evolve into a legitimate top-six forward capable of providing much-needed secondary scoring beyond Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
DeBrusk still is young, talented and now, more than ever, has a chip on his shoulder while looking ahead to the 2021-22 season.