It’s probably because he came in with such high expectations (first-round pick, 14th overall in 2016) that Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy has never really gotten a fair shake in terms of developing at the NHL level. Of course, he also starred for two seasons across town at Boston University and won a gold medal with the United States at the 2017 World Juniors Championship so it is understandable that fans would think that he would be a star right away.
This is the same guy that played his first NHL game in the 2017 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators and didn’t skip a beat, playing top defensive pairing minutes opposite Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. His second professional regular season has been a bumpy journey full of fits and stops (concussion, foot infection, etc.) but at just the right time, it appears that McAvoy is still the potential franchise defenseman that we all projected him to be.
Despite appearing in basically half (29 out of 56) the games for the Bruins (31-17-8) in this campaign, it was clear over the weekend where the B’s picked up a pair of overtime wins at TD Garden that McAvoy remains one of the few untouchable players on Boston’s NHL roster when it comes to the trade deadline, which is only two weeks away. Reunited with Chara on Boston’s top defensive pairing, McAvoy has played over 24 minutes in three of the last five games, including a team-high 25:34 vs. the Avalanche on Sunday.
He has two goals, 13 assists, is plus-8 this season, and his production has picked up recently with three points over the weekend.
“I feel like I’ve been playing a consistent brand of hockey and trying to just continue that,” said the 21-year-old McAvoy, who if he hadn’t left school early could be a senior at BU playing in the Beanpot on Monday night. “That’s my goal every single game: to be relied on, to be solid, to try to play mistake-free hockey — obviously that’s not possible — but do my best.”
Unlike the Patriots, who have no obvious succession plan at quarterback whenever Tom Brady retires, McAvoy seems suited to take over once the 41-year-old Chara hangs up his huge skates and comically long hockey stick. His teammates affectionately refer to McAvoy with a truly great hockey nickname: Chuckie Bright Lights. That sums up what they feel about his unlimited talent since he always appears to play his best when the stakes are the highest.
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Boston is riding a seven-game point streak (4-0-3) heading into Tuesday’s (7, NESN) meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks (23-24-9), who are surprisingly the NHL’s hottest team as winners of seven straight games. Charlie’s all-around game was on full display in the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday as he had two shots on goal, three bone-crunching hits, three takeaways, and two blocked shots. A healthy and confident McAvoy is exactly what the Bruins need for the stretch run of the calendar and heading into the postseason.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate