Suffering from injuries and reassignments can derail a young player’s progression. That’s had an effect for David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ 2014 first round pick.
Being a 19-year-old in the National Hockey League is never easy. Facing stiff competition, bigger bodies and more mature players can have a mental impact. Every discussion about a player’s upside is counteracted with some growing pains. It’s the players response to adversity that separates themselves to reach their full potential.
Pastrnak, whose presence is critical during the home stretch, is starting to find his niche. Earlier this week against the Panthers — despite tallying a goal — he was relegated to the fourth line after a couple of turnovers that led to quality chances. He reunited with fellow linemates David Krejci and Loui Eriksson in Tampa but struggled to generate any offense and didn’t tally a single shot on goal.
Facing adversity, Pastrnak responded with a goal against the Hurricanes and was one of the best players on the ice in the B’s 3-2 overtime loss. His progression continued against the Islanders on Saturday tallying a pair of goals late in the second and third periods to secure a 3-1 win for the Black and Gold.
Pastrnak, for all the offensive upside he has, also did the little things well on Saturday. He was strong on the forecheck, okay defensively and played well enough away from the puck to find separation and create scoring chances. Because of that, it led to Claude Julien giving his talented more ice time when the Bruins needed him the most.
“I’m just trying to focus on getting better,” Pastrnak said about feeling confident with his increased ice time given to him by Julien and his coaching staff. “You know it’s a lot of stuff to improve for me you know I’m still young, I’m learning, and how I said trying to learn from the guys like Krech [Krejci], Bergy [Patrice Bergeron], you know Loui [Eriksson] and the older guys with much experience. And I think with the more experience I can have, the better player I’ll be.”
That’s not to say Pastrnak hasn’t had much experience in his two professional seasons. If anything, he certainly has a lot of hockey under his belt — even with an injury sustained back in October that kept him out of action for a few months. Whether he’s spent time in Boston, Providence or even representing his home country of the Czech Republic during the World Junior Championship’s the last two seasons, Pastrnak is gaining some valuable experience.
Barring a major collapse, the Bruins will be returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Assuming he’s injury free, Julien will certainly need Pastrnak to improve in other areas, including turnovers, if the B’s are to make a serious run.
“Well he is coming along in the way that you guys are seeing him. I guess I can’t define and say he’s great, he’s poor, whatever, there’s definitely areas when you look at his game such as tonight he was really good for us,” Julien said about Pastrnak, who had a game-high six giveaways.
“We all see it and people who know the game will also see where there are areas he has to improve, and he’s got to get stronger on the puck and not turn them over as much as he does, and it’s going to happen in the game. But it’s about playing the clock as well as looking where you are. If you are up by one goal in your last few minutes, can’t afford big turnovers, it’s about making the right decision. So it’s about playing the game the proper way at the right time and to me he’s learning that part of it and tonight I thought he was better than he had been some of these other nights there where I had to take some of his ice time away. But he’s learning, and we are going to stick with him and continue to give him opportunities to get better.”
In 39 games, Pastrnak has 12 goals and 10 assists. He’d be on pace to join the 20-20 club for the first time if he were playing a full 82-game schedule. With time and experience, those numbers will come.