David Pastrnak walks into the Bruins locker room unnoticed. There, scrums have already formed around Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo. Wearing a long-sleeve Celtics shirt, he looks around, wanders over to Noel Acciari’s locker, and notices that nobody has followed.
“Does anybody want to ask me questions?”
We do. In fact, we all come running at once.
Pastrnak has scored seven goals in five games, three of which came in Saturday’s 8-2 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. He is a part of the best line in the NHL. He is locked in through the next five seasons for a team-friendly deal worth $6.66 million annually.
He’s only 22 years old.
Though the sample size is small, it sure looks like something special is happening this season with David Pastrnak. And not just because he’s scoring goals at a torrid pace.
“The guy that’s become more of a leader is Pasta in his all-around game,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the Bruins home opener. “He’s very responsible. Getting scored on matters to him more, and I think as you get in the league as a young guy, especially wingers, they’re thinking about scoring a lot, and that’s the mentality we need to bring.”
Cassidy continued to praise Pastrnak’s improvement in all three zones and reinforced the winger’s role as someone younger players can model their game after.
“[The Bruins’ wingers] are going to watch a guy like Pasta because that’s who they’d like to be in a couple of years: a guy that can score on a regular basis but watch him play the 200-foot game and the trust he’s earned from a coach and his teammates,” Cassidy added.
Ryan Donato, who registered 16:08 of ice-time in his first game back after being a healthy scratch, referenced Pastrnak’s work ethic as inspiration for a bounce-back game.
“He’s a perfect example of guys that listen to the coaches, that have ups and downs, and then finally when he figures it out, he’s really successful and he’s done a great job and he’s going to continue to do a great job,” said Donato, who was selected in the second round of the 2014 NHL Entry draft — 31 spots behind Pastrnak.
“He’s been in the league for a long time and just having a guy that has gone through some similar things, it’s definitely positive to see that and see his success he’s having.”
It all happens because Pastrnak loves the game. He’ll tell you that himself if you ask. But you probably won’t need to.
In a game where he scored his 99th, 100th, and 101st career NHL goals—his third career hat trick in five NHL seasons—Pastrnak was just having fun out there.
“You know, I don’t really think about it,” Pastrnak said when asked if he thinks about his on-ice success. “I just go out there and play hockey, and how I said, enjoy every moment on the ice.”
Here’s how that happens. His first goal of the game came after Gustav Nyquist disrupted Brandon Carlo’s breakout attempt near his own blue line. As Carlo lost control of the puck, Pastrnak, who was playing closer to the line, was able to retrieve the puck and circle back into his own zone. From there, he takes off. He skates around Nyquist and rushes up his off-wing with time and space to score from his opposite side.
No one even comes close to touching him.
“Usually when the puck goes in the neutral zone and then they’re going to change you try to turn it up right away,” Pastrnak said. “Don’t give them any time to do the set forecheck.”
Pastrnak is playing with the enthusiasm of someone who grows more confident in their game with every stride. Right now, he’s feeling it.
“[I’m] trying to get better every practice and every game, and just, you know, having fun,” Pastrnak said. “I love the game and I’m not focusing on if I’m going to score a goal or three.”
Pastrnak is developing into a true, rare talent in the NHL. A pure sniper whose passion for the game inspires teammates, Pastrnak could be in for a season to be marked by milestones.
“I just like the fact that he’s trying to keep everyone involved in those plays and trying to be a good team player and good 200-foot player,” Cassidy said.
“Shows that he’s trying to grow his game and that’s what all the good players do.”
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