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  • A reflective Jake DeBrusk returns to Seattle under different circumstances

    Tim Rosenthal February 23, 2023

    SEATTLE — At this point a year ago, Jake DeBrusk hardly knew if he’d remain a Bruin for much longer.

    DeBrusk’s trade request became public a couple of months prior. His reported falling out with head coach Bruce Cassidy only intensified after a post-Thanksgiving healthy scratch.

    By February, DeBrusk had earned enough trust from his previous bench boss to move into a top-line role on his off-wing next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

    In his first game with Marchand and Bergeron, the 2015 first-round pick scored twice during that Feb. 24 tilt with the Kraken, including the overtime winner.

    “It definitely brings back memories,” DeBrusk said in his first trip back to Climate Pledge Arena following Wednesday’s practice. “This was a new team and a new rink, so obviously you try to take it all in. You obviously remember your first moments walking in…but yeah, it was obviously a big time [moment]. It obviously changed my year, and it changed a lot of things where they are now. So it’s not obviously a bad thing to remember that.”

    Indeed, it’s not a bad memory.

    DeBrusk learned about the specific nuances that made Marchand and Bergeron such an elite duo for nearly a decade-and-a-half.

    Those who skated with Marchand and Bergeron prior to DeBrusk found varied success. Mark Recchi and David Pastrnak stand out among the numerous wingers who thrived in that role.

    DeBrusk didn’t know if he’d stick with Bergeron or Marchand in the long term. Even with the trade request hovering over him, he wasn’t going to let that opportunity go to waste.

    “It’s obviously an electric two players that have played together for a while, and guys go up there have success all the time,” DeBrusk said. “But, we’re talking about a year ago where you don’t know if you’re gonna [have success]. It’s one of those things where you look ahead if you didn’t, and at the same time, if you did, you wouldn’t get [too much] credit. It was one of those positions where I wanted to find my game and do anything I can to help play with those guys. Because I didn’t know how long I’d play at that time, or if it was going to stick.”

    Well, DeBrusk stuck with Marchand and Bergeron. He’s taken the lofty expectations set by Bergeron and Marchand and turned that into the most productive stretch of his career.

    With a relentless puck pursuit along the walls, a stout skating game and heavy net-front work, DeBrusk’s improved 200-foot game complimented Marchand and Bergeron to the tune of 34 goals and 24 assists in 70 games. Just as importantly, DeBrusk has also developed a healthy routine with Bergeron and Marchand away from the rink.

    “We talked a lot about preparation with any player on our line. It’s not just about going on the ice and putting in the work, but it’s also [watching] video and talking and communicating and the off-ice workouts and stretching and all that stuff,” Bergeron said of DeBrusk. “We’ve had some conversations, and I think he’s been doing a good job of trying to learn from that if you will, and as I said, maturing and becoming more of a professional.”

    “Probably the biggest thing is consistency and just how they prepare. That’s the biggest thing when I first started learning from them is they let me know what was expected of me early on,” DeBrusk said on what he’s learned from Bergeron and Marchand. “They told me what they needed me to do to help them, and they haven’t changed that once. That’s one of the reasons think it’s easy for me to transition into [the top line].”

    DeBrusk returns to Seattle looking to fully reacclimate himself to a fuller workload, this time under a different coach.

    The Edmonton-born product scored in back-to-back games since returning from a hand and foot injury he sustained during his triumphant two-goal outing at the Winter Classic. And unlike his predecessor who at times was reluctant to slot DeBrusk into more marquee roles on the power play and penalty kill, Montgomery remains eager to assign more minutes to his top-line right-winger.

    “It’s been better than I expected. I think he’s been able to handle the minutes easily,” Montgomery said of DeBrusk’s return. “But purposely I haven’t used him on the penalty kill, and we’re going to have to start using him on the penalty kill because he’s been one of our best penalty killers. So we have to get him up to snuff there, but I’m happy with where he’s at.”

    Very few would’ve expressed that sentiment from DeBrusk a year ago. He’s transitioned from a rumored trade commodity to potentially becoming a long-term fixture on Boston’s top-six.

    DeBrusk and the Bruins continue to hear trade chatter entering the final week of this year’s trade deadline. This year, his name doesn’t appear on the multiple featured trade deadline lists. Instead, he can turn his attention to another tilt with the Kraken with fewer distractions.

    “It’s still a tough time. You’re never going to know what’s going to happen. The trade deadline is coming up. There’s lots of things and stuff happening as of recent, and everyone is keeping an eye on it,” DeBrusk said. “But at the same time, I’m just enjoying being back and playing hockey. It’s just another refresher going on this west coast swing and going home soon is another one as well.

    “It’s one of those things where I want to continue my game where I’m at right now. But at the same time, it’s definitely a little more easier to come into Seattle than it was a year ago with different circumstances.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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