(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
The third day of camp in Boston was a busy one with three practice sessions followed by travel to Providence where those who took part in the first practice played a preseason game against the New Jersey Devils at the Dunkin Donuts Center. For some of those who took part in the preseason game, it was like going home, as the Dunkin Donuts Center is the home arena for the Providence Bruins, the AHL affiliate for the Boston Bruins.
However, perhaps a little more interest during the morning practices came as a result of the line combinations in the second group to take the ice; or perhaps more specifically the addition of David Pastrnak to the line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Before anyone gets too carried away, it was only the third day of camp and there will be a lot more tinkering with the lines between now and when the puck drops on the Bruins home opener on October 8. With that being said, it was interesting watching Pastrnak with Bergeron and Marchand. And it was enlightening to hear Bergeron speaking about Pastrnak after that practice session.
“[Pastrnak’s] got great speed and tremendous offensive instincts so he’s definitely a great player,” Bergeron told the media surrounding him. “You know, it’s nice to have him and try and establish some chemistry with him. And we’ll see what happens.”
The 19-year-old, who surprised the Bruins management last season with his ability to earn a spot with the Boston club in his draft year, exudes an absolute joy when he is on the ice. His attitude when playing is one that belies his youth.
For part of the previous season, Pastrnak spent some time in Providence working on things that the Bruins felt he needed to improve upon. While some players take such a directive in a negative way, Pastrnak embraced the opportunity. Providence Bruins’ head coach, Bruce Cassidy, commented one time that even if Pastrnak was being chastised for something, he was just always smiling while out on the ice. And he has returned for his second season to try and retain his spot with the Boston club bringing the same positive attitude.
“He’s so, uh, just happy to be here. He wants to learn. He talks to everyone and brings the energy you want in a young guy,” described Bergeron. “I think he’s got also some leadership qualities that he’s gonna develop over time but I think he’s a tremendous young man and a great player.”
There is no denying that Pastrnak has speed and skill. Sometimes such an advanced skill-set in one so young can play mind games with the player; their belief that they can’t be told anything because they already know it all. Pastrnak is the exact opposite.
“He listens. He wants to learn. He also likes to have fun and have a good laugh,” Bergeron shared. “So, you know, he’s a great teammate and you can tell he’s already beyond his years with the way that he approaches the game, but also the way that he plays and the sky’s the limit for him.”
To some, his enthusiasm to be on the ice as much as possible calls to mind a younger version of Bergeron himself, who made the Bruins roster the fall after he was drafted. In fact, with the exception of the lockout-cancelled 2004-05 season—when Bergeron played with the Providence Bruins—and the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season—when he played with HC Lugano—Bergeron has only played for one NHL team.
Could Pastrnak do the same? He certainly is in the proper frame of mind with his eagerness to learn and his joy in the game. Bergeron called his attitude “infectious.”
So, what was it that had Bergeron smirking during the media’s questions?
When he talked of Pastrnak’s attitude and how he was behaving on the ice, in the rink and in the locker room, I asked him what Pastrnak’s example did for “the other young players who are coming in?”
Ever the professional, Bergeron responded earnestly, but he couldn’t help having a little fun at my expense.
“Yeah, I think that they realize that’s how they have to handle themselves. And that’s how he made the team last year; by working hard, going down to Providence and not getting down on himself and working his way back in,” he responded. “So that’s the only way you can approach the game and he’s doing the right thing.”
But then Bergeron’s face began to stretch into a little smirk.
“I don’t know if you should call them ‘the young kids’ because he’s probably younger than most of them,” he grinned. “But I think everyone, I guess the rookies, can look up to him for that matter.”
And perhaps in the end that speaks volumes to the maturity that Pastrnak exudes on the ice, if his tender age can so easily be overshadowed. Perhaps other young players should look at his commitment, enthusiasm and positive attitude and take a page from Pastrnak’s book.
As for me, I will undoubtedly forget again how young Pastrnak really is and hopefully the next Bruins player to remind me will be as nice about it as Bergeron was.