NHL fans should be used to hearing David Pastrnak’s name associated with the league’s best players by now as he’s been one of its top guns for the few past years. While it would be hard not to shine playing on one of the best lines in hockey with center Patrice Bergeron and left-winger Brad Marchand, the 22-year-old Boston Bruin is definitely his own man. Pastrnak’s been so good for so long it’s hard to believe he’s as young as he is. The native of Harivov, Czech Republic is once again proving his net worth by racking up 17 goals and eight assists in the Bruins’ first 19 games this season. He’s among the league’s elite when it comes to notching points, but is definitely a bargain since he’s doing it for just $6.66 million a season against the salary cap.
It may have taken the youngster a couple of seasons to find his groove in Beantown, but he definitely pulled his weight in his first two years as well. After showing promise as a teenager in Europe, Pastrnak was drafted by Boston in the first round with the 25th pick in 2014. He got his first taste of North American pro hockey just a few months later when he started the 2014/15 campaign with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL). He wasn’t down there too long though as Boston called him up to the NHL about six weeks later. He then made franchise history in March, 2015 when he became the youngest Bruin ever to score a regular-season overtime goal and really started to make his presence known over the last quarter of the season.
When the 2014/15 campaign was entered into the history books, Pastrnak had produced 11 goals and 17 assists in 25 games with Providence along with 10 goals and 17 helpers in 46 outings with Boston. He played just three games in Providence the next season and scored four points, spending most of the year with Boston where he had 15 goals and 11 assists in 51 contests. The 2016/17 season was his breakout year as Pastrnak netted 34 goals and 36 assists in 75 games and added four points in six playoff encounters. His 34 regular-season goals ranked 10th in the NHL and he became the youngest Bruin to score 30 goals. He proved that wasn’t a fluke by contributing 35 goals and 45 assists in 82 games last year with six goals and 14 assists in 12 playoff appearances.
Pastrnak was 10th in power-play goals in the league last season with 13 and fifth in even strength markers at 22. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, but he’s playing at an even higher level to kick off the 2018/19 marathon. After his first 19 games Pastrnak’s 17 goals topped the league as did his eight power-play tallies. ‘Pasta’, as he’s affectionately nicknamed, was scoring at an average of .89 goals per-game, which was second best in the league and his 1.32 points per-outing were ranked ninth. I know it’s hard to do, but if he can keep that pace up over the 82-game schedule he’ll finish it with approximately 50 goals and 108 points. Not too shabby for a 22 year old.
While he’s the first to credit linemates Marchand and Bergeron with his NHL success so far, they’re also the first to credit him. The threesome make up arguably the best line in the league and possibly all of hockey. The Bruins’ fortunes definitely depend on the trio and they’ve proven to be just as effective in the playoffs as the regular season. It may come as a shock to many fans considering each member hit the 30-goal plateau last year, but Pastrnak said the line was terrible the first few times they practised together. Along with crediting his teammates, Pastrnak said he put so much time and effort into developing his skills as a youngster as a way to pay tribute to his father Milan.
His father, who played pro hockey in the Czech Republic and Germany, endured a long battle with cancer before succumbing to the disease in May, 2013, and always told David he believed he had the talent to make it to the NHL. Pastrnak was just 17 years old and playing in Sweden at the time of his father’s death and made sure all his hard work and experience in Europe paid off. He’s become an elite sniper in the world’s best league and also possesses fine playmaking skills. He has always shown these talents while growing up though as he’s won numerous team and individual awards at all levels including the Czech Under-18 league, the AHL and internationally.
Boston hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 2010/11 but the team is undoubtedly a Stanley Cup contender once again this season. They made it as far as the second round last year before being ousted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Pastrnak was able to set an NHL record by becoming the youngest player to record six assists in a postseason game. In addition, his nine points in the first two playoff games against the Toronto Maple Leafs tied a record. He has started this season off the same way he finished the last one, but this isn’t the first time Pastrnak has been red hot early on as he had 18 goals in his first 23 games in 2016/17.
He’s now harder to knock off the puck since gaining about 25 lbs since being drafted and the winger has developed into a solid 200-foot, two-way player. Bergeron noted this by telling Sportsnet media in Canada, “He’s obviously really skilled when he’s got the puck and he’s making some tremendous plays. But when he’s away from it now he wants it back, first of all, he hunts it. He also positions himself really well defensively to get back on the attack. That’s something we’ve talked about a lot with him and our line, and he’s really taken a big step.”
Yes, Pastrnak’s definitely taken a big step since making his NHL debut and it appears he’s ready to take another one this season.