Charlie McAvoy Has All Makings Of Bruins’ Next Cornerstone

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Catch the premiere the “Cornerstones: A Century of Boston Bruins Hockey” on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. ET on NESN. Then watch the special on demand anytime on NESN 360.

With all due respect to Milt Schmidt, Phil Esposito, Cam Neely and Patrice Bergeron, the very best Bruins teams of all time have one thing in common: elite play on the back end.

Similar to how the Red Sox have seemingly had legendary Hall of Fame-caliber players patrolling left field for their entire history, the Bruins’ history of defensemen might be the best the NHL has ever seen. From Eddie Shore to Bobby Orr to Brad Park to Ray Bourque to Zdeno Chara, Boston’s blueline presence is the foundation of the organization’s success.

And while the next great Bruins team will likely feature David Pastrnak scoring 50 goals, Charlie McAvoy will be the motor that keeps the machine running.

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It’s hard to believe McAvoy only recently turned 26 years old. The Boston University product was the No. 14 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, and the way his career started foreshadowed a bright future for the Long Island native. The Bruins believed in and trusted McAvoy so much they were willing to let him make his NHL debut in the playoffs, on the road, against Ottawa in 2017 — as a 19-year-old. In his first game, McAvoy logged 24:11 of ice time while riding shotgun with Chara.

Even the greatest player in Bruins history took notice.

“I was impressed with Charlie right out of the chute,” Orr told NESN.com back in June of 2017. “He didn’t look like a player that was playing his first game in the NHL.”

McAvoy undoubtedly has benefited from the fact that his formative NHL years have coincided with one of the most successful runs in team history. He was afforded on-the-job training alongside Chara, a future Hall of Famer who is considered one of the great leaders of his generation. He ascended to part of a leadership group led by Bergeron, a revered teammate who took the torch from Chara.

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Now, in his seventh season, McAvoy takes on an even greater role in that regard.

“What you’ve built here is special,” he told Bergeron in a team-produced video for the forward’s retirement. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to take good care of it.”

It’s telling that many believed McAvoy should have taken the captain’s “C” when Bergeron retired, although he’s the clear-cut choice to assume those duties when Brad Marchand calls it a career.

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The on-ice progress has been undeniable. Former Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy remarked in 2021 that “Everything we give him, he seems to excel at.” McAvoy has finished in the top five of Norris Trophy voting in two of his last three seasons, earning top-10 consideration in three of his six seasons as a pro. He is averaging 24:33 of ice time per game this season, the highest mark of his career, and remains a big reason the Bruins go into the All-Star break even following the departure of Bergeron and David Krejci in the offseason.

Boston rewarded his efforts ahead of the 2021-22 season when it gave McAvoy an eight-year, $76 million contract extension that confirmed what everyone already knew: McAvoy is the future of the franchise.

“I know that I have so much to give and so much to go, and I want to grow into the very best I can be,” McAvoy said at the time. “There is no complacency. There’s where I am now and where I feel I can get to. Every year I want to take strides.”

There’s still work to be done, of course. McAvoy still has a long way to go to truly earn his status among those greats, those cornerstones. Winning a Stanley Cup would help that quest. He’s certainly on the right path, though, and as long as McAvoy is in Black and Gold, the Bruins can feel good about the direction they’re headed.

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