OTTAWA â€” Considering the circumstances, Charlie McAvoy was pretty impressive in his NHL debut.
The 19-year old Boston Bruins defenceman got his first taste of NHL life in Game 1 of the Atlantic Division semifinal on Wednesday night against the Ottawa Senators.
It didn’t seem possible even a week ago. After finishing his college career at Boston University by signing an amateur tryout at the end of March, McAvoy then signed his NHL entry level contract on April 10.
“A second ago, I was at Boston University. Now I’ve already played a stint in Providence. Now I’m here in Ottawa for the playoffs. It’s crazy. It’s been a whirlwind,” said McAvoy before Boston’s 2-1 win on Wednesday.
“But throughout this whole process, I think I’ve done a good job of catching my breath, taking a step back, and saying, ‘Don’t let this moment slip away.’ Because this is something I’ve been working for my whole life. You’ve just got to take a step back and be so grateful and thankful for this opportunity.”
McAvoy should have been playing in his sixth American Hockley game Wednesday as the Providence Bruins took on the Springfield Thunderbirds, but instead he was on the Canadian Tire Centre’s ice with Boston. The reason for that was largely, if not entirely, precipitated from the events of last week.
In the second to last game of the regular season Torey Krug struggled to get off the ice and in the Bruins’ final regular season game Washington’s Alex Ovechkin hit Brandon Carlo’s head into the glass.
As a result of the two injuries to top-four defenceman, McAvoy was pressed into early NHL action rather than gaining valuable experience in a potential lengthy playoff run with Providence.
“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about and I’ve kept the same kind of mindset from the start. Krug and Carlo, you can’t replace guys like that, you can only go in and hope to do something that those guys bring to the table,” said McAvoy. “Those are two of the best D on the team and it’s horrible to see them go down, especially after such a good body of work to get to this point.
“This gives me an opportunity for sure and I’m very thankful for that. To come in and be embraced by this team like I have has been very special.”
McAvoy stood on the blue-line during the national anthems as he started alongside Kevan Miller.
“That was pretty cool when the Canadian anthem was being sung. The place was rocking. I’m an American but that was special,” he said.
McAvoy played 7:35 of the opening period but then his ice time increased as fellow blue-liner Colin Miler left the game early in the second period with a leg injury and did not return.
His two period total of 17:09 was more than any player on either team.
“There was a lot of emotions and a lot of excitement for sure, and there was some good and some bad,” said McAvoy. “To see that the coaches allowed me to play through some of those mistakes, that I knew I was going to make and that it was going to be a learning curve, made it a great first game for me.”
His coach was impressed with the effort as well.
“I thought he was terrific. A 19-year old kid comes on and had never played a game in the National Hockey League, he had composure, he saw the ice well, stayed out of trouble and we needed it,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
“We had trouble breaking pucks out and that’s part of the game he does well. Losing Colin Miller sort of magnifies the situation if he struggles we really would have been in trouble so it was a nice boost for us.”
They’ll need that boost again Saturday in Game 2.
Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press