(We’re still trying out new writers. This post comes from Carl Simcox.)
A new season is beginning and hockey fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the long summer is over. For Bruins fans in particular there is a lot to be excited about, including a full season with new coach Bruce Cassidy and several new faces ready to make their mark in the NHL.
Two rookies in particular, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk, are slated to start the season in the top 6 of the Bruins lineup. In this article we will try to determine what we can expect from these two rookies.
Drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 draft, Bjork has so far exceeded his development expectations, earning himself the right to ride shotgun to the deadly duo of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on opening night (when Bergeron returns, that is).
Bjork was drafted out the US National Development Program and was projected as a 3rd line defensive forward at that time. Since then, he has played at Notre Dame, improving every year, scoring 22 and 35 points in his freshman and sophomore years respectively, and then exploding for 52 points last season.
Bjork has decent size, listed at 6’ and 186 pounds, and has shown good skating ability, slick hands, and a high hockey IQ; he has the versatility and defensive acumen to be able to stick with the Bergeron line.
The middle pick in the trio of picks made by the Bruins in the controversial first round of the 2015 draft, DeBrusk was taken 14th overall and carries with him lofty expectations.
DeBrusk scored 42 goals and 81 points in his draft year for the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL, showing excellent scoring ability particularly in the dirty areas around the net. However, he followed that with a down year after a nasty groin injury and a mid-season trade.
Last year DeBrusk played for the Providence Bruins, and, despite a slow start, scored a respectable 49 points in 74 games. Listed at 6’0 and 183 pounds, DeBrusk is not a straight-line burner, but has excellent short area mobility to go with smooth hands and a hockey IQ that allowed him to make a smooth transition to the pro game last year.
What Can We Expect?
To start, this all hinges on these two young players sticking in the lineup for at least 70+ games and getting decent minutes.
In order to get a good idea of what kind of numbers we can expect from these two, we will go over some important stats from the linemates of DeBrusk and Bjork, namely Bergeron, Marchand, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak.
We will also be looking at a comparable player for each of DeBrusk and Bjork.
Anders Bjork looks to be penciled in for RW duty on a line with Bergeron and Marchand, so we will look at how many assists those two are getting at even strength, as well as shooting percentages.
Over the last three years Bergeron has been remarkably consistent, recording 21, 21, and 20 even strength assists. He had shooting percentages of 9.8, 11.3, and 7.0.
In the last three seasons, Marchand has had 17, 20, and 29 even strength assists to go along with shooting percentages of 13.3, 14.8, and 17.3.
Both Marchand and Bergeron are excellent puck distributors and have great chemistry, so this bodes well for Bjork if he can put himself in good positions to receive those passes. Also, both players, especially Marchand, can put the puck in the net at a relatively high rate, so again this bodes well for Bjork to rack up the assists himself.
DeBrusk is slotted to play with Krejci and Pastrnak, one a classic passing center, and the other a dynamic scorer. Krejci recorded 34, 29, 25 even strength assists and had shooting percentages of 11.2, 11.9, and 14.6 over the last three full seasons, respectively.
Pastrnak has only played one full season, so we will be looking at small sample size with him. Last year Pastrnak had 22 even strength assists and had a shooting percentage of 13.0.
For DeBrusk, this means he will be in a great position to be receiving passes and scoring goals from Krejci, who is healthy after a couple of injury riddled seasons, and to make his own passes to Pastrnak who does an excellent job of putting the puck in the net.
To summarize what we Bruins fans already know, both Bjork and DeBrusk will be playing with both an excellent playmaker and a deadly goal scorer.
Right off the bat, an easy comparable for Bjork is Jimmy Vesey. After his Hobey Baker-winning season in college, Vesey went on to score 16 goals and 11 assists for 27 points in 80 games while averaging 13:38 minutes a game.
I expect Bjork to best Vesey’s assist number by a considerable margin, especially considering he will most likely by averaging somewhere around the 16:14 minutes he played in his first game.
A good comparable for Jake DeBrusk is Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens. Although Gallagher is a bit shorter than DeBrusk, standing at 5’9 to DeBrusk’s 6’0, Gallagher scored 19 goals and 22 assists in his first full season, playing 81 games and averaging nearly 16 minutes a night.
What Does It All Mean?
For both players I will be expecting somewhere in the range of 35-45 points.
If either of them reaches the high end of that projection, it will depend on if they get significant power play time, which is no guarantee. If the line of Marchand - Bergeron - Bjork holds, I expect Bjork to have a stat line of 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points.
If Jake DeBrusk continues to hold down his spot on the LW of Krejci and Pastrnak, and with a goal and assist in his first game it looks like he will, I project him to have 19 goals and 23 assists for 42 points.
Both DeBrusk and Bjork scored points in their first game and, needless to say, both have been put in excellent position to have great rookie seasons.
All numbers from Hockey-reference.com
What do you think of these projections?
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Too high for both
Too low for both
Pretty much on the money