It’s not too hard to get to TD Garden from Agganis Arena, on the campus of Boston University. A little ways down Commonwealth Avenue, then Storrow Drive takes you almost the rest of the way there. From being in the shade of a massive 26-story dormitory to the neighbor of a major highway and modern bridge, the differences are stark. The differences that newly signed prospects Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson could make are even larger. McAvoy, a big bodied offensive-defenseman, and JFK (as he’s known to Terriers fans), a strong two-way center, are the latest prospects to sign with the Bruins. While neither won a national championship, both garnered much acclaim in the college hockey community for their skills and plays. So how can Bruins fans expect their talents to translate onto the big stage?
Charlie McAvoy: Blue Line Savior?
Before Kevin Shattenkirk was traded to the Washington Capitals, there was more than one rumor tying him to the Black and Gold. A former Terrier himself, his acumen on the power play and consistency in puck movement and overall point producing made him one of the top defenseman on the trade market in the NHL. McAvoy brings as similar a skill level as Shattenkirk with one added bonus: bone-crushing checks. The Long Island native led BU defenseman in points last season (26 pts), points per game (0.68) and tied with end of season line mate Doyle Somerby for plus/minus (+11). He also finished the year with the second most PIMs (51), behind Jordan Greenway (82). That’s no knock on McAvoy, as Hockey East’s refereeing led itself to ultimately penalize more physical plays this year. He’s not the perfect defenseman, as he tends to pinch in the offensive zone, sometimes leaving his partner in an odd-man situation. However, his intuitiveness with the puck was rewarded by leading the first power play unit for BU, along with Clayton Keller and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson. Paired with the right stay-at-home defender, McAvoy will increase goal scoring from the blue line, help drive offensive puck possession and contribute mightily on one of the power play unites. As for the bone-crushing checks I mentioned earlier? See below:
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson: The Next Patrice Bergeron
As for JFK, for one of the youngest teams in college hockey, he was a leader in the forward corps. Consistently on the top line and paired up with playmakers like Keller and Jordan Greenway, Forsbacka-Karlsson ended his season third on the Terriers in points (33), a +11 in plus/minus like McAvoy, the second highest shot-blocking forward (35) behind sophomore Bobo Carpenter (39), and one of the top face-off forwards for BU. The Stockholm native was a a big part of the reason why the Terriers ended their season a .507 team overall in the face-off dot. He centered the first power play unit and could play shorthanded minutes as well. He’s not a flashy player, certainly not the type of player to pull out every move in the dekeing handbook, but his responsibility over his 200 foot game makes him exactly the type of player who could thrive thrown right into the NHL. He does need to be played as a center, and could slot into either Ryan Spooner’s third line or the rotating Riley Nash/Dominic Moore slot on the fourth line. If he does end up getting moved to the wing, it’d have to be on the fourth line to get him accustomed to not being a center. Practicing and being around Bergeron will also do nothing but help Forsbacka-Karlsson continue to evolve his game.
It’s unclear whether McAvoy will see NHL time this season, but Don Sweeney was at his AHL debut in Springfield and could pull the trigger with three games remaining. It might burn a year of his ELC, but any NHL experience is valuable for a young player. JFK could make his NHL debut as early as Tuesday night, and hopefully does see time on the ice, not the 9th floor of TD Garden. Regardless, both of these former Terriers have bright futures in Boston still to come.