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Grade the Players: Charlie McAvoy continues to blossom as he strives to be one of the league’s best

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McAvoy finished tenth in the Norris Trophy voting.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: A

Try to watch a Boston Bruins game and not notice Charlie McAvoy. It’s becoming an increasingly difficult task. The 2016 first-round pick has always oozed potential, but last season, he took another step toward blossoming into one of the NHL’s elite defenseman, finishing tenth in the Norris trophy voting.

While McAvoy’s 39.2% ice time in five-on-five situations certainly stands out a reason for consistently seeing the number ‘73’ over the 60 minutes of each contest, McAvoy’s frequent involvement in the play resonates over his high usage rate.

In charge of locking down the opponent’s top offensive threats, McAvoy rarely found himself out of position and utilized his strong stick skills and body control to neutralize the opposition.

Unafraid to dole out punishment, he enjoyed stapling opponents to the boards and ramming his shoulder through into as many chests as possible. When he had a chance to apply pressure, McAvoy employed strong edgework and passing abilities to find an outlet pass.

McAvoy giddily joined the attack whenever he deemed appropriate, creating odd-man rush situations.

McAvoy’s offensive instincts and playmaking ability not only make him a two-way threat, but a defenseman that is coveted in today’s NHL. As the league progresses toward faster lineups, prioritizing speed and brains over brawn, McAvoy’s toolbox includes the flight of foot to keep up with quick playmakers and the physicality to match power forwards.

The former Boston University standout should see increased power play time next season with the departure of Torey Krug. McAvoy is already established as a penalty kill presence, logging 122 man-down minutes during the regular season.

His ability to contribute in all three phases of the game and in any situation affirm his standing as a true number-one defenseman.

Bruins 5v5 Offense with McAvoy
HockeyViz
Bruins 5v5 Offense without McAvoy
HockeyViz

As seen in the images above, the Bruins even-strength offense, which can be bereft of scoring aside from the vaunted first line, falters without McAvoy on the ice.

Most notably, the chances from in front of the blue paint teeter like a seesaw to the extreme of the range on both sides. McAvoy’s underlying numbers support the chart, as his 54.17% scoring chances for during five-on-five situations showcases how the Bruins gain a distinct advantage when the Long Beach, New York native graces the ice.

McAvoy turns 23 on December 21 and has two years remaining on his contract. Don Sweeney would be wise to lock down his star blueliner for the foreseeable future.

Few defenseman are able to make the kind of impact that McAvoy has at such a young age, and his game should continue to flourish as he grows to entering his prime.

It should be fun to watch McAvoy patrol the Boston blue line for seasons to come.