Let's talk defense, Boston.
This season the back-line has been considered something of a problematic area for the Bruins, in the same way that Russia was considered a problematic area for the German Army in WWII. The Bruins front office has spoken of contracts it needs to move (one of which is widely thought to be that of Dennis Seidenberg) and the blue-line corps for Boston is caught between the rock of having its best player slowing slowly and the hard place of its youngsters being seen as not quite developed enough to take over by many in the organization.
The future is bright for the Bruins at the back, with a loaded prospect pool already slowly beginning to bear fruit with the likes of Colin Miller and (very recently) the signings of Matt Grzelcyk and Rob O'Gara as the B's begin to look towards life without Zdeno Chara.
But you can never have enough of a good thing when it comes to defense, and in a draft where forwards will likely dominate the headlines and the top picks, one of the best defensive draft prospects in the nation has been developing a name for himself just across town from TD Garden.
Scouts from across the NHL world have been pounding the tarmac of Commonwealth Avenue this season to take a look at BU Terriers defenseman and USNTDP product Charlie McAvoy. The 6', 211lb native of Long Beach, NY, who competed as a freshman this last season, aims to follow fellow Long Island natives Sonny Milano and Jeremy Bracco into the NHL draft limelight this summer.
McAvoy has scouts excited with his ability to play equally effectively at both ends of the rink, though he himself describes his style of play as "offensive defenseman" - a description borne out by his 3 goals and 22 assists, good for 6th in team scoring and top among defensemen this year and incredibly impressive in his first season in college hockey. He has spent the vast majority of his development in the US National Development program, winning the 2015 u-18 World Championships and skating for the USA this season at the World Juniors along with 201 Bruins draftee Brandon Carlo.
McAvoy is a young member of this draft class - the right-shot was born on December 21st but already has impressive pro-level physical characteristics. He's fast and mobile with excellent balance whether going forwards or backwards. He prefers to play on his strong side (or at least has predominantly been used that side for the majority of his playing career thus far) and has excellent vision with a hard and accurate wrister/snap shot from the point. His slap shot is weaker than some, but this is a skill that can improve with time.
Defensively, McAvoy is a player who takes pride in excellent positional play. He's also more than capable than laying the body if required - here he is saying hello to Notre Dame's Sabres draft pick Connor Hurley, for example (Vine via The Cauldron)
He's been compared by some to Drew Doughty in his style of play, which is lofty territory for the youngest player in NCAA Div 1. This is probably lofty, lofty comparison for a kid who, let's not forget, only turned 18 in December last year, but there are certainly some very strong signs of talent indeed when looking at the highlights.
Watch from 0:38, for example. The calmness McAvoy shows in his patient circling of the net is that of a much more experienced player. Look, too, at the stretch pass at 2:10 as a fine example of his vision and playmaking ability and a hint that this is a player who could be very exciting on an NHL blueline in a few years.
It's also a major endorsement of his ability that McAvoy has seen a lot of top-four time, as a freshman, on BU's loaded blueline. He's also stated repeatedly that defensive play is his focus, and that working in BU's system under David Quinn is one of the reasons he chose to join the Terriers.
McAvoy is projected by many scouts as a top-two defenseman in the future. He's not quite as polished by any means as top prospect in the draft Jacob Chychyrun, but he's a player who is ranked anywhere from the top ten to the mid twenties depending on the scouting service, with the average seeing him ranked right around Bruins pick at 14.
The ideal situation for Boston would probably be to use that first pick on a star forward, and then pick up McAvoy with their 2nd pick in the first round to bolster a very very strong defensive pipeline. He's not likely to be seen in the NHL for several years yet and is very much a long-term pick like many in the NCAA, but shows the kind of promise that gets teams very excited early on. Given a full term in the NCAA to mature, the Bruins will be able to keep a very close eye on his development indeed, which is a factor that will no doubt play into their decision-making should McAvoy be in their thinking.
In summary, McAvoy is a tremendously exciting prospect. He's already showing the offensive ability and mobility of a defenseman beyond his years, with the chance to develop defensive play right under the Bruins' nose over the next few years. He's not a flashy pick by any means in the way some others are in the draft, but in a defensive group that will yield far more long-term prospects than instant difference makers, he's among the best.