Through his first three seasons with the Bruins, Winger A had 59 goals in 172 games.
One of his teammates, Winger B, had 62 goals in 203 games.
The first player is David Pastrnak. The second is Jake DeBrusk.
While DeBrusk may never command the superstar spotlight Pastrnak did last season (league-best 48 goals, Atlantic Division captain at the All-Star Game), he has more than enough goal-scoring strength to be a fixture on Boston’s second line. To cement his long-term future, he is working on his weaknesses.
DeBrusk is one of, if not the, swiftest skaters on the team, but he has been pushed around a bit too easily for his liking. He found his body too sore from the NHL grind. From his home in snowy Edmonton, the 24-year-old said his offseason workouts have him feeling stronger, heavier, and more balanced.
“Still trying to work on speed and still trying to be fast — faster, I guess,” said DeBrusk, who signed a two-year, $7.35 million contract extension on Monday. “But definitely the physical side of things, just trying to [avoid] the wear and tear of the season, and the playoffs as well.”
Those workouts — three to four times on the ice per week, four to five times in the gym — could make DeBrusk, listed at 6 feet and 188 pounds, a little more of a threat to get inside the dots, and make him sturdier on the forecheck, where he is often first to pressure.
“He has an innate ability to score goals,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. “Some guys take three chances, Jake might only take one, and he can finish. I think that’s been proven over the course of his career so far. For the speed Jake brings to the table, there’s no reason why Jake can’t kill penalties. There’s no reason that Jake can be an even better net-front presence this year, where he scored a bunch of goals [last] year but also missed opportunities … He’s capable of impacting the game in a lot of different ways.”
No one expects DeBrusk to be Tom Wilson, but after reviewing his slumps of last season — “I’ve looked at pretty much every single stat you can find” — DeBrusk felt he could play a little louder. DeBrusk delivered 2.3 hits per hour of ice time last season, the lowest rate among Bruins forwards.
“There’s no reason why I can’t have a hit per game,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m going to be running around out there, but obviously, I could finish checks more. That’s usually how I play. That’s how I’ve been known to play. It just didn’t really happen much this year, and it’s one thing I felt like it affected my game a lot.
“It could open up space for me, my teammates, and also just getting the puck. That’s the biggest thing. Obviously, you’re trying to get possession of it. Defensemen don’t think they’re going to get hit, they’ll take an extra second to make that play. It’s just a matter of getting on them as fast as I can, use my footspeed, use my strength ... and then the rest, it’s just hockey.”
The Bruins drafted DeBrusk (14th overall, 2015) after his 42-goal season in the Western Hockey League. They felt his wheels, release, and nose for the net, coupled with an obvious enthusiasm for scoring, would make him a productive pro. After 203 NHL games (and 74 in the AHL), DeBrusk feels he’s turning a corner mentally.
Like many young players used to scoring, he has turned glum when dry spells became droughts. DeBrusk shot 17.3 percent in 2018-19, when he scored 27 goals. That season was sandwiched between years of 11.2 (as a rookie) and 11.8 percent (last season). By comparison, the left wing ahead of him on the depth chart, Brad Marchand, is a career 15.7 percent shooter, and has finished between 14.8 and 18.7 percent in the last five seasons (average output: 35 goals).
DeBrusk may never be as complete a player as Marchand, but he’s starting to build his own résumê. One of the focuses for 2020-21: “Just kind of disrupting plays, disrupting breakouts, and it can cause turnovers and obviously can create chaos around the net,” DeBrusk said. “It’s just more being fully aggressive. Just going all out, all the time, is kind of what that means.”