David Pastrnak obviously isn’t close to being the player he’ll one day be at the NHL level, but the usual shortcomings of a young skilled player are all worth overlooking for the 2014 first-round pick. The only true road block on the ice for Pastrnak playing in Boston this year was going to be his size.
“To throw someone [in] at that age, at that weight…” Peter Chiarelli said, making a face when speaking at the conclusion of July’s development camp. “But there’s been guys that have done it.”
The 5-foot-10 right wing weighed 165 pounds when the Bruins got their hands on him in June’s draft. He was offensively sensational at points during a rookie tournament in Tennessee in September, but he didn’t seem well-suited for board work and was easily pushed away from the net by opposing defensemen. In his second NHL practice, he suffered a shoulder injury on a check from Matt Bartkowski.
Now, after dazzling at the AHL level with five goals and 13 assists for 18 points through 17 games for Providence thus far and being named the AHL’s Rookie of the Month in October, Pastrnak is in Boston and preparing for what could be his NHL debut Monday night against the Penguins.
He’s shown that he has adjusted to the smaller ice in North America after growing up in the Czech Republic and playing the last two years in Sweden, but as he heads to the NHL, the questions of whether he can handle the physicality of hockey’s toughest league aren’t going away.
Pastrnak hopes he can help answer those questions after putting on some weight in Providence. He said he’s bulked up a bit in Providence, guessing that he is currently up to 176 pounds and that the extra weight feels good.
“I feel a lot stronger on the puck and around the boards and in battling,” Pastrnak said. “I think it helps me. I like it. I didn’t lose my speed so much. That’s what I was looking for.”
Pastrnak skated on a line with Jordan Caron and Alexander Khokhlachev in Monday’s morning skate. That has been his line in Providence this season, so the trio at least has familiarity going for it.
When asked about the 18-year-old’s development, Claude Julien spoke about the strides Pastrnak has made as a defensive player. Pastrnak has long looked up to David Krejci, a Czech player who he feels is capable of being dominant offensively while also being responsible in his own zone.
“I think, right now, that’s what David is trying to learn in Providence,” Julien said. “We know how dynamically he makes things happen. He’s a skill player, can score goals but we don’t expect perfection but you have to be at least a little bit reliable defensively.
“That’s what he’s working on over there and he’s gotten better, so that’s where we’re at with him and I guess, like you guys, I’m going to find out a little bit more about him if he plays tonight.”