Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

Bruins hoping for throwback kind of fit with Jake DeBrusk on David Krejci's line

Ty Anderson
October 02, 2017 - 3:54 pm

Nothing is set in stone just yet (the Bruins have until tomorrow afternoon’s roster deadline to decide), but it sure sounds like 2015 first-round pick Jake DeBrusk will begin his season in Boston and to the left of David Krejci and David Pastrnak.

It’s a coveted spot for any player, and one that could be particularly daunting for somebody yet to play in an NHL game -- even after scoring 19 goals and 49 points in his 74-game rookie season with the P-Bruins -- but it’s a spot that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy believes is simple if the right player keeps his game up to his standards.

“We do expect a level of production at that line,” Cassidy said of that top-six spot after Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “The thing I did discuss with [DeBrusk] today — and through all of training camp — with that group, the pressure is not on you to be the leader of that line. Just do these things well, and the rest takes care of itself.”

“I think the hardest part was to get comfortable [with them],” DeBrusk, one day away from officially making an NHL lineup for the first time in his career, said. “It’s one of those things you just take day by day. It obviously helps when you are more comfortable with stuff, but still every game is a challenge, and every day you have to prove yourself.”

And statistically speaking, it’s been a little tough to properly judge DeBrusk, who was pulled off the Krejci line in the third period of his last game with that duo this preseason, with zero points, a minus-3 rating, and 10 shots on goal in four games played this camp.

But the Bruins have liked what DeBrusk has brought to the table with his willingness to put himself in position for several high-danger scoring chances, almost to a fault.

While the 20-year-old DeBrusk’s interference with a netminder has resulted in two disallowed goals last week -- the first coming in Philly when his skate clipped the Flyers’ Alex Lyon ever so lightly and the final one coming in Chicago when he bumped Corey Crawford on what would’ve been a Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson goal -- the Bruins have found few flaws, and have instead noticed how DeBrusk found ways to get inside.

“That’s the good news, that he’s going to the net,” Cassidy said. “If you’re getting those calls going against you, that means you’re going to the net. He’s going there.

“That’s much better than having to convince a guy to get from the outside to the inside,” Cassidy, who experimented with just about everybody he could last year in search of a perfect left-side fit for Krejci, continued. “He’s playing on the inside, and he’s going to have to, if he’s going to play with Krejci and Pastrnak his role will be to get to that area for those guys; Get to the net, hopefully finish some plays going to the net.”

That’s something that DeBrusk, who was able to finish some strong rushes in practice Monday (Cassidy was quick to point out that it was just a practice, but that confidence can build through those efforts), is still finding himself adjusting to at this level, too.

“I think last year was the first year I learned how to go against men. It’s a different game, [and] it’s not as easy to get into the paint as it was before,” DeBrusk, a WHL alum used to dirty goals, said of putting himself in the net-front area. “This is honestly I think the first two times I’ve ever been called for goaltender interference penalties, and it’s been in the same preseason. But it still is an adjustment because guys are better with their sticks, they front pucks, they do different things to eliminate, but I think with my speed and my positioning I think I can still get there and generate chances.”

“He’s gonna be expected to use his pace,” Cassidy admitted. “We want to be more of a skating team. That’s something he can bring. He has to bring it. If he’s not bringing those elements, then he’s going to have a tough time playing because that’s what the job requires and what he’s able to legitimately bring that we want on that line.”

But opting for the hope that DeBrusk -- listed at six feet and not yet 200 pounds -- can become that strong skating and tough-to-move physical presence in between the circles over putting a ‘line-rush’ player (think somebody like Frank Vatrano) to Krejci’s left is Cassidy’s attempt to rekindle some of the magic Krejci had with old, departed linemates.

“We’d like Jake to be that net presence. Be what Loui [Eriksson] did for that line in terms of getting to the net, be what [Milan Lucic] did for Krejci,” Cassidy said. “They’re two completely different players, but [Lucic] got to the net and [Krejci] wanted a guy to go the net so they could finish. And right now, I think Jake has the skating ability to get there and he has the resume in junior that he was a greasy guy and willing to go there.”

“We do have the potential for sure,” Krejci said of the line’s promise should it hold. “Jake had a good year in Providence, and although he hasn’t scored much here in the preseason, I still like his game. I feel like it’s just about getting the right chemistry going.”

Unlikely to have as long of a leash as first-year pro Anders Bjork will have with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the B’s first line, chemistry is just one part of the equation when it will come to assessing DeBrusk’s big league potential this season.

“We don’t know yet if he can score at the NHL level,” said Cassidy. “And that’s what we’re gonna find out.”

On an unofficially official line built for scoring in a variety of ways.

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