Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

Charlie McAvoy praises Zdeno Chara, sees him playing 'forever'

Ty Anderson
August 28, 2017 - 4:10 pm

Charlie McAvoy opened more than a few eyes when he made the jump from the NCAA to the AHL and then to the NHL Stanley Cup in a matter of just a few weeks last April.

In six postseason tilts, the 19-year-old McAvoy led all B’s defenders with three assists, and finished with the second-highest time on ice, at 26:11 per night. Most of all, they let the 2016 first-round pick play the style that suits him best, and where the NHL is undoubtedly trending, with stronger skating and quick decision-making up ice.

“They definitely don’t minimize [my creativity with the puck], they allow me to play my game,” McAvoy, currently in Toronto for the NHLPA Rookie Showcase, said of the Bruins. “And as long as I play a two-way, responsible game, and spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, I think everybody will be happy.”

But the seamless transition to the highest level of competition could not have come without a veteran presence guiding him into what could have been pure chaos.

“Zdeno [Chara] was that guy,” McAvoy said. “He sat next to me in the locker room in practice, on the road, at games, at TD [Garden] for home games. Everywhere I was, he was right beside me. Obviously getting to play with him, it was — I can’t even find words. I watched that guy my entire life. He was in the NHL before I was born.

“He’s just unbelievable. Unbelievable person, everyone on the team thinks the world of him. He’s our leader, and as a player, he’s just been so successful. He’s gonna be a Hall of Famer,” McAvoy continued. “And I think playing next to a guy like that, I think that I probably credit him for the success I had because he made it so easy.”

A successful pairing throughout the club’s first-round series against the Senators, McAvoy credited their success to what the 40-year-old, who played the role of mentor to Brandon Carlo throughout the regular season, demands out of his partners.

“Communication,” McAvoy said when asked what separates Chara from his other partners. “He’s a huge talker, which is awesome, because I think when the game is so fast at the NHL level, it’s something you need to stress. It’s just trust. If I call for it, he trusts me, he throws it to me, and If he calls for it, I trust him and throw it to him.

“It’s a lot of communication and piggybacking off each other.”

And the next heir apparent to Chara’s status as the B’s top defenseman (Dougie Hamilton was the guy until he refused to re-sign with the Bruins), McAvoy doesn’t see the torch-passing coming soon, thanks to Chara’s body of work on and off the ice.

“Forever,” McAvoy said when asked how long he sees Chara playing. “He’s gonna be the next [Jaromir] Jagr. He’s in tremendous shape. He takes care of his body better than anybody I’ve ever seen. It’s something for a guy like me to see somebody like that, it’s kind of motivation and a lot of learning like ‘This is what I need to do to be at his level.’

“He still plays a very effective game. He led our d-men in time on ice [in the playoffs], he kills all the penalties, he’s always out there, and he doesn’t slow down either.”

In his 11th season with the Bruins, Chara averaged his lowest average time on ice this past season, at 23:19 per night, but still finished tops among all B’s defensemen in that category, and recorded 10 goals and 29 points in 75 regular-season games. He's also entering the last season of his current contract, and has expressed an interest in an extension with the Black and Gold.

McAvoy, meanwhile, is expected to be Chara’s partner for the start of the season.

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