By Patrick Donnelly
The NCAA Men’s Division I Tournament was in full swing this weekend, and the Frozen Four is now set for this weekend in Chicago. Red-hot Notre Dame and Bruins’ prospect Anders Bjork will battle with top-seeded Denver while a seemingly unstoppable Harvard squad will face talented Minnesota-Duluth. For those of us that picked a lot of different outcomes and even predicted a Boston University vs. Union final (with BU coming out as the National Champion) it was probably a rough weekend. Yes, BU was my team this year, just like it is every year. It was an especially rough weekend for obviously, BU fans along with Union fans, UMass Lowell fans, and many other #CawlidgeHawkey fans around the nation. After a sensational double overtime win against North Dakota in the regional semifinal, BU fell in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth in the regional finals.
For Bruins fans across the area who have kept up with the prospect pool and the college hockey scene, it was probably a great weekend filled with hope for the future. Anders Bjork is continuing to dominate for Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish. BU’s loss means the Bruins’ best overall prospect, Charlie McAvoy, and the B’s best center prospect, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (more commonly known as JFK), are now able to sign contracts and turn pro. This can only mean one thing, the rumor mill is now operating at full power.
Initially, reports surrounding McAvoy speculated that the Bruins may have been pressuring the rising star, but, historically, the Bruins have never pressured their college prospects and have always left the decision up to the student and the family. The latest about McAvoy, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, is:
Charlie McAvoy has exams this week at BU, may affect timing of signing with BOS. Not likely to be any issue but no guarantee it occurs today
– Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 26, 2017
Charlie McAvoy and BOS working towards ATO. Expectation is that McAvoy could be in Providence playing by weekend.
– Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 28, 2017
This means that the Bruins would be signing McAvoy to an amateur tryout (ATO), meaning McAvoy will be able to report and play with the P-Bruins while the front office and McAvoy’s camp continue to work out the details of his entry-level contract. In the meantime, until he signs a contract, McAvoy would still be able to still get vital professional experience in the AHL. Once the (almost) former BU Terrier officially signs his ELC, he would be eligible to report and play for Boston.
As for JFK, the latest reports indicated that he intends to turn pro regardless of whether or not he reports to the big club in Boston or to the Providence Bruins. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the Bruins do see what JFK can do in the NHL if he does sign in the coming days or weeks. The 20 year-old sophomore had a solid freshman year, tallying 10 goals and 20 assists in 39 games. After starting off fairly slow, JFK punched in a dominant performance in the second half of this season, totaling 14 goals and 29 assists for 33 points in 39 games. BU went 9-0-1 this season in games that JFK scored a goal. The 31st ranked player by Central Scouting in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the promising center is an incredibly smart hockey player. The Stockholm, Sweden native is highly regarded for his exceptional skating and gifted playmaking ability. Projected as a future top-6 center, Forsbacka-Karlsson was selected 45th overall in the second round of the 2015 entry draft. JFK has decent size (6’1” 192 lbs) and is often referred to as a reincarnation of Patrice Bergeron, largely due to his responsible play in his defensive zone and exceptionally high hockey IQ. The BU standout will definitely be pushing for a roster spot out of training camp next year, if not the second he signs his entry-level contract.
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (Image: Richard T. Gagnon / Getty Images)
And now for the player Bruins fans have been drooling over for the better part of a year, Charlie McAvoy. Last year, McAvoy had an exceptional freshman season as the youngest player in the nation, contributing 3 goals and 22 assists in 37 games. The Long Beach, New York, native followed his freshman year with a standout sophomore year, earning 5 goals and 21 assists. The 20 year-old also turned heads at the most recent World Junior Championships, playing lockdown defense and helping to lead Team USA to a gold medal. McAvoy even scored the 2OT winner in BU’s thrilling regional semifinal win over North Dakota in the NCAA Tournament. At 6’1” 211 lbs, the 14th overall pick from the 2016 entry draft is able to deliver thunderous checks to opponents. A prototypical defenseman for this day in age, McAvoy is an excellent skater with a cannon of a shot who can move the puck up the ice with ease, jump into the play in offensive situations, and play all-world defense in his own zone. A Hockey East First Team All-Star, Charlie McAvoy has all the tools to be a top tier, cornerstone NHL defenseman for a long time. The general consensus among league analysts is still that the Bruins’ crown jewel will be in the NHL very soon.
An important note with these kids whether it be with them debuting next year, the end of this season, or maybe in the upcoming playoffs, is that mistakes are bound to happen. It hasn’t been smooth sailing all year for comparable players like David Pastrnak or Brandon Carlo. Carlo came roaring out of the gate but has seen a lot of ups and downs since January, the same should be foreseen with McAvoy especially where he will often jump up into the play. Pastrnak may not be the fairest comparison for Forsbacka-Karlsson in terms of setting a bar for production, but Pastrnak has also seen immense highs followed by terrible lows, JFK could be prone to seeing some of the same struggles, especially playing center. However, these two players bring youth, speed, and talent to the lineup, and the positives they can bring far outweigh the negatives in spite of the learning curve they will face.
It is worth adding McAvoy and JFK to get them much-needed professional experience either in the NHL or in the AHL as the season winds down. Integrating these two players into the lineup could bring heaps of rewards that would do worlds of good in this late-season push for the playoffs. Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson could soon be the next to go from a talented BU squad that has a number of players (Clayton Keller, Jordan Greenway, and Brandon Hickey to name a few) who are surely headed for the NHL, but it seems JFK and McAvoy will have to hit the books first.