This summer, FanRag Sports took a poll of our contributors to determine the top 25 NHL players under the age of 25. The results are in, and some of them may surprise.
No. 13 – David Pastrnak
2016-17: 70 points, 75 games, 17:59 TOI
Career: 123 points, 172 games, 15:43 TOI
Cap Hit: N/A – unsigned restricted free agent 🙃
The Boston Bruins drafted Pastrnak 25th overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
It was a strong draft class, but the bottom 10 spots in the first round are never guarantees. Some of those players go on to third- and fourth-line depth roles, while others never hit the NHL at all.
Boston has made quite a few reach draft selections during the past three summers, but that 25th overall pick in 2014 didn’t just yield an NHLer in Pastrnak. Three years removed from that class, there’s a convincing argument to be made that the team selected the player who could have gone first overall in a re-draft.
Selected out of the SHL from Sodertalje SK, the Havirov, Czech Republic native boasted 24 points in 36 games as a top-tier European pro during his draft-eligible season.
Despite concerns about his size at the draft, he has proven that the scoring prowess he displayed in Sweden isn’t limited to play overseas.
Just 172 games into his NHL career, Pastrnak, 21, has proven that he’s one of the most valuable scoring forwards in the Eastern Conference. His 34 goals and 70 points in 75 games last season were second on the team only to Hart Trophy contender Brad Marchand. And Pastrnak’s 123 career points are second in his draft class only to Connor McDavid’s right-hand man, Leon Draisaitl.
With almost superhuman agility, wickedly fast speed and a deadly accurate shot, right wing Pastrnak has developed a reputation as a tough player to keep away from the net.
The talent dates back to his rookie season, where he managed maneuvers like this.
(Spoiler alert: He hasn’t exactly stopped doing this, either.)
Pastrnak’s is first season was split between the NHL and the AHL, with the organization apparently believing that he needed time in the minors to develop his game at the North American pro level.
He played just 51 games in 2015-16 because of a foot fracture early in the season, but his return midway through showed that injury clearly hadn’t slowed him. He had 15 goals and 26 points despite logging less than 14 minutes of ice time a night.
He spent minor time out during the 2016-17 season, but by then was already one of Boston’s most valuable pieces. Regular time as a linemate for Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, the league’s most dynamic two-way duo, helped catapult him to the forefront of everyone’s minds; if his scoring didn’t catch their attention, his performance with elite linemates certainly did.
There are still a few downsides to Pastrnak’s game that could use some ironing out, of course.
He has been learning while playing alongside Marchand and Bergeron for a few years, but his defensive awareness still doesn’t quite measure up. It might never — few players in the NHL have quite the two-way presence that Pastrnak’s line mates boast — but if he can tighten up his performance in his own zone, it certainly won’t hurt.
He also needs to work a bit on his self-control. Less than 200 games into his career, he already has been suspended and has developed a reputation for selling penalties that could find him forking over a fine before long.
Across nearly a 200-game sample, though, Pastrnak has put up a 12.7 shooting percentage, and that’s dragged down a bit by his numbers from his 46-game rookie campaign. He was on nearly a point-per-game clip last year, and his 3.49 shots on goal per game in 2016-17 suggest that’s not going away any time soon, either.
Contract negotiations between Pastrnak and the Bruins have been ominously quiet this summer, and the new season is nearly upon us.
The fact that he still sits without a deal midway through August is more than a little concerning for Bruins fans. Unless the team is waiting to pony up a massive last-minute deal, it’s entirely possible that a difference in opinion between what he’s worth and what they can afford is holding things up.
So long as Boston can get something done, though — and not trade him away for a handful of magic beans they’ll lose two years later — he might be the cornerstone of their young core’s future. Once Bergeron and Marchand begin to phase out, expect him to absolutely dominate the conversation (if he isn’t already).