By Mathew Cunha,
The best young athlete in Boston is not one of the two promising stars on the 26-8 Celtics, nor is it someone from the AFC-leading Patriots or the reigning AL East- champion Boston Red Sox. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Brandin Cooks, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi are all promising young athletes on already great teams. But there’s a certain youngster on one Boston sports team who must be great for his team to be successful. His name: Charley McAvoy of the Boston Bruins.
NBC Sports Boston recently released a poll asking fans for their take on the Best Boston athletes under the age of 25. Fans ranked Tatum #1, followed by McAvoy. In the “Drive Poll’s” edition of the argument, Tatum was the consensus top-pick, ahead of guys like Devers and Benintendi. My fellow members failed to even mention the correct answer. Whether it was due to their ignorance of the Bruins existence, or just stupidity, they got this one completely wrong.
The Bruins are my favorite team, but I pay close attention to all four Beantown squads. This isn’t my Bruins bias talking, it’s what I see with my eyes. Last year, McAvoy emerged on the scene during the playoffs. Despite an injury laden defensive core, which at times consumed two-thirds of their defensemen, the Bruins took the Ottawa Senators to six games. McAvoy played 26:12 minutes a game in that series which only trailed veteran d-man Zdeno Chara, and tied for the team lead with three assists.
McAvoy has picked up this season right where he left off during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. McAvoy is playing 23:18 this season, once again trailing only Chara by just 14 seconds for team lead. As a defenseman, he has picked up 19 points in 32 games and has a +/- of 7. The young Bruins suffered a devastating amount of injuries early on, but managed to tread water thanks to McAvoy. Now, with the 19-year-old leading the charge, the B’s are 11-3-1 in their last 15.
McAvoy’s impact is going under the radar because he plays for arguably the fourth most popular team in his home city. This year has seen the Bruins further buried by hot storylines with the three other teams. Specifically, the Celtics and their young star in Jayson Tatum. McAvoy gets the nod ahead of Tatum because of each player’s direct value to their respective teams. You take Tatum off the Celtics and they still are a solid playoff team. McAvoy has come in as a rookie for the Bruins and single-handedly given them hope, If McAvoy is not on the Bruins, their future looks bleak.
It is also hard to quantify McAvoy’s impact as a defenseman if you don’t watch the games. I have watched Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox games and not one of those young players provides a greater impact on each play than McAvoy. Whether it be mind-blowing passes for a scoring opportunity, smart defensive plays, puck movement to start the rush, or a big hit, the guy simply impacts the game every time he hits the ice.
Every Stanley Cup Championship in recent memory has had a superstar d-man who can play 30 minutes a games in the postseason. It’s a necessity and McAvoy will hopefully fill that need for the Bruins for the next 15 years. The franchise has a storied history at the position: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara and now Charlie McAvoy. That’s how he will be remembered.
If you don’t watch Bruins’ games it would be understandable for you to bury him. But make no mistake, if you are asking who the best athlete is in Boston under the age of 25, the answer is McAvoy. Come this year’s NHL playoffs, all New England will see exactly why.
Matthew Cunha is a producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.