In a crowded blueline, Matt Grzelcyk was a bit of an unknown entering last season.
With the Bruins top two defensive pairings set, the Charlestown native had to prove himself to secure consistent playing time. As injuries ravaged the Bruins lineup, Grzelcyk was asked to take on a bigger role.
The Boston University product answered the challenge and become one of the Bruins key pieces. With Grzelcyk entering his third full season as a pro, the expectations have only gotten higher.
Last year Grzelcyk appeared in a career-high 66 games. In his second NHL season, he set a career-high in points with 18 and assists with 15. On the second powerplay unit, he was effective as he had six points including one goal. Although the Massachusetts native made an impact offensively, his value goes beyond the stat sheet.
During the Stanley Cup Finals, Grzelcyk missed three games after taking a Brutal hit in game one. Without him, the Bruins offensive struggled as their puck movement suffered. Their puck pursuit also became stagnant and the momentum shifted in St. Louis favor. Grzelcyk’s importance, which had been undervalued became apparent.
Grzelcyk’s stellar play, however, was not just limited to the postseason. As the Bruins suffered injuries during the regular season he was asked to replace key players such as Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. With the increased pressure, he thrived and averaged 19:08 minutes of ice time.
Throughout the season, the Charlestown native continued to improve as he got more experience. By season’s end he was more than just a depth piece on a team loaded with talent on the blueline.
It was a welcoming sign as the Bruins Stanley Cup core got older. It was also key considering that Grzelcyk is about to enter the most important season of his career so far.
Following this upcoming season, the former third-round pick will be a free agent. Although he is not a top defenseman, he will draw plenty of interest on the market. If Grzelcyk continues to improve, then he will not be an easy player to replace.
In Grzelcyk, the Bruins have a defenseman who can affect the game in multiple ways. While he does add offense, he is also good on the forecheck. He showed that he can slot in anywhere last season which the Bruins value.
Although Grzelcyk’s future, is uncertain he will be more motivated than ever this year. The Bruins fell one game short of a championship last season which is a loss they won’t ever forget. Even with the raised expectations, the young defenseman is prepared for the challenge.