The Boston Bruins have two former first-round picks from the mid 2010’s that will be looking to take an offensive stride during a shortened 2020-21 season. Recently acquired, Nick Ritchie from the Anaheim Ducks and recently re-signed Jake Debrusk are each entering important points in their respective careers.
As it stands, two thirds of the team’s top line, Brad Marchand and David Pastrňák, ill miss time next season after undergoing offseason surgery. Unfortunate for the Bruins, but for Ritchie and DeBrusk this presents an opportunity to play a larger offensive role.
It is a particularly important year for Ritchie. The former 10th overall pick in 2014 is entering his fifth full NHL season. The writing may have been on the wall for the Orangeville, Ontario native based on his last contract in Anaheim. The deal with the Ducks was a three-year contract worth a total of $4.6 million at an AAV of 1,498,925 in the last two seasons. That contract expires in 2021 making him an RFA.
At 6’2 and 230 pounds, Ritchie is most effective as a power forward, but has yet to have an offensive breakout in the NHL. Not that Ritchie was ever a prolific scorer – his best junior season with the Peterborough Pete’s was a 39 goal, 35 assist effort over 61 OHL games. So far, his best NHL season to date was with the Ducks in 2018-19 when he had 11 goals and 19 assists in 60 games.
With an opportunity to play up in the depth chart, and a big contract negotiation coming up, can Ritchie do better than a half point per game pace? Perhaps being taken 10th overall worked against him as big offensive numbers never should have been an expected part of the package with this player. That said, I am willing to guess his stunted productivity was part of why Anaheim moved him.
Ritchie has a second chance in Boston and hopefully he can take a step during a shortened season and larger role. If not, he might be firmly settling into a full time bottom six player.
The Boston Bruins selected Jake DeBrusk 14th overall in the 2015. The Edmontonian is entering his fourth NHL season in 2020-21 and like Ritchie has an opportunity to play a larger role. His first three seasons have been consistent and relatively solid. This past shortened season was the only time he failed to reach the 40-point mark, finishing with 19 goals and 16 assists over 65 games. Those point totals were after a remarkably slow start to the 2019-20 season.
The 2020 offseason was a big one for the former Swift Current Bronco as he became a free agent (RFA) for the first time. My impression was that both parties expected a more productive 2019-20 season. An unexpected global pandemic certainly cut into the 24-year-old’s ability to have a strong finish and make up for the sluggish start.
It took some time, but the Bruins and DeBrusk reached a two-year agreement on November 12th. The two parties agreed on a $7.35 million deal with an AAV of $3.675 million. This was somewhat surprising as he has become an integral part of the Bruins and one might have expected a longer term than two years.
That should motivate DeBrusk and my guess is that he will take full advantage of the opportunity presented – whenever the next season begins. If he is going to have a breakout season then he needs to have a good to great start instead of the opposite. That has plagued him a couple of times now and he will not have the time to recover during a shortened season.
I have seen DeBrusk since he was a bantam and think he is not only capable of a breakout season but also relishes the underdog role. As for Ritchie, he has an opportunity and clean slate to try prove his offensive ability at the NHL level.
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