From injuries to being traded for the first time, the Bruins prospect dealt with his share of adversity during the 2015-16 campaign.
In early November, while playing for Swift Current of the WHL, DeBrusk took a slapshot to the groin, which required emergency surgery and left him sidelined for about a month.
Then, the day after Christmas, he was traded from Swift Current to Red Deer.
DeBrusk, who was drafted by the Bruins with the 14th overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, also dealt with a few other nagging injuries throughout the season, which saw his goal and point totals drop significantly from 2014-15, when he tallied 42 goals and 81 points in 72 games.
The 19-year-old forward still averaged more than a point per game, posting 21 goals and 65 points last season, impressive totals considering all that he had to endure. DeBrusk then added 17 points in 17 playoff games as Red Deer made it all the way to the Memorial Cup semifinals.
Because he had to face all of those obstacles, DeBrusk believes he is better positioned now to handle any challenges that may come his way as his career progresses.
“For sure,” DeBrusk said during Bruins Development Camp earlier this month. “[The injury] was a difficult experience. It was my first time getting injured, missed some time. I didn’t like it. I remember watching every single game on WHL Live.
“I came back way earlier than expected, just for that reason. I can’t stand watching hockey. I had to learn how to play through it. There were other injuries throughout the year that I had to play with.
“That’s just how it goes, that’s hockey. You’re not going to play every game 100 percent. I had to learn that. That’s one of the many things I learned.”
DeBrusk also learned how to become more of a complete, two-way player.
“I was playing 30 minutes a night for Swift Current and playing all situations, things that you want to do as a player. I love it,” said the 6-foot, 183-pound winger.
“That’s one of the things about the NHL nowadays is you have to play both sides of the puck. I took that to heart and thought I got a lot better at it.”
The Edmonton native has no plans of slowing down his learning curve any time soon. He was intent on taking in anything and everything during his time at Development Camp.
“I want to learn as much as possible and see what they have to say and what I have to take into the summer,” said DeBrusk. “I kind of know some of the things I have to work on for sure, but these are the eyes that really matter. Hearing it from them will really take it to heart.”
With his second season in the Bruins organization on the horizon, DeBrusk feels more comfortable around the rink, having had ample time to get to know his teammates, the staff, and the expectations that come with playing in Boston.
“I remember coming in last year [to Development Camp], you’re open-eyed, you’re whole world changes pretty quickly,” said DeBrusk. “It was just another learning experience, just kind of feeling it out. Now I’m comfortable, I know some people here. I know the staff obviously.”
Training camp is still some two months away, but DeBrusk knows he could have an opportunity to make a run at the big club should he make enough of an impression this fall.
“I’m hunting for a job,” said DeBrusk. “This is just Development Camp, I’ve still got lots of time during the summer. But I’m trying to show them that I’m going to be ready, that I’m going to be really prepared for it and I’m going to do the best I can in this training camp. This is going to be a big year for me.”
Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo agreed, saying he thinks DeBrusk has the talent to make a run at a roster spot.
“I think guys that have skill like that, and if they get an opportunity and take advantage of it you never know,” said Pandolfo. “I think he’s young, but who knows? It seems like this league nowadays is going younger and younger. If he has a great camp, the jobs are there.”
After the year DeBrusk has had, nothing would be better than capping it off by earning a spot in Boston.
“I believe in myself and believe in my abilities,” said DeBrusk. “If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will. I’m going in with that mindset every single training session, whether it’s in the gym, whether it’s on the ice, whether it’s doing runs, things like that.
“I’m here for a reason. It’s more of a different outlook this year for sure. It’s something for me to strive for as much as I can and see how it goes.”
The 2016 Boston Bruins Development Camp was presented by AT&T.