SPRINGFIELD - Charlie McAvoy did not set any expectations for himself Saturday night. Entering his professional debut, the 19-year-old defenseman simply wanted to adjust to a higher level of hockey.
He had little trouble doing so.
The 14th overall pick in last June's NHL Entry Draft notched an assist, while landing three shots on goal and finishing a plus-2 in his first game with the Providence Bruins - a 3-2 loss to the Springfield Thunderbirds at the MassMutual Center.
"It was very exciting, very exciting, something I've been looking forward to since the moment I signed that [amateur tryout agreement on Wednesday]. It was fun, it was fun being around this group of guys, everyone wants to win real bad," said McAvoy, who was paired with Providence captain Tommy Cross for the evening.
"Just a feel out process, I didn't go into the game saying let's get a goal and a few assists, I don't really have that kind of expectation. My expectation is to just contribute when I can.
"I did what I could tonight - not perfect, but I'm going to be able to take a lot of lessons from tonight and continue to use them the rest of the season."
Video: Charlie McAvoy, Kevin Dean react to D-man's pro debut
The Bruins' star defense prospect came as advertised for Providence head coach Kevin Dean.
"I thought it was a really strong first game for him," said Dean, who is in his first year at the helm of the P-Bruins. "He shows a lot of composure. Physically he's not going to be an issue playing in this league or even the next league.
"He's going to have to learn some things, but he has composure, he's got poise, he wants the puck, he wants to make plays and that's a terrific thing to have in a young player.
"I think that's certainly a good start and we'll see where he goes from there."
After Providence fell behind, 3-0, in the first period, McAvoy notched his first professional point with a slick helper on Jordan Szwarz's tally at 7:44 of the second to get the P-Bruins on the board. The blueliner corralled the puck at the right point and dished it to Szwarz, who buried a one-timer from the top of the slot to bring Providence within 3-1.
"The first goal he made a nice play on it, kind of got us going and got us back into the hockey game," said Dean. "His poise was terrific. When players get to understand that Charlie's got that kind of poise, they'll work the spots better for him as well…one hand will wash the other."
The former Boston University standout was also on the ice for Providence's second goal. McAvoy started the P-Bruins' transition up the ice with a strong outlet pass to Cross. Cross dumped the puck into the offensive zone and allowed the Providence forwards to get to work on the forecheck, leading to Szwarz's second of the night at 17:04 of the middle period.
"I thought he might skate the puck a little bit more, but he didn't need to because he was moving the puck so well when he first got it," said Dean. "That's a terrific thing for a defenseman to have…he's got that ability to move the puck up to the forwards and join late."
McAvoy, while not pleased with the loss, was grateful for the opportunity to learn from Cross and to be, once again, sharing a dressing room with his former Boston University defense partner, Matt Grzelcyk.
"Tonight was awesome, playing with Tommy Cross. He made my life really easy," said McAvoy, who earlier this week decided to forego the final two seasons of his career with the Terriers. "He simplifies the game so well, so I'm looking at some of his tendencies and saying, 'Alright, if I can do that I'll have success.'
"Obviously getting to play on a team with Matt Grzelcyk again, he's someone I looked up to at BU and I'm looking up to him here, along with the rest of the D-corps.
"They all play different styles, but I can take a little bit from everyone's game and use it to become a better overall defenseman."