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Comm. Ave Connection: McAvoy Looks Up to Former BU Teammate Grzelcyk

by Eric Russo / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON – It did not take long for Matt Grzelcyk to notice the talent.

He had heard all about the young, gifted defenseman that was on his way to Boston University. So when Charlie McAvoy stepped onto the Agganis Arena ice last fall as a member of the Terriers, Grzelcyk was not surprised at the freshman’s immediate impact.

“Right away, honestly,” said Grzelcyk of when he realized McAvoy had that special something.

“He was pretty heralded coming into college. With him only being 17, he really didn’t show any signs of [inexperience] right off the bat. I knew he was going to be a fun player to play with.”

And so a bond was formed.

Boston University coach David Quinn paired McAvoy with Grzelcyk – the two-year captain of the Terriers – to form one of the best blue line duos in college hockey. The two instantly connected, combining for 13 goals, 48 assists, and a plus-27 rating, while helping to pace BU to a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

McAvoy’s 25 points led all Terrier defensemen, while Grzelcyk’s 23 points ranked second.

“I have a lot of fun memories with him out there,” said Grzelcyk, who finished his career at BU with 26 goals and 95 points in 125 games and will likely suit up for the Providence Bruins this fall.

“I think we’re pretty similar in that we like to move the puck up the ice. It was nice, if he wanted to join the rush I would stay back and he would kind of let me take my chance as well.”

The two are reunited this week at the 10th Annual Boston Bruins Development Camp. McAvoy is participating in his first such camp after being drafted by the Bruins with the 14th overall pick last month, while Grzelcyk is in the midst of his fifth development camp.

With both now wearing the Spoked-B, the Bruins would like nothing more than to see the connection continue deep into the future.

“It’s nice when guys are comfortable with each other. It makes everything easier,” said Bruins assistant coach and fellow BU alum Jay Pandolfo.

“I think looking forward [McAvoy] looks up to Grizz and it’s nice to have him in this organization.”

Pandolfo was effusive in his praise for McAvoy, who was already making a profound impact during his first day in the Black & Gold.

“He’s smooth,” said Pandolfo. “I think he’s [6-foot-1], but he looks like he’s 6-2, 6-3. He’s wide. He can really skate. He’s an effortless skater. He’s the type of D-man that you hope can play 25, 26 minutes a night. That’s what he looks like, even watching him in college this year. He has no problem handling a lot of ice time. That’s important.

“On the ice, sometimes you can tell guys that are leaders right off the hop and he was talking a lot and helping guys out. He’s a first-year guy – to be able to do that, and see a guy that’s going to be a leader going forward, it was impressive.

It was that same poise that stood out to Grzelcyk last season, as McAvoy did not turn 18 until December, making him college hockey’s youngest player.

“Really impressed, especially for a defenseman,” said Grzelcyk. “They kind of tend to mature later in their years playing hockey, but he was awesome right from the get-go. He carried us through the whole year.”

The instant success did not surprise McAvoy – if only because he never much thought about being the youngest player on the ice.

“You don’t really think, ‘I’m the youngest kid in college hockey,’ when you’re out there and lining up for a face-off or something like that,” said McAvoy. “You’re just thinking about how you’re going to compete against that guy next to you. It really doesn’t matter how old he is.

“I guess it’s cool and a testament to the year I had, playing against guys older than me. It wasn’t really something I looked at. I had a lot of confidence in myself to be successful.”

This week, McAvoy is practically an old man. He is just the sixth-youngest player participating in the camp, but that will not change his approach. Elevating his game to the highest level is still the goal.

“This is a great opportunity for me to really learn and get in shape and get back to some good conditioning,” said McAvoy.

“I really familiarized myself with the resources that are here to support me and help me. They have faith in me and those are the people I’m going to lean on throughout my career. It’s great to get in here and start the relationships with those people.

“I think I want to continue to grow defensively and get more mature in my own zone and besides that just the little things: getting stronger, getting faster, getting more mature and more mentally tough.

“Things like that that you’re going to need at the next level.”

And, of course, he’ll have Grzelcyk to help him along the way.

“He kind of just took me under his wing,” said McAvoy. “I’ll follow that kid anywhere. I have so much faith in him. He’s only been good to me since I got to BU, since I met him. I’m just going to listen to everything he says this week. He’s been there before.

“I have a feeling he’s not going to steer me in the wrong direction.”

The 2016 Boston Bruins Development Camp is presented by AT&T.

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