PITTSBURGH - David Pastrnak can play four more NHL games before the Bruins have a decision to make.
Once he suits up in Game No. 10, his entry-level contract would kick in for the 2014-15 season. He's already played in five games, against Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.
While the Bruins' brass can evaluate his play in Providence this season and at the World Junior Championship, the evaluation time at the NHL level is limited.
With two games in two nights on tap for the Bruins on Wednesday in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, and then on Thursday in Boston against the New Jersey Devils, the organization has opted to not burn two of his games with the back-to-back.
"He's not going to go tonight [against Pittsburgh]," Head Coach Claude Julien said on Wednesday morning following his team's pregame skate at the CONSOL Energy Center.
"He'll be going tomorrow [against New Jersey], as the organization has decided to obviously evaluate him with four games before they make that big decision on his contract status."
"They want to see him in the best situations possible and back-to-back is not a great way to do that," Julien continued. "He's just come back from the junior tournament, so again, another day here of practice with us and getting ready for [Thursday] is what we felt was best for him and for us as an organization to evaluate him."
Pastrnak was recalled by the big club on Tuesday morning and practiced with the team before traveling to Pittsburgh.
When he does get into the lineup on Thursday against the Devils, he'll likely be on David Krejci's right wing. Krejci was injured for all of Pastrnak's previous five games played.
It is a position Pastrnak was bound to find himself in, ever since he impressed at development camp after being drafted 25th overall in June. Circumstances have kept it from happening, whether because of Pastrnak's shoulder injury during training camp, Krejci's injury situation to start the season, or Pastrnak's adjustment to the North American game.
Four games still won't allow much time, but it's what Julien, General Manager Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins have to work with, given the situation.
"It's more about his ability to play in this league. Can he be a guy that's going to help us? And what can he bring that's going to be good for our hockey club?" said Julien. "They want to evaluate to see if he's ready or not, because, you know, I don't think there's even a question mark that this guy will play in this league, but he's 18 years old. I think that's where the question mark is. Is he ready and capable?"
Pastrnak has no doubt gotten stronger since joining the organization. He's been a quick learner, taking what the Bruins have told him, and improving his game.
He says he's been trying to make simpler plays, and be stronger and heavier on the puck, to find ways to get to the inside. He had trouble battling to the middle of the ice during his first stint with the big club.
"We know he may not be as strong as he's going to be in a couple years or a year from now, but he certainly has the speed to play in this league and he has the skill to play in this league," said Julien. "So as an organization, everybody's involved in that evaluation of that player, you make a decision at the end."
"But the best thing we can do right now is put him in the best position possible to succeed and that's why we're talking about, two-in-two doesn't - we know it's hard enough as it is and the travel on top of that, that's not a good evaluation of a player.
"So we're going to make sure that we give him the best opportunity and give ourselves the best opportunity to evaluate him."