BOSTON - Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy will be joining the Providence Bruins on an Amateur Tryout Agreement.
General Manager Don Sweeney made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.
"Charlie has decided that he'll be foregoing the rest of his college career," Sweeney told media. "He'll be signing an ATO very shortly and headed down to play games this weekend. He'll get practice time [on Thursday], and will probably practice Friday and likely be available for the weekend games."
"He's ready, he's anxious, he's looking forward to playing games, so I suspect he'll be playing games this weekend," said Sweeney.
The Providence Bruins will host the Albany Devils on Friday (7:05 p.m. ET), then play in Springfield against the Thunderbirds on Saturday night (7:05 p.m.), before returning home to host the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center (3:05 p.m.)
"It's the first step," said Sweeney. "He's made his decision to leave. We're excited about that process. It leaves some options open, but most importantly, while I'm discussing with his financial advisers and his agent - now that he's leaving school, we can call it that officially - that we'll have ongoing discussions and see where it leads."
"But it leaves some options open, and first and foremost, it gets him playing and gets him acclimated," said Sweeney.
McAvoy just recently finished his sophomore season with Boston University, as the Terriers fell to Minnesota-Duluth in the West Regional Final of the NCAA tournament. McAvoy helped BU to the regional final by scoring the double-overtime winner in a 4-3 victory over North Dakota.
The defenseman recorded five goals and 21 assists for 26 points through 38 games this season. He finished his college career with eight goals and 43 assists for 51 points in 75 games.
"He's disappointed that his college season came to an end," Sweeney said. "His development has been very good. He's been relied upon heavily as a younger player over there, he grew into a leadership role this year. Obviously had a tremendous World Junior and a gold medal effort."
"Their team [at BU] overall was very, very talented, but very young. You go through some growing pains as a result of that, but he played a lot, he played in a lot of situations, so we're excited about his trajectory."
As the Bruins' 14th overall pick in 2016, McAvoy has experienced the whirlwind of being drafted and playing in Boston.
"Charlie's got an outgoing personality. He embraces the expectations," said Sweeney. "You won't know until he's in the NHL, and facing the next level, but I think he'll acclimate himself. He loves to play, he's got a passion for it, and he works hard at his game, so we'll give him all the support that he needs, like we do with all of our players, and I suspect he'll have a very successful career, and we're looking forward to having him."
While the organization was ready to sign McAvoy after this college season, the decision was ultimately up to the blueliner.
"Again, the player is going to dictate that," said Sweeney. "He felt he was ready to make the step and we did as well, so the alignment was there. We certainly were offering the opportunity. We would have respected the decision, had he decided to go back, but in my conversations with Charlie, I felt that he was physically capable of moving forward and challenging for an NHL opportunity."
Would McAvoy be ready to make the jump to the NHL right away?
"He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely," said Sweeney.
It is a balancing act, though, as signing McAvoy to an NHL contract and having him suiting up for an NHL game during the 2016-17 season would mean that he would burn a year of his entry-level contract - he would then be signed through the 2018-19 season, instead of the 2019-20 season.
"There's a balancing act there, and I don't think you ultimately know until you kind of see him play in the NHL and see where his readiness is," said Sweeney. "I think this gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him, and sort of evaluate from there, but we're excited about his talent, his skill set, his love of the game. Charlie loves to play."
When Sweeney was asked if he expected McAvoy to play an NHL game before the season is out, he responded, "That's still to be determined. [He'd] have to have a contract first, and this [ATO] is just a good first step for us, for everybody."
Forsbacka Karlsson Still Mulling Decision
McAvoy's teammate for the last two seasons, forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, is still deciding whether he is going to go back to Boston University for his junior season.
The 2015 second-round pick recorded 14 goals and recorded 19 assists for 33 points in 39 games this season with the Terriers.
"He has not made a final decision, so that rests with Jakob first and foremost," said Sweeney. "And we obviously respect that. But there have been some discussions as to if he is making the decision."
Bjork, Donato, Sherman in Frozen Four
Bruins forward prospect Anders Bjork has been a key contributor for Notre Dame as the head to the Frozen Four in Chicago.
The Bruins' 2014 fifth rounder is a Hobey Baker Award Finalist, and had a hand in all three Fighting Irish goals as the team defeated U-Mass Lowell to earn a chance to head to the national championship.
During Wednesday's press conference, Sweeney was asked if the Bruins would be looking to sign Bjork to an ATO after his season concludes.
"Again, timeline is dictated by the student-athlete, so we wish him well," said Sweeney. "He's extended his season, had a [heck] of a weekend last weekend and we wish him well, and we'll re-address it after the fact, but those are the decisions the player, the family, his advisors will make and indicate to us."
Sweeney has been impressed with the forward's play.
"I've seen Anders several times, including the regional game this past weekend, where he was outstanding," said Sweeney. "He played every other shift, set up the overtime goal, had a few helpers in the game, he's had a really nice progression as a college player, so they've done a fabulous job with their team, I wish them luck; maybe they'll get to the final against Harvard and will be the best of both worlds, to see our prospects playing in the final game."
"He's had a tremendous college career thus far, and we're excited about his development."
Bjork and the Irish will play the University of Denver on April 6 (9:30 p.m., ESPN2). Prospects Ryan Donato and Wiley Sherman will face off alongside their Harvard Crimson teammates again