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Pastrnak Staying Focused on 'Just Playing Hockey'

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins — About two months ago, David Pastrnak inked his first professional contract.

Now, the work begins.

The 18-year-old winger was drafted in the first round (25th overall) by the Bruins in June. Since then, he has attended Boston’s development camp, he has played for the Czech Republic in the National Junior Team Summer Development Camp, and two weeks ago, he arrived in Boston to begin preparing for rookie camp.

To say his life has changed in the last two months would obviously be an understatement, but Pastrnak is trying not to focus on the abundant changes he has encountered since mid-June. Instead, he’s trying to focus on playing hockey and, hopefully, continuing to impress the people who picked him a couple of months ago.

“I had no expectations when I got here for Development Camp,” Pastrnak said. “I just came here for the camp, and I wasn’t thinking about something like I can come back here for the rookie camp, or something like that. I just got here for practice, and [I want to] show the Bruins organization that they made the right pick.”

Thus far, Pastrnak has certainly met expectations. During development camp, he wowed the masses with his craftiness and his willingness to work, and it was enough to earn him an entry-level contract. Now, it’s about taking the next step.

Pastrnak arrived in Boston in late August to begin working out and skating at Boston University, and he has been in attendance at captains’ practices since they began. Often, he is out on the ice long before practices officially begin, working on his stick-handling.

“I’ve been done with the workouts, so the stick-handling, I haven’t done in a long time — so I just [did it] and then I feel better in practice,” he said.

His work is already catching the eyes of some of his more experienced teammates.

“We’ve skated only a few times, but obviously, he’s a quick player — great hands,” said captain Zdeno Chara. “He’s a skilled player, but so far, he’s been just practicing, so it’s a little bit different in games, too.”

Alternate captain Patrice Bergeron’s assessment?

“He’s very fast, skilled,” Bergeron said. “I think he battles hard. I know it’s early, but he seems to be really hard on the puck and wants it, so it’s great to have. He seems to be a great player.”

Pastrnak has also developed a special bond with fellow Czech Republic native David Krejci, who recently inked a six-year, $43.5 million extension with the B's. The two met and had dinner together when Pastrnak was in town for development camp, and Pastrnak finds comfort in knowing he gets to be a part of the same organization as his idol.

“I mean, it will be fun if we can play together,” Pastrnak said. “You know, he signed the six-year [extension], so I have seven years to make the team.”

Krejci, meanwhile, is more than willing to show his young counterpart the ropes along the way.

“It would be nice to play with a Czech guy — it’s been a while since Vladdy Sobotka got traded, so it will be nice for me, [and] I’m sure for him as well,” Krejci said. “He’s only 18, so we’ll see what happens.

“I think he’s going to be asking me more questions than other guys — it’s going to be a little bit easier for him with the Czech language, so I’m ready. I’m excited to help him, and hopefully, he’s going to come to camp and have a good chance to make the team. I haven’t talked to him yet — I got back here [Sunday] night, so I’m going to talk to him and tell him whatever he needs, just let me know. I’m there for him.”

Pastrnak knows there are no promises, and if he is going to claim an open roster spot on this team, he has to earn it. For now, he’s soaking in the experience, and the opportunity to take the ice with the likes of Bergeron and Chara.

“It’s always better when you practice with these guys,” Pastrnak said. “You know, that’s pushing you even more [to] improve yourself and work harder.

“It’s a help, you know, when you come in [as] a rookie and you don’t know anyone, and they’re friendly like that right away. It makes you feel much better. It makes everything better -- on the ice, practicing, workouts. So it’s really good it’s a group like this.”

While his transition to life in Boston is just that — a transition — it is not as difficult as one might expect, given that Pastrnak is just 18 years old. He has been living on his own in Sweden since he was 15, and although he is a bit further away from home this time around, he is confident he can handle the change. For now, he is just enjoying his time on the ice with the veterans, enjoying what is left of the good weather in Boston and trying to stay focused on improving and getting comfortable in preparation for rookie camp, which opens on Sept. 11.

If Pastrnak does not make the team out of camp, General Manager Peter Chiarelli said the forward will return to his team in Sweden rather than be sent to Providence, a term that was negotiated earlier this summer.

Though Chiarelli does expect his first-round draft pick to compete in rookie camp, he is careful to keep those expectations in check.

“He’s going to start the rookie camp, so let’s see how he does there,” Chiarelli said. “He’s obviously a skill and speed package that you see out there. Again, take it slowly; we don’t really want to put him in a high-level spot quite yet. Let’s see how he does at rookie camp [and] at the national rookie tournament. And if he lights it up, maybe he gets up into the upper lines to start. We’ll see.”

Until then, Bergeron — who made his debut with the Bruins at the age of 18 — has some words of wisdom for Pastrnak.

“I think he just has to soak everything in and just enjoy it,” Bergeron said. “I think he seems to be a great kid. He wants to learn, he’s very good in English already. So that’s going to help him, and you know, I think he seems excited and he’s looking forward to it.

“I think it’s nice for him to get here early and get to know the guys, but also the surroundings and the city and whatnot, so I think it’s going to help him. I’ll be there for him if he needs some help, and I’m sure the other guys will be as well.”

Pastrnak will gladly accept the help and guidance of the veterans, but other than that, he will simply continue to do what he knows: play hockey and leave the decisions up to the people in charge.

“I’m not trying to think about it,” he said. “Just playing hockey.”

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