BOSTON – David Krejci arrived in Boston when he was just 18 years old.
He had blond highlights and wore the No. 23.
Suffice it to say, things have changed quite a bit in the 12 years since he was drafted by the Bruins in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
The Czech Republic native – now 30 years old and sporting his naturally dark brown hair and No. 46 – has grown immensely both on and off the ice, developing into one of the more skilled centers in the National Hockey League.
Krejci, while enjoying his place among the league’s better playmakers, doesn’t mind taking time to reflect on his Bruins tenure every now and again.
“Oh yeah, I always look back,” Krejci said last week. “It’s always fun to kind of see how far you came along. It’s been a long road, but it’s been so much fun. It’s been a long time – so many faces are still here, especially our management and coaching staff and some of the players as well.
“It’s good to have someone to share the memories with…what happened long ago.”
There have been plenty of memories for Krejci, who has twice led the league in playoff scoring while helping pace the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup title and a spot in the 2013 Cup Final (he ranks 10th all-time among Bruins with 77 career playoff points).
Krejci is 18th on the Bruins’ all-time regular-season scoring list with 472 points.
“You come in here and you’re 18, 19, 20 years old and now I’m 30 years old so a lot has changed,” said Krejci. “I became a better person, a better player. I’ve been working with so many good people in this organization and the team around me.
“It’s been a great ride and hopefully I can keep continuing growing as a player and as a person.”
That ride began shortly after he was drafted in June of 2004. Krejci went on to play two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, before joining the Providence Bruins for the 2006-07 season.
Krejci led the P-Bruins in scoring both in the regular season (31-43—74) and playoffs (3-13—16). He also made his NHL debut on Jan. 30, 2007 at Buffalo and played six games with Boston.
Providence “was a great step forward in my career,” said Krejci. “The transition from junior to professional hockey, it’s just so big that I feel like if I would just go right away junior to NHL I wouldn’t be the player I am now.
“So that was a big part of me developing my game, for me to go down there, get some games, get the feel for professional hockey and everything else – and live on my own for the first time, pretty much.
“That was just a great learning experience.”
The time in Providence prepared Krejci for the next step of his career, which came the following fall when he made Boston’s roster out of training camp. Krejci notched his first career point on Oct. 6, 2007, against Phoenix, but his development was far from over.
Just a month into the season, Krejci was sent back down to Providence. He performed well over the next couple of months, tallying 7-21—28 totals, and was recalled to Boston after the New Year.
He never returned to Providence.
Krejci scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 26, 2008, against Ottawa, and finished second on the Bruins with five points in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He knew then that he had made it.
“My first year in Providence I got called up a few times, I didn’t have that feeling that I made it,” said Krejci. “But then the next year [2007-08], I made the team from training camp and after five, six games they told me to find a place that I’m here for good.
“But it wasn’t easy at the beginning, even after they told me. You still have to work hard, and I remember they sent me back down for a few weeks after they told me to find a place. So that was kind of a wakeup call and they kind of made sure that I don’t just get too satisfied just being here.
“I still [had] to work hard and that's why they sent me down. And that’s what I did and I came back up here and stayed ever since.”
Krejci played all 82 games – and 11 playoff games – the next season, tallying 73 points (22 goals, 51 assists), second on the team behind Marc Savard. He tied for the team lead in points the next two seasons (with Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic, respectively), before taking the crown in 2013-14 (69 points).
Much of the core group that led the Bruins to seven straight playoff appearances and a Stanley Cup championship grew up together over that time. Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, and Tuukka Rask are among those who remain.
“We’ve been together for a long time,” said Krejci. “And we accomplished some pretty cool things and we also have fun off the ice as well. We all get along well and now we’ve grown from being in our early 20s, having fun, to being married and having kids now.
“We’re all kind of growing together and it’s just great to see these things. And on the ice, you know, we’ve done some pretty good things. So hopefully we can create some more memories here in the future.”
Memories that Krejci hopes he can look back on during those times of reflection.
The 2016 Boston Bruins Development Camp, presented by AT&T, will take place from July 12-15, at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. All on-ice sessions are open to the public, with the camp’s roster to be announced at a later date. For the latest information on current Bruins prospects, bookmark BostonBruins.com/prospects.