PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Jake DeBrusk is in the midst of his first professional season. And like any young hockey player, he's had to battle through the growing pains that come with adjusting to a new level of competition.
But a few days spent with his father, Lou, during an off day a couple of months ago proved to be a turning point for the 20-year-old Providence Bruins winger.
"My dad came down to Providence for a couple days, we didn't play…just to visit with him, it was simple as that, just having family down to talk hockey, talking with him," DeBrusk, whose father played in over 400 NHL games, said after prepping for Providence's second-round Calder Cup Playoffs series with the Hershey Bears Thursday at Rhode Island Sports Center.
"I felt comfortable throughout the year, but that's when I made my next step and [started] pushing the envelope here."
Over the last 31 games, DeBrusk - the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft - has tallied 11 goals and 17 assists, including three goals and an assist in five postseason contests. The Edmonton native finished second on the P-Bruins in scoring during the regular season with 19 goals and 30 assists in 74 games.
His four postseason points place him second behind Danton Heinen (4-2-6) for the club lead.
"I think just kind of getting rewarded with some puck luck," said DeBrusk. "My game has kind of evolved, especially the second half of the season. Just continue to build and get better every single day. It's always nice when they start going in and you're helping the team out and contributing.
"It's always nice in playoffs too, that's always when all the people are watching and you know backs are against the wall…I had to learn about frustration and those kinds of things, but guys here have really helped me get through that."
Video: Providence preps for playoff series vs. Hershey
Providence head coach Kevin Dean agreed with DeBrusk's assessment of his first-half performance, pointing out that the winger was playing a solid all-around game for much of the year before the points started to pile up.
"I thought he played well right out of the gate, he just wasn't scoring," said Dean. "He had missed a lot of breakaways, a lot of good chances. He started scoring and everyone is saying, 'Oh, he's really starting to come.' But I felt like his game from the get-go was pretty good.
"His scoring definitely rounded out the second half of the year, but the details in his game, his wall work, his defensive zone positioning and his body positioning, taking pucks on the boards and in the neutral zone was pretty good from the start.
"It's gotten better for sure, but it's mostly just been his ability to finish some plays towards the second half that have kind of given him that notice."
Cross, Kuraly Bring Playoff Experience
Tommy Cross and Sean Kuraly are back with Providence after gaining their first Stanley Cup Playoffs experience during Boston's opening-round series against the Ottawa Senators last month.
Cross suited up for Game 3, grabbing an assist on David Backes' goal in the second period. Kuraly, meanwhile, played in four games and delivered a memorable two-goal performance in Game 5, which included the winning tally in double overtime.
"It's been fun. As a player, you just want to be in the playoffs and luckily I've gotten to do that with two teams this year," said Kuraly. "Trying to soak it all in, do the best I can, and help the team in any way I can. Hopefully we keep winning."
Both players are now trying to take what they learned at the NHL level and use it during Providence postseason run.
"The guys up there have obviously had a lot of playoff runs and had success," said Cross, who has played in 27 postseason games during his tenure with Providence. "Just how they approach games, how they approach elimination games, you know how they played with their backs against the wall.
"You've just got to soak it all in and learn from them. And then come down here and bring those same lessons and get off to a lead and play well."
McIntyre Stands Tall
Zane McIntyre submitted a stellar performance in Providence's series-clinching victory in Game 5 of the first round against Wilkes-Barre, making a season-high 50 saves to lead the P-Bruins to the Atlantic Division Finals against Hershey.
"It's emotional," McIntyre said of playing in a game like that. "All the guys on the team here that have sacrificed throughout the year, really building up to the playoffs and our postseason play, guys are buying in and doing all the right things.
"I think it was definitely emotional and definitely a pretty sweet feeling to have that go our way, to push so hard and kind of stay persistent and overcome."
Stay tuned to BostonBruins.com for a full preview of Providence's series against Hershey and for continuing coverage of the P-Bruins postseason run.