But the Bruins winger knows scoring on a nightly basis at the National Hockey League level is not necessarily a realistic expecation.
So that’s why he used this past offseason to better himself in all areas of his game. From forechecking, to backchecking, to skating, the 22-year-old wants to make sure he is as effective as he can be, even when the puck isn’t finding the back of the net.
“You’re not going to score a goal every night, so if you’re not scoring goals every night you need to be backchecking, being first on the forecheck, getting pucks out of the D-zone, keeping pucks out of your net,” Vatrano said after participating in Bruins captain’s practice on Thursday morning.
“Those are the things I’m still working on and will keep working on.”
The East Longmeadow, Mass., native is keen on building off of his successful rookie campaign, during which he potted eight goals and added three assists in 39 games for Boston. Securing a spot as a winger on one of the Bruins’ top two lines is his goal.
“I’m obviously excited for the opportunity,” said Vatrano. “But at the end of the day, it’s up to the coaches and management. I’ve just got to work hard and prove to them that I can play in that role. But whatever role they want to put me on I’m going to play my hardest and be that complete player that I want to be.”
That hard work began last season after his first stint in Boston came to an end. Following a stretch of about two months with the big club (from November to January), Vatrano was sent to Providence to round out his game, before he was recalled to Boston for nine games during the stretch run.
“The first time coming up is an adjustment,” said Vatrano. “A lot of young guys go through it…I faded off a bit. Then I went back down to Providence and kind of got some confidence back and worked on the things I needed to work on at this level to become a complete player.
“I think once I got my second time around I knew what I needed to do to be reliable in all areas of the ice. I think that second time around was an eye-opener and I knew what I needed to do to keep a full-time roster spot.”
With the confidence he accumulated last spring, Vatrano is feeling much more at ease as his second season approaches.
“Last year was my first full year, so now coming in and knowing what to expect and having a year of pro underneath my belt, I know what it takes to play at the next level and to be a complete player,” said Vatrano.
“You have more confidence, you know exactly what to expect with the testing, the practices, the system. You know everything going in and you can just focus on playing hockey and not have to worry about those little things.”
The 5-foot-10, 216-pound winger is also now more adept at moving on from each game. After playing around 40 games a year at the college and junior levels, Vatrano suited up for 75 between Boston and Providence last season. There was not much time to enjoy – or dwell – on one particular night.
“When you’re playing in the NHL, you play, you practice, you play,” said the former UMass-Amherst standout. “I think it’s just about turning the page real quick. If you have a good game, you have a good game. If you have a bad game, you have a bad game. You have to flip the page and just move on to the next one.”
Though he has gained plenty of experience over the last year, Vatrano is not interested in being satisfied with his position. He is well aware of the stiff competition he will be facing to secure a consistent spot among the top six forwards.
“Competition brings out the best in everyone,” said Vatrano. “For me, it just makes me take my game to a whole other level. It’s always exciting to see new guys come in and compete for spots. I’m up for the challenge.”
Vatrano is a left shot and played the left wing alongside centers Ryan Spooner and Noel Acciari during his second stint with Boston last season. He does, however, feel comfortable playing the right side should coach Claude Julien need him to do so.
In fact, he even thinks right wing suits his offensive game a bit better.
“I’ve been comfortable playing both positions,” said Vatrano. “I went back down to Providence at the end of the year for playoffs and I was playing the right side.
“A little bit more of a challenge defensively… But I think it creates my shot a little bit more. I come in off my strong side and kind of pull it to the middle instead of coming from my backhand. Offensive side, it’s a real good thing for me."
Vatrano credited his time at the IIHF Men’s World Championship back in May for helping to further his growth as a player. In 10 games for the United States, he tallied eight points (three goals, five assists), which ranked him third on the team, behind Dylan Larkin and tournament linemate Auston Matthews.
“I think it was a great move for me to go out there and play,” said Vatrano. “I played in a top-six role and power play over there and played with some great players that made me play well…It was a great experience and I’m glad I did it.”
He is hoping to achieve similar success in Boston – both individually and as a team.
“I think we’re hungrier than ever,” said Vatrano. “We have a lot to prove. We have a great bunch of guys in the room and on this team that can win games. I think it’s just us having that mindset knowing that we have a great team.”