Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Boston University defenseman Charlie McAvoy has aspirations of joining the growing list of budding prospects from Long Island looking to someday earn a spot on an NHL roster.
"I'm from a city (Long Beach, N.Y.) that isn't known as a hockey hotbed," McAvoy said. "But the thing is there have been a lot of guys from Long Island having success and reaching the NHL. We've had a good little run of late."
Most recently, Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y.) and Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y.) were high selections in the NHL Draft. Milano went No. 16 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2014; Bracco went No. 61 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015. They joined Rob Scuderi (Syosset, N.Y.), Mike Komisarek (West Islip, N.Y.) and Eric Nystrom (Syosset, N.Y.) as Long Island standouts to make it big in the NHL.
Charlie McAvoy will be one of the top defensemen available in the 2016 NHL Draft. (Photo: Steve McLaughlin/BU Athletics)
McAvoy will be one of the top defensemen available in the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, N.Y., on June 24-25. He is also in the crosshairs of the managerial team at USA Hockey for possible inclusion on the U.S. team that will compete in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.
"My dad played hockey until he was about 15 years old, but my grandpa couldn't afford to help him continue in the sport," McAvoy said. "My dad had me on skates when I was 4 and he's supported me so much."
McAvoy actually started playing hockey on rollerblades before joining the New Jersey Rockets of the Metro Junior Hockey League in 2012-13; he was named 2013 MJHL offensive defenseman of the year and earned a spot on All-MJHL First Team.
He then joined Bracco and fellow 2016 draft-eligible defenseman Adam Fox (Jericho, N.Y.) with the Long Island Gulls in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League.
In 2013-14, McAvoy played for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey League. He had seven goals and 19 points in 54 games with the Under-17 team that first season, and seven goals and 40 points in 63 games with the U-18 team in 2014-15.
"I think the biggest thing I learned at the NTDP was gap control," McAvoy said. "Gap control is everything. The sooner you can close out a play coming at you and turn it right back up and transition to offense, the better off. That's how the game should be played. I worked with my coaches on gap control for two years and it really paid off for me."
McAvoy helped the U-18 team win a gold medal at the 2015 IIHF Under-18 World Championship; he also won titles at the 2014 U-18 Four Nations Tournament, 2014 U-17 Five Nations Tournament and 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
"Charlie has been on the NHL scouts' radar for the past two seasons," said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. "As one of the youngest defenseman with the USNTDP, he was a strong contributor every game and was expected to step right into a big role at Boston University."
He has done just that. McAvoy has earned a top-four role along the blue line for BU coach David Quinn and has one goal, six points and 27 shots on goal in 13 games for the Terriers. He also has 15 blocked shots and has been a steady presence.
McAvoy is an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list and is considered to be a potential first-round pick in the 2016 draft. He is one of only two skaters playing college hockey to earn an A rating; the other was center Luke Kunin of the University of Wisconsin.
"He has a real pro game to him," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He's a player who, because of his late birthdate (Dec. 21. 1997), has played with players already drafted at a very high level for a long time, but has shown the kind of game that really translates well to the pro game."
Gregory believes playing for Quinn will only help enhance his game, similar to how Jack Eichel progressed with the Terriers in 2014-15 on the way to winning the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player. Eichel was selected No. 2 by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft.
"It may take [McAvoy] longer to get up to the level of speed of the college game, but knowing what I know about his game, I don't think it'll be that long," Gregory said. "He's going to be playing at a level that will allow NHL teams to say, 'I can see where he'll fit into our system and where he projects as a pro player.' He will become a legitimate NHL defenseman."
McAvoy describes himself as an offensive defenseman, but he understands the importance of taking care of the defensive zone before making the quick transition.
"Whenever you can contribute as that fourth guy coming into the offensive zone is always a bonus," McAvoy said.
Excelling on the power play is one area in which McAvoy takes great pride.
"It's always been one of my strong suits," he said. "With the NTDP last season, I thought I was able to help my team whenever I could with the man-advantage. I hope to continue that with BU. I have to earn a spot, of course, but if I do get that role I feel I'll be able to help."
Quinn, the 2014-15 Hockey East coach of the year, said McAvoy will be contributing in all situations for his team.
"Charlie has been an elite player for a long time," Quinn said. "He's got great skills and vision and he's a big, strong kid that skates well. He's one of the top freshman defensemen in college hockey."