The Boston Bruins have locked up one of their many impressive young players, announcing an extension for defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. The deal carries a $1.4MM AAV and will keep the Boston native with his hometown team for at least two more years.
While Grzelcyk may not be one of the most talked-about young players in the league or even in Boston, the small but capable blue liner was a pleasant surprise as a rookie in 2017-18. A 2012 third-round pick and a former pair-mate of fellow Bruin Charlie McAvoy’s at Boston University, the Bruins always had high expectations of Grzelcyk. However, few could have expected that his performance would thrust him into a starting role and leave veterans like Adam McQuaid and Paul Postma as afterthoughts for much of the season. Grzlecyk skated in 61 games for the Bruins, contributing 15 points along the way. He also posted a +21 rating, tied for third-best on the team with two-way star Patrice Bergeron. In the postseason, Grzelcyk played in all but one of Boston’s games as well and didn’t look out of place.
Perhaps the greatest attribute that Grzelcyk showed as a rookie – and one that caught the eye of those in tune with advanced analytics – was his possession ability. Grzelcyk finished the year with a top 25 Corsi For rating (among players with at least 300 minutes of ice time) of 55.67%, which was third best among rookies behind only McAvoy and Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois. Grzelcyk even held the best relative shot differential among all defenseman in the NHL for a significant span of time mid-season. While not an overly physical player nor a player with huge offensive upside, Grzelcyk showed himself to be a safe puck-handler and a player that can be relied on to create offense and suppress the opposing offense.
Moving forward, Grzelcyk’s role may change. The Bruins continue to show a desire to add a top-four left-handed defenseman, likely to pair long-term with McAvoy at the top of the depth chart. This would likely shift Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug down, as McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Kevan Miller form a solid grouping on the right side. The result could be Grzelcyk becoming an extra man rather than a starter for the next year or two. Grzelcyk’s skill set and ceiling could make him an ideal seventh defender in his career, if that is the role he is asked to play. However, the value of this contract and the speed with which both sides agreed upon the terms indicates that the Bruins have plans for Grzelcyk, likely short-term or long-term. The young defenseman is just getting started with his NHL career and will get plenty more chances to show himself in Boston.