How the Bruins are trying to get Charlie McAvoy back towards playing ‘to his ceiling’

(Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)

The book has been out for quite some time when it comes to the areas of growth in Charlie McAvoy’s game.

For a young defenseman noted for his transition game and playmaking ability, McAvoy’s hesitancy to shoot the puck — especially when an open line or Grade-A opportunity presents itself — continues to be recurring issue in his growth as a potential franchise blueliner. 

That’s not to say that McAvoy is a black hole upon entering the O-zone. After all, the 21-year-old skater ranked ninth overall among NHL defensemen (min. 500 minutes) last season with a 5v5 primary points per 60 minutes rate of 0.92. 

But when it comes to generating scoring plays by peppering the net himself, McAvoy is still looking looking to become more reactionary when the window is there to fire a puck in on net. 

Operating from the blue line might have McAvoy’s shot distances far from the totals generated by forwards that like to scrap down low like Brett Ritchie (avg. shot distance of 25.2 feet) and Jake DeBrusk (26.4 feet), but McAvoy’s average distance of 44.6 feet is actually the second-best among Boston’s blueliners behind Matt Grzelcyk — but of those attempts, only 64.52% of them have managed to been on target.

And while he’s attempting shots from closer than the average defensemen on the Bruins, the issue with McAvoy in the O-zone has much more to do with frequency than the area in which he attempts said shots.

In terms of individual 5v5 shots per 60 minutes of play, McAvoy clocks in with a rate of 2.61. Among Bruins skaters that have logged at least 50 minutes of 5v5 TOI this year, that ranks dead last on the roster. 

For Bruce Cassidy, the issues with McAvoy’s offensive game are concerning, but can be remedied by harping on him to take those shots when he puts himself in those ideal spots. 

“As a young guy, I think his natural, best ability right now at his age is his puck moving and ability to join the rush and make some plays,” Cassidy said. “He hasn’t finished, but he’s had some looks. So I think that will balance out, I really do.”

But down the other end of the ice, the issues are a bit more concerning.