The next wave: Why a Bruins top pairing of Charlie McAvoy & Matt Grzelcyk could thrive in 2020 and beyond

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

If the Boston Bruins are going to orchestrate another deep playoff run in 2020, there stands a good chance that the usual suspects like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask will play a major role in said success. But if this Original Six franchise plans on getting past clubs like Tampa Bay and punching their ticket back to the Stanley Cup Final within the next few seasons, it's pretty evident that the next wave of talent on this roster is going to establish themselves as the next pillars of this franchise — and proving such with their on-ice contributions. 

"That core group that’s here now grew into what they are because of their efforts and the culture created. We want that continuation to start at some point for the second layer, I though it did last year," Bruce Cassidy said. "Jake (DeBrusk) had a really good playoff his first year against Toronto, it’s a reason why we advanced, (Sean) Kuraly scored some big goals and now (Charlie) McAvoy, so you’re leaning on those guys to pull harder on the rope is what we’re going after. It’s as simple as that. We have a lot of trust and faith and our core guys are still carrying us, but it’s a full 20 guys and you need those other guys to step up sometimes."

Over the next few weeks, we'll take a look at a couple of younger players on this B's roster that can (and likely have to) step up in a major way in 2020 — especially if Boston wants to keep its Cup-contention window open a little longer.

First up, we'll take a look at what could be Boston's new top defensive pair in 2020 and beyond: 

Even if Zdeno Chara returns for a 15th season in a black and gold sweater, it's just about a given that the 43-year-old skater's extended tenure as a top-pairing defenseman is a relic of the past. Of course, Chara could still provide value to this club as a third-pairing option and PK ace, but a B's D corps potentially set to soldier on without Torey Krug next season will also be faced without another pressing challenge — determining who will slot next to Charlie McAvoy on Boston's top D pairing.

They may not have to look very far.

While it's generally only been showcased during situational matchups or fleeting stretches, there's an awful lot to like about the potential of Boston's blue line whenever McAvoy is given a chance to skate alongside another fleet-footed defenseman — and his former collegiate teammate — in Matt Grzelcyk. 

Grzelcyk, a pending RFA who will already likely be in line for a major boost in terms of reps next season — especially on the man advantage — if Krug does indeed depart, offers a very different look on that top pair when compared to Chara's game, to say the least.

The Charlestown native's 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame doesn't cast the same shadow over an opposing set of skaters quite like Chara's, of course. But Grzelcyk's playmaking potential, skill in transition and still sound defensive play could give Boston a dynamic top pairing for the future and allow McAvoy to tap more into the offensive game that Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins are looking for more of next season — both from him and every regular in the club's D corps.