Young Guns, Gettin’ It Done
Just before the world shut down thanks to COVID 19, I gave you all a few players to keep an eye on. I hope a few of you did so because the young guns have been running the show up in the Bubbles. Not taking anything away from the veterans, it’s just that players under 25 have been lighting the lamp night in and night out. I’m not even talking about the superstars. I’m talking about the guys flying in the shadows of their prominent counterparts. I’ll recap a few I mentioned back in March, as well as others we’re going to see more of coming into Round 2.
Some of the Finest Under 25
Jake Virtanen (Canucks), 24
It’s easier to forget there are other good young players on the Canucks with names like Hughes, Boeser, and Pettersson on the roster. I mentioned him in March, and I stand by my statement that he’s going to be important to Vancouver’s success. He has a couple of points in 9 games of the postseason so far, his first playoff experience, but he’s already shown he’s not afraid of anyone with 14 hits and 2 blocked shots to show for his efforts. Not to mention his 21 PIMs so far. Hopefully, he’ll stay out of the box a little more moving forward to help his team with secondary scoring.
Anthony Beauvillier (Islanders), 23
This one hurts in the best way. He kicked the crap out of Washington in the first round (still recovering from that one) with 3 goals and an assist in 5 games. I knew how good he was coming into the postseason, as evidenced by my March post; I loved watching him play until it was against the Caps. He’s quick, smart, and good with the puck. He may have spent much of the regular season with superstar Barzal, but he’s proven in the first round that he can score off of anyone’s pass. He’s dangerous around the net, makes his own chances, and takes every breakaway he can. I have no doubts that he’ll be a major force when the Isles play the Flyers.
Andre Burakovsky (Avalanche), 25
I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, Andre Burakovsky has truly blossomed in Colorado. Nothing speaks to this more than his performance against Arizona in the first round: 2 goals and 3 assists in 5 games. He logged more average time on ice in the regular season this year than in Washington by 2 minutes. While it hurts to see him do so well for a different team, I couldn’t be more excited for him. He’s quick, has a wicked shot, and has finally figured out how to make smart plays rather than impulsive and risky ones. I can guarantee you’ll see his name on the scoresheet in Round 2.
Ivan Provorov (Flyers), 23
While the regular season may not have been his most impressive, it seems that the Bubble has done Provorov some good. He had a goal and two assists against Montreal. For Prov, it’s not all about his point production. He’s averaging over 25 minutes per game, which is crazy, and it seems that his confidence level has boosted. In the 9 games he’s played in the Bubble, he has 14 blocked shots and 9 hits. He’s also been taking plenty of shots for himself and done well on the powerplay. Personally, I’d like to see him be a little more physical and smarter on the puck, but I think he’ll be a factor moving forward.
Alex Tuch (Golden Knights), 24
A former BC Eagle, Tuch is another player that has blossomed on his second team. Since arriving in Edmonton, he’s scored 4 goals and had an assist in 8 games. He is also another player whose worth cannot be fully measured in points, though. He’s blocked 3 shots and has 18 hits so far. He’s a physical guy who can get under your skin and frustrate other teams. The Knights are a well-balanced team in terms of point production and physicality, and Alex Tuch is a big part of that. He’s not quite fun to watch, but you have to appreciate his work ethic and dedication to his team.
Miro Heiskanen (Stars), 21
Admittedly, I knew next to nothing about Heiskanen coming into the postseason. Looking at his numbers and watching him play, I really wonder why that is. He’s already grinding out 26 minutes a game in the Bubble while notching 9 assists and 3 goals in 9 games—as a defenseman. If this kid played for any other team, he would be a big name. He could be better with maintaining puck possession, but that’s really my only complaint about this guy. He rarely takes penalties and does well on special teams. If he stays with the Stars for his whole career, I can see his name getting to the rafters. He’s an impressive young player for sure.
Anthony Cirelli (Lightning), 23
Under the shadow of Brayden Point is a hidden physical talent. Cirelli is much like Beauvillier in that it has taken him a few years, but he’s matured into a player who can influence a game. He’s also similar to Virtanen in that he’s a very physical guy, who already has 27 hits in 8 games in the Bubble. That’s wild. He’s also getting 20 minutes of ice time per game. Obviously the coaches down in Tampa think a lot of this kid. I can’t say I’ve seen him play a whole lot, but I can tell you I’m going to play a lot more attention to him in the coming week and a half.
Jake DeBrusk (Bruins), 23
I don’t have to tell you Bostonians how good DeBrusk has been. I won’t insult you all by trying to cover all of his attributes as if I watch him play every night, but what I will say is that he’s one of the most consistently good players of his age. He doesn’t always put up a ton of points, but he’s always around where he needs to be, always willing to dish out a hit or two, and works like a horse. For non-Boston fans, he plays a lot like you’d expect a Boston player to play—not the highest-flying, exciting guy, rather the guy who puts those players into the boards to break up plays. He plays smart and fits in the team so well that there’s no way he can’t do well going forward.
When it comes to playoffs, it’s not just up to the first line anymore. It’s players like these that can make or break games or even series. It’s hard not to be excited for the future of hockey with these up-and-coming players and those behind them. The rest of the playoffs should be very interesting; you all know who I’ll be watching.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)