Countdown to Bruins training camp: Matt Grzelcyk

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Matt Grzelcyk.

The 24-year-old Grzelcyk entered last season as a decent D-man prospect for the Bruins, but there were few expectations that he would make a big contribution to the NHL club. Fast forward a year later and Grzelcyk is in Boston’s NHL plans after signing a two-year deal and has established himself after a strong rookie campaign where he skated well, played smart while making very good decisions and managed to stay in one piece despite a smaller stature at 5-foot-9, 174-pounds that certainly is on the smaller side for hockey’s toughest league.    

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What Happened Last Year: Grzelcyk started the season on the NHL roster and never looked back by continually making plays, simply moving forward with the puck at all times and showing the kind of potential where there could be growth to his game. Grzelcyk is the kind of player that always needs to be moving and keeping the puck out of the defensive zone if he wants to survive in the NHL, and he did a superb job of that in his first season. Grzelcyk stayed mostly healthy and posted three goals and 15 points in 61 games while finishing with an excellent plus-22 rating. Grzelcyk struggled a little bit during the postseason and was sheltered a bit during the season as the third pairing D-man, but whatever the circumstances Grzelcyk was very impressive as a rookie. The offensive D-man looked like a very good fit for Bruce Cassidy’s system and could provide even more offense with more power play time.

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The big question to be answered by Grzelcyk is simply whether he can continue to build on his rookie season. Will he consistently be able to stay in one piece at the NHL level despite the diminutive size and 5-foot-9, 174-pounds? Is there a chance for Grzelcyk to be a big point producer from the back end as he matures into an NHL player, or will his point shooting become an issue if he gets more power play time? Certainly the 24-year-old showed he was an NHL player last season, so now it’s a matter of just seeing how much better Grzelcyk can be with development, playing time and a good helping of confidence that should be there after last season. The ability to remain healthy may just be the ongoing challenge for Grzelcyk in a league where heavy hits and board-rattling body checks are always around every corner for NHL D-men.   

In Their Words: “You never know what to expect, coming in each year, you know, and how it will play out. If you told me that I was going to be here, I’d obviously take it, so it was a great experience. It was tough that it had to end the way it did. I’m just happy to be around, really. This is a great experience. There are a lot of things that I can work on, so looking to improve that [in the offseason].” –Matt Grzelcyk, on his strong rookie season with the Bruins and what he can expect moving forward.

Overall Outlook: Grzelcyk is in an excellent position with the Bruins after signing a new two-year deal on the heels of a strong rookie season. He skates very well, his hockey instincts are strong for a 24-year-old kid and, even better, he’s got the Boston blue collar work ethic growing up in a great Charlestown hockey family. Players suiting up for their hometown teams can have mixed results at the NHL level, but it was all good for Grzelcyk in his first go-round in Boston. Things will get really interesting for the Black and Gold if Grzelcyk makes a big step up offensively over the next season or two, and perhaps makes a more expensive player available to the Bruins as trade collateral moving forward. Grzelcyk will need to make that next step from NHL D-man to top-4 D-man in order for that to happen, however, and that will be easier said than done for a small-bodied player that will always have some defensive limitations.  

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