McAvoy ticks off Gordie Howe hat trick on the Calder checklist

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BOSTON – You can check another box off on the Calder Trophy check list for 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy after he threw together his first career Gordie Howe hat trick in Monday night’s blowout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Not only did McAvoy score the game-winning goal on a roofed PP one-timer and play a strong, physical game against a heavy Blue Jackets team in the 7-2 win for the Bruins, but he also impressed the rabid Bruins fans, his own teammates and possibly himself with the way he handled his first NHL fight. The rookie D-man becomes the first Bruins rookie to score a Gordie Howe hat trick (fight, goal and an assist) since Milan Lucic did it way back in the 2007-08 season, and the first B’s player to pull the trick since Zdeno Chara last did it in 2013. 

“It definitely wasn’t even on the list. I know that I try to play the game with a lot of passion, and that’s something he was doing too. Stuff like that is going to happen,” said McAvoy, who has five goals and 18 points in 31 games along with a plus-4 rating this season. “There have been times along the line this year where something like that might have happened, but tonight it just did. It happened really quickly, and I felt like I was able to protect myself pretty well.”

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McAvoy threw a couple of punishing hits against the Blue Jackets in the heavyweight game, and one of those was a body check in the corner on fellow first rounder Pierre-Luc Dubois in the third period. 

McAvoy was eventually whistled for an illegal check to the head after the collision between the big-bodied players, and Dubois responded with a forearm to McAvoy’s face. Credit the rookie defenseman for taking matters into his own hands rather than waiting for a teammate to protect him, and instead McAvoy dropped the gloves with Dubois. 

As former first round picks and top prospects, they are in something of the same class fighter-wise, but McAvoy had zero experience fighting given his college hockey background at Boston University. Despite all of that the 19-year-old handled himself pretty well in a bout where he scored the take-down on Dubois, and managed to get the “attaboy” from his head coach afterward. 

“It’s two young guys, you know, and that’s legit. He’s going to have to do it periodically because he hits hard and you’d hate to see him get overmatched in a certain situation or go out looking for it when it’s unnecessary. I think that just came together. It happens,” said Cassidy. “He did very well; he’s a strong kid. I don’t know if historically he’s a guy that’s dropped [the gloves] – in college I don’t assume you do anyway. But he’s so strong and smart I imagine he’ll be able to handle himself. I think he’s 1-0 to start, so good for him.”

McAvoy said his only real fight training arrived when he first signed on with the Providence Bruins last season, and former Bruins tough guy Tyler Randell spent 15-20 minutes on ice with him after practice showing him the basics of protecting himself in a hockey bout. All of that came in handy for a rookie defenseman that has impressively done everything well in his first season, and was back playing with energy, swagger and rare poise after a couple of average games in losses to the Capitals and Rangers overt the last week. 

“It was great to see from a couple young guys to play a little old school hockey, and both guys I think showed themselves well. That’s half the battle is showing up, and I think both teams were pleasantly surprised with their guys standing up for themselves,” said David Backes of the third period hockey fight between rookies. “We ended up, I think, even picking up [our game] further from there, so great job by him. Gordie Howe hat trick as a 19-year- old, and couldn’t be happier for him and great team win tonight.”

So now you can say that McAvoy is a high end puck-moving defenseman, a power play quarterback, a top pairing guy, an ice time workhorse and a hard-edged youngster capable of a Gordie Howe hat trick all at the precocious young age of 19 years old. That all sounds like a pretty strong and worthy candidate for the Calder Trophy to me. 

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