David Pastrnak has quickly risen to stardom in the NHL. The Boston Bruins sniper is in the midst of his most productive season. He joined an exclusive list for the franchise by eclipsing the 50-goal mark in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 26. Now up to 56 goals and 47 assists with five games remaining, he has also surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time in his nine-year career. From growing up in the Czech city of Havirov to becoming one of the most electrifying stars in the NHL, Pastrnak is fulfilling his father Milan’s dream of his son playing hockey at the highest level.
Pastrnak Finds Motivation Through Tragedy
The road hasn’t been easy for the 26-year-old, as before he became a Bruins’ icon, Pastrnak found motivation by seeking to fulfill his father Milan’s dream of his son playing in the NHL. In May 2013, tragically, his father lost his battle with cancer, and the loss drove Pastrnak to practice harder and push himself further to achieve his father’s dream. He has dedicated his hockey career to his father, and without a doubt, his father would be proud of his son’s career accomplishments to date.
During the 2011-12 hockey season, Pastrnak had been plying his trade as a 15-year-old with his home city hockey club, AZ Havirov U-18. He also played parts of three seasons with the AZ Havirov U-16 club, where he scored 71 goals and 48 assists for 119 points in 64 games. With the AZ Havriov U-18 club, he played in 25 games and scored 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points. He was then loaned to HC Ocelari Trinec U-18 to finish the season and scored 33 goals and 14 assists for 47 points in 31 games with the club.
Following the 2011-12 hockey season, Pastrnak and his family decided a move to another country was the best course of action for his dream of playing in the NHL. Despite considering a move to the Canadian Major Junior ranks, the Pastrnak family deemed Sodertalje in Sweden the best fit for his continued development.
Pastrnak Heads To Sweden
Upon arriving in Sweden, Pastrnak learned how to speak English and Swedish. “I was telling myself, ‘It’s impossible. Zero chance I can learn English. How? How do you understand?’” he said (from ‘Death, grief, growth: David Pastrnak’s Swedish experience changed his life,’ The Athletic, Jan. 24, 2020). However, with his exuberant personality, he quickly became good friends with William Nylander, and before he knew it, he was learning the English language.
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Playing in Sweden was essential on his road to the NHL, as he had more ice time available to practice honing his skills. “I was spending a couple hours by myself on the ice every day. Not even just skating or anything. Just playing with the puck and shooting.” Pastrnak said. While playing in 36 games during his first season in Sweden, he compiled 12 goals and 17 assists against players four years older than him.
Tragedy Strikes Ahead Of Pastrnak’s Draft Year
After returning to Sweden for summer training, he received the tragic news from his mother, Marcela, that his father had passed away after a lengthy battle with skin cancer. Pastrnak returned to his homeland to attend his father’s funeral, but he quickly made the trip back to Sweden to return to the ice. Hockey became the teenager’s only way to go through the grieving process of losing his father.
“Hockey, in that moment, was my only thing,” Pastrnak said. “And obviously, my mom and brother. These two things were the only things I could get through it with. Every time I went to the rink, the first 10 minutes, I would think about it. Then, all of a sudden, I was in the moment — working and practicing.”
Boston Bruins Draft Pastrnak Late In First-Round
During his draft eligibility year, Pastrnak suffered a concussion, and the injury caused many general managers (GM) to pass on drafting the gifted forward. However, late in the first round, he finally had his name called to the stage. The Boston Bruins decided that the reward outweighed the risk, and what a decision that would be.
“It’s well-documented that we’re looking for skill and speed, and he fits that bill, but let’s not put the cart before the horse with David, I think we’re fortunate to get him where we got him, and he had a terrific camp, and we’ll see where it goes from there.” Former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said after signing Pastrnak to an entry-level contract.
When the Bruins drafted Pastrnak with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the young forward looked toward the sky, knowing his father was watching over him during the incredible moment. Two weeks later, he was finishing up his first development camp with the Bruins and had freshly signed an entry-level contract with the organization he would soon call home.
Caryn Switaj, a former Bruins’ beat reporter, caught up with Pastrnak following his entry-level signing and asked the future star if he could have ever imagined all of this. “Oh, until now, until this moment happened now, I’ve been always just dreaming about it, Now it’s come true, but my dreaming isn’t done. I have to still do more things for my dad, and for my family.” He said.
As it turns out, while growing up, Pastrnak’s idol was none other than Bruins center and fellow Czech David Krejci. After being drafted by the Bruins, Krejci reached out to Pastrnak with a congratulatory message for the younger Czech.
“He just wrote me congrats, buddy, I hope we’re going to see you at the camp, we’re gonna have fun. I just said – I didn’t know what you have to say, you know – I just said thank you, and it’s gonna be great to meet you.” He told Switaj about the special message.
Pastrnak Makes North American Debut
Following the draft, it wouldn’t take Pastrnak long to make his North American professional hockey debut. The Bruins elected to send the skilled winger to the Providence Bruins following his first training camp in Boston. He split the 2014-15 season between Providence and Boston, appearing in 25 American Hockey League games while scoring 11 goals and 17 assists.
On Nov. 24, 2014, Pastrnak made his NHL debut in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He stayed with the big club for five games while picking up his first NHL point, an assist against the Anaheim Ducks. On Dec. 8, he was re-assigned to Providence; he was subsequently loaned to Team Czechia for the U-20 World Junior Championships (WJC). In five games at the tournament, he had a strong showing with one goal and six assists.
The Bruins recalled Pastrnak on Jan 6, 2015; following the completion of the WJC, he would stay with the big club for the remainder of the season. In a game against the Philadelphia Flyers, he began to show glimpses of his scoring touch as he scored the first two goals of his NHL career.
In the final 41 games of his rookie season, he scored 10 goals and added 16 assists for 26 points. Pastrnak developed chemistry with fellow Bruins’ rookie Ryan Spooner. The two rookies skated alongside fan favorite Milan Lucic to finish the season.
“When young guys come into the lineup, you hope that they bring some sort of excitement and obviously young legs, skating legs and stuff like that … you want to feed off their excitement of being up here in the NHL, and it’s good to see them playing with that and gaining more confidence as they’re playing more games,” Lucic said.
Pastrnak Has Slow Start To Sophomore Season
After finishing his rookie season in Boston and gaining valuable NHL experience, Pastrnak had big hopes coming into the 2015-16 season. However, following a slow start during the first month of play ( two goals, two assists in 10 games), he suffered a lower-body injury. He wouldn’t return to the Bruins’ lineup until January, as they loaned him to Team Czechia to take part in the WJC for a third consecutive year. Following the tournament, he was again called up to the NHL, and this time, he would stay permanently. He played 41 games after the call-up and scored 13 goals and nine assists for 21 points.
Pastrnak Flourishes In His Third Season
In his third NHL season, Pastrnak enjoyed a breakout campaign with 34 goals and 36 assists in 70 games. The Bruins had a hole left in their top-6 with the off-season departure of Loui Eriksson, and the 20-year-old seized the opportunity. He kicked off the 2016-17 season with two goals and two assists in the season opener on Oct. 13, 2016, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also began to form instant chemistry while playing on Brad Marchand’s line while Patrice Bergeron was sidelined with a lower-body injury to begin the season. Once Bergeron returned to action, the trio got their first looks together, although they wouldn’t stick together full-time quite yet.
On Feb 7, 2017, Bruins GM Don Sweeney announced the team was firing long-time head coach Claude Julien. His replacement Bruce Cassidy was instrumental for Pastrnak, as he evolved from a player with top-6 potential into a bonafide star in the NHL. Under Cassidy, the Bruins climbed back into a playoff position, however, they would be eliminated in their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators. The series marked Pastrnak’s first taste of playoff hockey at the NHL level, and he chipped in two goals and two assists over the six games.
The Perfection Line
With his entry-level contract expiring during the offseason, concern drew whether or not the Bruins would re-sign their blossoming star before the start of the 2017-18 season. However, despite the lengthy contract negotiations, on Sept. 14, 2017, the Bruins and Pastrnak agreed to a 6-year/$40M contract.
The season marked the first full campaign with Cassidy at the helm, and despite his original intentions of keeping Pastrnak off of the top line in an effort to spread out the offence, their chemistry was undeniable when on the ice together.
“Once they started playing well together, it was hard to break them up,” Cassidy said. The line quickly showed they were one of the best lines in all of hockey with the ability to take over games for the Bruins. Bergeron also had some praise for his new linemate. “He wants to make those plays and if we don’t have the puck he hunts it back. That’s what amazes me with him, I think there’s a lot of skilled players that are skilled when they have the puck. When they don’t have it, they don’t necessarily want it as much as this guy right here.”
On March 13, 2018, against the Carolina Hurricanes, he scored his first-career hat trick leading the Bruins to a 6-4 win. He followed up his strong season with an even more impressive postseason. In just 12 playoff games, Pastrnak put up huge numbers with six goals and 14 assists for 20 points. He also etched his name in NHL record books, becoming the youngest player in NHL history to record six points in a playoff game. He had three goals and three assists against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2 of their opening-round series.
Despite the strong playoff performance, the Bruins would fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Lightning lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final.
Becoming an All-Star
Pastrnak reached new career highs in the 2018-19 season, scoring 38 goals and 43 assists for 81 points in 66 games. He was selected to represent the Bruins in the 2019 All-Star game, his first time taking part in the All-Star weekend. He won the 2019 NHL Accuracy Shooting competition while hitting five targets in 11.309 seconds.
He has since taken part in two more All-Star games (2020,2023). In 2020, he was named the All-Star MVP as he scored four goals and two assists. He captained the Atlantic Division team and was surprised to be named All-Star MVP, following their loss to the Pacific Division.
“Definitely I would expect a winner should win the MVP, the winning team, if it was voted in by fans, I appreciate the love. Probably wasn’t any fans from St. Louis’ building, but whoever voted in, I appreciate it and I appreciate the love.” Pastrnak said following the game.
In this season’s All-Star game, Pastrnak first stole the show during the Skills Competition as he took to the ice dressed as “Happy Gilmore”. He then helped lead the Atlantic Division to win the three-on-three tournament by scoring the game-winning goal against the Metropolitan division.
Pastrnak Wins The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy
The Bruins put together a solid playoff run in the 2019 Postseason, narrowly missing out on being named Stanley Cup Champions. Pastrnak had nine goals and 10 assists through 24 playoff games, as the Bruins dropped Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues.
Pastrnak returned with a vengeance during the 2019-20 season and added some individual hardware to his accolades by tying Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL lead with 48 goals. The two stars shared the win of the “Rocket” Richard Trophy, with Pastrnak becoming the first Bruins to win the award. He was on pace for his first 50-goal, 100-point season, but unfortunately, the season would come to an abrupt end due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pastrnak Enjoying Historical Season For The Boston Bruins
While entering this season as a pending unrestricted free agent, the storyline dominated the early parts of the season as many were left wondering whether or not the Bruins could retain Pastrnak’s services long-term. Despite the ongoing contract negotiations, he did what he does best by proving his value on the ice. On March 2, the Bruins announced they had re-signed Pastrnak to an 8-year/$90 M contract extension, erasing any doubt about the icon leaving the franchise at season’s end.
The season has been one for the ages on all accounts for the Bruins and Pastrnak, as the forward continues to have one of the greatest individual seasons in franchise history. With five games remaining on the schedule, he has a career-high 56 goals and 47 assists for 103 points. His 103 points are the highest point total by a Bruins’ player since Adam Oates posted 112 in the 1993-94 season.
The Czech forward was also instrumental in getting the wheels rolling for Krejci’s return to Boston this season. The duo played together last spring in the World Championships and displayed their chemistry on the ice throughout the tournament. Krejci also seemed disgruntled by the fact that former coach Cassidy was so reluctant to put the duo together during his tenure in Boston.
“After years, I leave Boston and suddenly it is possible. That surprised me. (Cassidy) always told me that he had no reason to take Pasta off the first line and that it would be as short as possible to dismantle the forces. I had to take it. But now Pasta has five or so many matches on the line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. Strange.” Krejci said in an interview in January 2022. Needless to say, Krejci’s return and Montgomery’s decision to form the “Czech Mate line” with Pastrnak, Krejci and Pavel Zacha has paid dividends for the Bruins.
Father’s Dream Has Been Fulfilled
Through the years since his father’s passing and as he continues to progress with each NHL season, Pastrnak has honoured his late father’s dream for his son’s hockey career. All the practice, hard work and time spent grieving while being away from his home has paid off for Pastrnak as he will go down in history as one of the greatest stars the franchise has ever seen.
With all the career accolades he has already piled up, his father’s dream has been more than fulfilled. While a Stanley Cup ring has eluded Pastrnak to this point in his career, bringing home hockey’s ultimate prize this spring would be the icing on the cake in a career dedicated to his father.