WILMINGTON — When David Pastrnak first arrived to play in the Swedish League two years ago, he didn’t know a word of English. He had been studying German, in fact, while in his native Czech Republic, which left no time for a language that might have proven helpful in the future in his new country, with his new team.
Somehow, though, English started sinking in.
“I don’t even know how I learned it,” Pastrnak said on Thursday after the Bruins’ development camp practice at Ristuccia Arena. “I couldn’t say anything when I got there. It just came, one day it just came and I was understanding it.”
Let Pastrnak explain.
“I had a roommate [while he was in Sweden],” he said. “He’d been living with me and he always was just saying something to me [in English]. I don’t understand you. Every day like that. And then once he got to my room and he said, ‘David, can you please clean the dishes?’ That was the first thing what I understood.
“And of course I said, ‘I don’t understand.’ But I understood him.”
Pastrnak smiled wide, as the assembled reporters burst out laughing.
Pastrnak’s short tenure with the Bruins has been equal parts hilarious and impressive. The Bruins’ first choice in the 2014 NHL Draft has already shown his excited, exuberant personality, as well as a propensity for absentmindedness.
Pastrnak arrived in Boston recently with just his skates, leaving the rest of his gear in Sweden. He had to borrow equipment from the Bruins — he was outfitted with Gregory Campbell’s gloves – and managed to misplace his passport.
“I lost my passport,’’ he said. “I don’t know if we’re going to find it. I said it to my agent, and he said, ‘I know you, you wanted to lose your passport because you don’t want to go home.’ ’’
Pastrnak should eventually be making that home in Boston. The right-shot winger, something of a need in the organization, has tremendous skill, which the organization also could use.
“I think the kid loves to play hockey, he loves to be around hockey, and he’s smiling all the time,” Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney said. “He really enjoys it. He cuts across the middle of the ice on a two-on-two — some defensemen are going to lick their chops and he’s probably going to pick up his helmet sideways at some point in time — but that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to try it again and I like that about him.”
For now, the plan is for the 18-year-old to return to Sodertalje in the Allsvenskan, the second-level league in Sweden, next season. But before that, he seems to be having plenty of fun in Boston, with some good-natured trash-talking with his new teammates, including goalie Malcolm Subban.
“He’s talking about going high glove with his [Alex] Ovechkin curve,’’ Subban said. “He had a chance and passed it backdoor so I’ve got to talk to him about that.”
It’s not exactly surprising to the Boston brass, which quickly learned the energy and enthusiasm Pastrnak brings to the rink and the dressing room.
“He’s got some charisma to him on the ice and I think that flair shows up as well,” Sweeney said. “Early he was over-passing, sending backdoors and all of a sudden two-on-twos show up and he’s ripping it by glove hand. So I think he has a bit of a flair on and off the ice and I like the excitement. I think it’s infectious for everybody and we’re excited to have him as part of the organization.”
It’s likely Pastrnak will need additional development time. He’s listed at 6 feet, 167 pounds. Size and time could help him succeed at the next level. But he has skills in his arsenal — “really high-end skill,” as Providence coach Bruce Cassidy said — that were evident, even through the first couple of days of development camp.
“He’s 18, right?” Cassidy said. “I’d say he’s 175 [pounds], maybe. So that part of the game is always worrisome when you’re that young. You’re playing against men — violent, angry men, a lot of nights.
“I don’t know what the plan is for him. He’s a right shot. You hear a lot of talk about that’s an area of need, so he’s got that going for him as well. But right now he sure looks good in terms of skill.”
And he sounds good in the dressing room, both in his ability to entertain and in his desire to do what it takes to prove himself. With or without a passport, the winger seems eager to spend a lot more time in Boston in the coming years.
“The whole group who believes in myself and who draft me, I just want to give it back,” Pastrnak said. “It’s a great feeling to be in an organization which is believing in you. It’s even pushing you up, pushing you to work harder. I just want to give it back to them so I show they made the right decision.”
And, as he quipped, “At least now for a week I’m going to be a real Bruin. Hopefully when I get back to Europe I’ll have to just keep going, keep practicing, before I can be a Bruin longer than one week.”
. . .
Bruins coach Claude Julien was a spectator during the practice . . . The Bruins still have an open spot on their coaching staff, vacated when Geoff Ward resigned. Cassidy is among those being considered for the job. “I want to be in the NHL every year,” Cassidy said. “Simple as I can say.” Cassidy sounded as if he was preparing himself to return to the AHL, though it appears no decision has been made. “That’s where I am now,” he said. “Whatever happens down the road with the vacancy here will happen. I’m always preparing for Providence. If something else changes, give me a call and we’ll talk about it.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.