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Rookie David Pastrnak takes another step on climb to NHL

ANTIOCH, Tenn. — David Pastrnak has a good sense of where he stands at the moment. Having finished up the rookie tournament — yet another step as he attempts to make the Bruins out of camp — Pastrnak said, “I feel I’m [on the] second floor and NHL is [on] fifth. So I have three more floors.”

That’s both far away, and not far away at all.

Pastrnak scored his first goal of the tournament on Tuesday, on the power play, and was named to the all-tournament team, along with Bruins defenseman Chris Casto. He played right wing for the first time in Nashville, after two games at center, pairing with Matt Lindblad and Alex Fallstrom.


Over the course of the three games, he was fast and creative, showing some of the speed and skill that he could bring to the club.

He also was risky, with turnovers in the defensive zone, plays that could have far more problematic consequences in the NHL.

Mostly, he played well, well enough that at the Bruins golf tournament coach Claude Julien said, “There’s a reason to be excited about the future of the player.”

But is it the future? Or the present?

General manager Peter Chiarelli hinted at the possibility that Pastrnak will start camp on David Krejci’s right wing, a potentially momentous thing for a player who has idolized the Bruins center. As Pastrnak said of the possibility, “It would be great if it came true . . . It’s going to be really weird in the beginning, but I’m sure David is going to help me.”

But some of the concerns about Pastrnak’s play were evident Tuesday, including his slight size, which could work against him in play along the boards, and his tendency to make some iffy plays in the defensive zone.


On the first issue, Providence coach Bruce Cassidy said, “His wall work — one game it’s hard to judge him — but that’s going to be a big issue in the National Hockey League. You’re expected to win pucks on the walls, get them out or get them to the middle of the ice and get going.

“It’s not all just the speed part of the game, the individual and the puck skills. It’s the grunt work. They’ll get a look at that obviously in the exhibition season and go from there.”

It was something that Julien echoed up in Boston.

“Can he play at this level?” said Julien, who watched the first two games of the tournament in person. “He’s got the speed. He’s got the skill. Does he have the strength and does he have the experience to be able to overcome the challenges he’s going to face? We won’t know that until camp starts. It’s something we’ll keep a close eye on.”

They’ll need to keep an eye, too, on how often the risk of Pastrnak’s game — he plays the puck often instead of the man — becomes reward, and how often it becomes a breakaway for the opposition. It wasn’t something Cassidy wanted to tinker with at the tournament, preferring instead to give Pastrnak freedom. As he said, “In this environment, you’re not here to stifle guys.”

But the right wing was able to recognize that in the defensive zone he has to “be more responsible, be more focused. Then in the offensive zone I can risk more because we can still [have] a good backcheck and all the five guys can go back. I think in the defensive zone I have to play more simple.”


So, as the team headed back to Boston to kick off training camp on Thursday, there were some lessons learned for Pastrnak after his five days in Nashville and three games in the rookie tournament.

“Every game you’re getting better, the more experience,” Pastrnak said. “I’m just trying to get as much experience as I can and now I just know I have to be more simple in the defensive zone. I didn’t know this two months ago.

“So I think every game you have to take some experience of the game. Not only do you have to take just the positives. Always you have to think what you did wrong and next time make it better.”

.   .   .

The Bruins had assumed that Seth Griffith would be one of their better players at the tournament. Through the first two games, that wasn’t the case. But after assistant general manager Don Sweeney noted Griffith’s “ups and downs” on Monday, the forward picked up his game against the Predators. He scored the team’s first goal, at 10:22 of the first, and made a nice play to Pastrnak in the second. “I thought he was our best forward,” Cassidy said of Tuesday’s game. “It helps when you score early as a skill guy, so the puck was following him too. I think he was pretty strong on it today. I think the last couple days his pace wasn’t as good as it could have been. Today he was a little more determined.” . . . Linus Arnesson did not play AFTER the first period, one day after getting a “maintenance day” instead of participating in practice. Cassidy said that Arnesson tweaked his groin, which accounted for him not playing the rest of the game. He said the groin issue was why Arnesson didn’t skate on Monday. “I assume it’s a mild injury, but I don’t know,” he said. “Pretty sure he’d be ready to go [for main camp].” . . . Malcolm Subban played his best game of the tournament — he played two of the three games — stopping 23 of 25 shots, including some excellent saves during a five-on-three for the Predators. “That should be good for his confidence going [into main camp],” Cassidy said . . . Mickael Beauregard was involved in the first (and only) fight for the Bruins in the tournament. He went down quickly . . . The Bruins finished the tournament 1-2, after beating the Predators, 4-2. They got goals from Griffith, Pastrnak, Alex Fallstrom, and Brian Ferlin.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.