David Pastrnak Better Than Sidney Crosby Or Alex Ovechkin? Could Be…

David Pastrnak is part of the current wave of young elite NHL stars that in the eyes of many has the league more talented and exciting than ever

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Let’s just make one thing clear here: Connor McDavid is currently the best player in the world. Period. End of story.

OK, now that we got that out of the way, after McDavid there’s a mish-mash of players that still includes veteran superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. You can also throw the Leafs Auston Matthews ((9 G 3 A in 5 games) into the mix as well as the second – or even 1-B player to McDavid.

But after that your favorite, goofy, and maybe most skilled player to don the spoked B since Tyler Seguin or Phil Kessel is right in the mix for the third best player in the NHL. Yes, right at this moment he is as good as, if not better than Crosby or Ovechkin!

“He is hovering in the top 5 to 12 range for sure,” NBC and TSN NHL analyst Pierre McGuire said in an email to CLNSMedia.com Friday afternoon. “Think about Matthews, Crosby McDavid, [Nathan] McKinnon, [Patrice] Bergeron, [John] Tavares, [Mitch] Marner, [Brad] Marchand, [Patrick] Kane, and yes, Pastrnak. See what I mean. The scale is tough to say a guy is a top five. He is an amazing talent that will continue to improve. He is a delight to watch.”

“I did not even say Taylor Hall. Sean Monahan, and many more. I love [Pastrnak] though.

Earlier this week, Matthews and Kane went head-to-head in Chicago. Matthews finished with two highlight-reel goals and two assists, and Kane had two lamplighters himself in a 7-6 Maple Leafs win in overtime. During the third period, the two stars and USA Hockey teammates had some fun though, with Kane mimicking Matthews’ celebration after he followed Matthews’ second goal with his own.

This is the type of fun that the NHL desperately needs and that the youthful exuberance of players like Matthews, McDavid, Capitals rising star Evgeny Kuznetsov, Pastrnak and so many more are bringing. In Thursday’s 4-1 Bruins win over McDavid and the Oilers, McDavid and the Bruins winger engaged in a tit-for-tat similar to that of Matthews and Kane and Pastrnak made sure to emphasize the fun in his post-goal celebration. McDavid got the sequence of unadulterated and filthy skill going 3:43 into the opening frame as he blazed past two of the best defensemen in the league in Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy and beat a helpless Jaro Halak.

Just 5:47 later though, Pastrnak put on a show of his own with an early goal of the year candidate.

After the game, head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked if Pastrnak’s work of art energized the Bruins’ bench.

“Yeah and about 18,000 people,” Cassidy replied with a laugh. “Who doesn’t appreciate a move like that? You don’t like it against you, but it was a hell of a play. It was a high-end skilled play. We keep the puck alive and we attack the interior. What we wanted to do against their PK is get inside, attack their d and see if they can handle us.”

What the Oilers and so many NHL teams are quickly finding out is that they can’t handle Pastrnak and his insane ability and puck-handling acumen.

“Right now, I’d say he’s three or four behind McDavid and Matthews,” an NHL scout told CLNS Media during the second intermission of Thursday’s game.

The scout then pointed out on his scouting app how Pastrnak’s skating, stickhandling and vision makes opponents miss.

“Look at that! See how that tiny hole is there and he just exploits it? Unreal!” the scout said. “He’s right there knocking on McDavid’s door.”

When notified after the game of the high praise from that scout, Pastrnak was flattered.

“Well, I appreciate it a lot,” a clearly taken aback Pastrnak replied. “Connor is the best player, and obviously I wouldn’t compare myself to him, and yeah, he’s unbelievable and we all enjoy to watch him.”

Pastrnak then praised the reigning Ted Lindsay Award winner and 2017 Hart Trophy winner and his speed.

“It’s unbelievable. We all wish we had that kind of speed,” Pastrnak exclaimed. “He’s an unbelievable player and I don’t think there’s any D who can keep him locked for a whole game; he always going to find some breakdown and get his chances, but Zee [Chara] and Charlie [McAvoy] did a great job in this game.”

Bruins defenseman Matt Gryzelcyk – who fed Pastrnak the puck before the Czech winger laid down his magic – loved the celly after Pastrnak’s fifth goal of this young season and 98th if the 22-year-old’s young career.

“It’s huge, and to see his little celebration afterward is pretty funny,” said Matt Grzelcyk. “It definitely gets the crowd involved and gets the guys pumped up as well, and kind of allows the rest of the guys to play a little bit more comfortable there. It allows guys to do a little bit more hanging on pucks down low offensively.

Grzelcyk and his teammates are already used to this inspiration and fun that Pastrnak brings, as there’s just too many highlight reel goals to count. Remember the way he electrified TD Garden during Game 1 of the opening round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Toronto with a six-point (3 g, 3 a) night?

After the game Thursday, Cassidy was asked about Pastrnak, McDavid, and all the other young rising stars in the NHL.

“Well, listen. I’m a fan of hockey,” Cassidy acknowledged. “My eight-year-old, one of his favorite players is Connor McDavid.
He’s probably itching to get in and meet him, and I told him he can’t wear his jersey because his dad works for the Bruins. Listen, I will watch a game tomorrow night, and I’ll want to watch the good players play. I think everybody does that’s a fan of hockey. I don’t like to see them buzzing around against us every night, but I think part of the allure of that is well how do you coach your guys to shut them down.”

Cassidy should be happy he doesn’t have to draw up a game plan for Pastrnak and his kid may want to have Dad get him a Bruins #88 jersey if he doesn’t have one already!

During Bruins rookie camp back in July, fellow Czech winger Martin Bakos referred to Pastrnak as ‘The Pastrnak’ when asked if Czech players and fans compare Pastrnak to fellow Czech, former Bruin and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr?

“No, Jagr is Jagr,” Bakos replied. “He is ‘The Pastrnak’ and he is really good!”

So good that he is mentioned in the same breath as prominent players of the NHL’s elite stratosphere and at age 22 and with four more years at $6.6 million, he may be the best bargain this franchise ever found and could eventually be mentioned in the same breath of those who have their numbers raised high above the TD Garden ice. Enjoy ‘The Pastrnak’ Bruins fans!

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Jimmy Murphy is CLNS Media’s NHL & Boston Bruins Insider. Murph brings to the network over 15 years of experience covering the NHL, NCAA and Junior Hockey. His Bruins coverage from the TD Garden and Warrior Ice Arena is available on http://www.youtube.com/clnsmedia With a hockey black book filled with Hall of Famers, players, coaches, scouts and a wide variety of media personalities, Murph is an essential resource for casual and diehard hockey fans. Every Tuesday, Murph hosts Bruins Beat on iTunes, Stitcher and the CLNS Media Network mobile app.