Even with his inconsistencies, Jake DeBrusk’s most popular trait is his ability to put pucks in the back of the net. It’s what he’s known for. His second most popular trait is celebrating those goals. Mark that down as another thing he’s known for.
But the Bruins see that DeBrusk has a lot more to offer and a lot more they’ve yet to tap into.
The deal DeBrusk signed on Monday — two years, $3.675 million per — is most certainly a bridge deal, and it’s the right one for both sides. The Bruins still have some cap space ($2.982 million according to CapFriendly) and didn’t have to spend crazy to keep DeBrusk. For DeBrusk, he gets some stability in a very unstable market. The most important thing for him will be proving himself worthy of a longer, more expensive deal.
And the evaluation of that won’t just come from goal-scoring.
“For the speed Jake brings to the table, there’s no reason why Jake can’t kill penalties,” Bruins GM Don Sweeney said Monday via Zoom. “There’s no reason that Jake can be an even better net front presence this year, where he scored a bunch of goals this year but also missed opportunities. That’s that inside presence, that ability to get inside the dots with consistency. Being a little more of a threat on a forecheck as an F1.”
With penalty-killing, getting to the dirty areas to score goals and being harder on the forecheck all on DeBrusk’s menu for the upcoming season, one thing is very certain: he’s going to have to get a whole lot more physical.
DeBrusk is listed at 6’0″ and 188 lbs. One thing he’s not known for is his physicality, and he was well aware of that heading into this offseason.
“I’ve been focusing on probably just my physical side of the game,” DeBrusk said Tuesday afternoon via Zoom. “I think I’ve put on some weight already and have really been attacking just getting stronger overall…Still trying to work on speed and still trying to be fast, but definitely the physical side of things.”
While talking about ramping up his physicality, DeBrusk mentioned looking at “pretty much every single stat you can find” and realizing he had to make a large change in his game.
“There’s no reason why I can’t have a hit per game,” DeBrusk said. “And that goes hand in hand with what I was just talking about earlier with the forechecking. I think that that’s been a main focus of mine. I’m not saying I’m going to be running around out there, but obviously, I could finish checks more.
“That’s usually how I play. That’s how I’ve been known to play. It just didn’t really happen much this year and it’s one thing I felt like it affected my game a lot.”
DeBrusk’s increased physicality would be a welcome occurrence on David Krejci’s left side. Not since Jarome Iginla has Krejci had a consistent presence on his right or left that can create space and make solid contact with opposing defensemen. Unless Nick Ritchie can make a huge leap in his own game, the Bruins don’t really have anyone who can step onto that line and make that kind of impact.
Still, scoring will be the main course DeBrusk brings to the table. In his three seasons in the NHL, he’s put up 62 goals and 120 points, which is admirable production. However, he has had his fair share of inconsistencies.
“I’ve definitely grown,” DeBrusk said of handling scoring slumps. “I think I’ve gone through a lot of tough stretches here. Not necessarily tough, but stretches that I didn’t really want to be a part of, that have kind of affected me differently. Obviously, young players in this league always deal with. It’s one of those things where I’m expected to score goals. When it doesn’t go in, it obviously affects you.”
A large reason as to why DeBrusk wants to add that bite back to his game is because when he gets in those occasional scoring slumps, he’ll still be able to make an impact through his hits and defensive zone work.
“If Jake finds a level that he’s capable of, affecting the game in a two-way component, he might not walk out of the game and think, well Jake didn’t score tonight, he’s in a slump,” Sweeney said. “I don’t think it’s all about that. The puck doesn’t go in at times, and all scorers go through that. I think Jake has an opportunity to impact a game in a lot, a lot of different ways.”
Depending on how DeBrusk executes refining his two-way game and putting up better, more consistent production, he could be in for a large pay day come the end of this current deal.
“He’s had a heck of a lot of experience now, he’s had a heck of a lot of success,” Sweeney said of DeBrusk. “I think there’s another level or two for Jake to get to and we want to help him realize that, and be part of the core of our group for years to come.”