Say what you want about the Boston Bruins and their habit of trading away their best forwards or letting them walk when free agency comes calling, they always seem to have another young stud ready to ride to the rescue when they need one to. The latest is Patrice Bergeron who at 18 years, 6 months, and 24 days is the youngest player in the NHL this year. Playing on the B’s second line, so far this season he has racked up 15 goals and 17 assists.
It’s been quite a quick climb to the top for the young Bergeron, who only two years ago was playing for St. Francois in the QAAA. His 25 goals and 62 points in just 36 games proved to be the ticket for him to get to the Acadie-Bathurst Titans for the end of the season. The following year saw him post 23 goals and 73 points in 70 games for the Titans. Good numbers, but hardly overwhelming, especially in the high-scoring QMJHL. Not numbers that would indicate a jump to the NHL either. But Bergeron’s work ethic stood out in camp so much so that higher touted prospects like Andy Hilbert were sent back to the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island. Eventually, there was simply no one left to send back and the young Quebecer had earned himself a spot with the big club.
When the year started, Bergeron started by playing wing on the third line with Brian Rolston and P.J. Axelsson. That would later morph into the second line of Bergeron, Rolston, and Marty Lapointe. There was a short stint on the top line with Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov, but because of injuries Bergeron has had to play center as of late with Lapointe and Mike Knuble flanking him.
His game is “incredible on-ice vision,” points out Hockey’s Future’s Kristy Gleason as “he tends to sneak into a location where he needs to be and goes unnoticed until he (gets a scoring chance) or makes a pass that results in a (scoring chance).” Gleason goes on to describe his passing as “crisp” and his defensive game as “fairly sound”, though with only a +2 rating and 32 points, Bergeron, like most rookies, can use some work away from the puck.
While not overly fast, the former Q center could be described as shifty but solid on his skates. Not surprisingly, his combination of skills has landed him on the power play where he has seen a good amount of success scoring seven goals with the extra man to date. Normally, he’ll line up there with Thornton and Samsonov or Samsonov and Lapointe with Rolston manning one of the points. That said, he hasn’t seen a lot of time in shorthanded situations, though his time there has been gradually increasing. So long as he keeps working and learning, he could develop into a very good penalty-killer one day.
Gleason goes on to state that the player Bergeron reminds her of the most is Joe Sakic, who is coincidentally the young forward’s idol. While he has a long way to go before putting up the kind of numbers that ‘Burnaby Joe’ has in his career, Patrice Bergeron is off to a good start.