After stunning the hockey world with the late first-round selection of Malcolm Subban, the Boston Bruins had to wait a while before making their second selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. When they did, though, they picked a homegrown guy who could be a good defenseman for the future.
Matt Grzelcyk grew up in Charlestown, Mass., just a stone’s throw–or a bridge travel–away from Boston and TD Garden. The Bruins’ home ice is not unfamiliar territory to him, though.
He can remember, back when he was just two years old, being able to skate on the ice of the old Boston Garden shortly before its 1996 demolition. (Yes, Grzelcyk was born in 1994.) That experience, and so many other visits to the Garden and the subsequent Garden, comes courtesy of his dad, a 44-year member of the Garden’s bull gang–the team that maintains the ice surface.
However, Grzelcyk has been away from home for a while. He’s been living in Ann Arbor, Mich., and attending area schools while being part of the U.S. National Team Development Program. This program, which counts Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Cam Fowler among its alumni, has treated Grzelcyk well. This year, he played all 60 games, putting up 23 points, all but three of them assists. Two of those goals came on the power play, too. He sang USA Hockey’s praises, calling those two NTDP years the best of his life (so far).
Plus, he capped off those best years by being part of the gold-medal team at the 2012 U18 World Championship, bringing home America’s fourth consecutive gold at that level.
With his NTDP career coming to a close, Grzelcyk has decided to return home for college, committing to Boston University and playing for the Terriers. Playing there has been a dream of his and he’s happy to have it come true.
Of course, another dream came true for him this past June in Pittsburgh when his name was called by his hometown team. In his first big press conference after getting his hat and sweater, he said that he couldn’t describe the feeling of being drafted, but the grin on his face never diminishes throughout the entire conference. To these eyes, it also looks like he tears up a little at the end of it.
He was also recently seen at USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp, held in Lake Placid, N.Y. In eight games during the evaluation camp, he had four assists. This summer, he attended another camp too–Bruins development camp, his first chance to put on the Spoked B and take the ice.
Grzelcyk looks to another big American defenseman for a blueprint to base his game on: Brian Rafalski, the three-time Stanley Cup champion and three-time Olympian. He knows, though, that he needs to bulk up his 170-pound frame and is cognizant of the fact that, at 5 foot 9, he isn’t the tallest d-man ever. So, he plans to take advantage of Boston University’s weight room as much as possible.
Still, Kirk Luedeke and Jesse Connolly, who often focus on covering Bruins prospects, identified some of Grzelcyk’s strengths: skating agility, passing ability, puck control, hockey sense and that dedication to success that comes from his childhood in the area. Luedeke and Connolly estimate that Grzelcyk may become captain of the Terriers at some point in his college career.
Then, somewhere in the future, there will come a day when Grzelcyk takes the ice at TD Garden, fulfilling the dream he’s had ever since he was a toddler. What’s not to love about a story like that?
ETA in Boston: Probably after two to three years at the least on Commonwealth Avenue, so 2014-15 or 2015-16, unless he foregoes college eligibility early.
This is the first article of a new series spotlighting prospects who are at various stages in the Boston Bruins system.