The New Guys

Essential info about several fresh faces on the Bruins and Celtics

Charlie McAvoy. Photo credit: Steve Babineau

Charlie McAvoy

How He Got Here: The New York native took online courses to get an early start at Boston University, where as the youngest Division I hockey player, he put up 25 points in his first year. As a sophomore, the top prospect met with all but one NHL team during the scouting combine before the Bruins selected him in the first round of the 2016 draft. Just two weeks after leaving the Terriers—where he was paired with B’s prospect Matt Grzelcyk—and with only four AHL games under his belt, the defenseman had to swing by his dorm room to pick up his passport for a trip to Ottawa, where he made his NHL debut in last season’s playoffs. In six games, McAvoy logged 157 minutes—a number only bested by captain Zdeno Chara—and he tallied three assists, tying Brad Marchand and David Backes for a team high.

What to Expect: The 19-year-old, who says he models his game after Norris Trophy winner and two-way player Drew Doughty, started 2017 on a high note, notching an assist and a goal in the season opener. Slotted for the second line, he isn’t afraid to throw his body around, and there’s already some murmurs of him contending for rookie of the year.

Career Highlight: McAvoy helped bring home the gold during the 2017 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships and was named player of the game in the final match.

Did You Know: Bobby Orr gave the kid a thumbs-up, calling McAvoy’s playoff performance “impressive.” The debut was one for the books for another reason: He was just the third rookie this century to register more than 24 minutes in his first postseason game.

Anders Bjork. Photo credit: Steve Babineau

Anders Bjork

How He Got Here: Bjork spent two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program and was then picked up in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, but he has since improved his stock. During his sophomore year at Notre Dame, the Wisconsin native notched 35 points in as many games and then earned a career-high 52 points in his final season with the Fighting Irish. Bjork signed an entry-level contract with the B’s during the offseason to compete for a spot in the offensive lineup.

What to Expect: The left-hander brings serious speed and has three seasons of defense-first hockey on his resume. That should play well on the top line to the right side of Patrice Bergeron, where coach Bruce Cassidy slotted him after saying Bjork’s the “furthest ahead” of the young newcomers. In Bergeron’s first game back after a recent injury, the line combined for four goals—two netted by Bjork—and six assists.

Career Highlight: After helping lead Notre Dame to its first Frozen Four appearance in five years, Bjork finished the season as Hockey East’s fourth highest scorer, was named one of 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists and was selected as the NCAA Northeast Regional’s Most Outstanding Player.

Did You Know: Bjork was another finalist in 2017—for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. The student-athlete far exceeded the team’s required community service hours, FaceTiming the teachers and students on the road and even earning a desk in the third-grade classroom he frequented during his spare time.

Jake DeBrusk. Photo credit: Steve Babineau

Jake DeBrusk

How He Got Here: The 2015 first-round pick is coming off a year spent in the minors in Providence, where he averaged nearly a point per game during the second half of the season. The team’s youngest player ended 2017 with 19 goals and 30 assists, finishing second on Providence in points and first among rookies. While six of his fellow forwards got called up for an NHL appearance, DeBrusk stayed in Providence—which Cassidy chalked up to prioritizing his long-term development over the Bruins’ short-term needs. He spent the summer at home in Edmonton skating alongside former B’s defenseman Johnny Boychuk before fighting his way into a role with Boston during training camp.

What to Expect: The 21-year-old forward is often described—by his coaches and himself—as “greasy.” He’s a hustler, digs pucks out of tight spaces and heads to the net, providing a nice complement to David Krejci. For the past few seasons, the veteran playmaker has been looking for a consistent finisher on the left side of his line and he’s rotated through David Backes, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano, among others.

Career Highlight: During Providence’s first-round playoff series with Wilkes-Barre, DeBrusk tallied three goals and one assist in five games.

Did You Know: The left winger notched a goal and an assist in the season opener, prompting his father—former NHL tough guy Louie DeBrusk—to chant “Fucking right kid” before shedding a few tears.

Paul Postma. Photo credit: Brian Babineau

Paul Postma

How He Got Here: In the Bruins’ first offseason move, they signed the 28-year-old free agent to a one-year contract. A healthy scratch at the start of the season, Postma was promoted to fill in for an injured Adam McQuaid, whose broken leg will keep him out for two months. The defenseman wrapped up his first game in Black and Gold with three shots and one block.

What to Expect: The Alberta native spent nearly a decade with the Winnipeg Jets’ organization and played in 191 games during his seven seasons in the league. Due to a few injuries, most of the action came last year, when he suited up for 65 matches and averaged just under 11 minutes on the ice with a positive plus-minus rating. Although he can play on either side of the defense, he was brought in to balance out the lefty-leaning roster. Postma has a big shot and, as a young veteran, brings some more experience to a D-line that’s sporting a couple youngsters.

Career Highlight: Postma logged six seasons in the major junior Western Hockey League. In 2009, he was awarded the Plus-Minus Award for finishing with a plus-67 on the Calgary Hitmen—an honor previously earned by former Bruins Mark Recchi, Peter Schaefer and Andrew Ference.

Did You Know: With a power-play shot from the blue line, Postma became the first player to score for the Atlanta-Thrashers-turned-Winnipeg-Jets in the newly relocated team’s preseason opener in September 2011.

Kyrie Irving. Photo credit: Brian Babineau

Kyrie Irving

How He Got Here: The former top overall draft pick stunned the NBA world this summer when word spread that he demanded a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers after three straight Finals appearances. But the storyline got even more bonkers when Irving was shipped to rival Boston in exchange for All-NBA second teamer Isaiah Thomas, two-way tough guy Jae Crowder, 6-foot-11 prospect Ante Zizic and a coveted draft pick. The 25-year-old point guard has already been positioned as a franchise cornerstone in the two months he’s been part of the Celtics.

What to Expect: It’d be safe to look at Irving’s stat line over his six-year career and pencil him in for about 22 points and six assists. But there remains a hope among some fans that Irving can thrive outside of LeBron James’ shadow and as a first option on offense. That line of thinking stems from Steph Curry’s statistical jump under coach Steve Kerr’s tutelage at Golden State—a narrative that fans hope Kyrie can replicate under Celtics coach Brad Stevens. As for his defensive shortcomings, Irving has a reputation of increasing his effort in the playoffs, but perhaps Stevens can convince him to work harder during the regular season.

Career Highlight: With Game 7 of the NBA Finals tied and less than a minute to play on the road against the greatest regular-season team of all time, Irving crossed up Curry and sunk a game-winning, fallaway three-pointer to give the Cavaliers their first NBA title. The Wall Street Journal has dubbed it the greatest shot in NBA history. Enough said.

Did You Know: Irving’s father, Drederick, starred for Boston University’s hoops team in the mid ’80s, scoring 1,931 points and having his No. 11 retired by the Terriers. Drederick went on to play professionally overseas, including Australia, where Kyrie was born. After Kyrie’s mother died when he was 4, Drederick worked on Wall Street as a financial broker and was in the World Trade Center lobby during the Sept. 11 attacks. He escaped amid the chaos but lost many friends and colleagues.

Aron Baynes. Photo credit: Brian Babineau

Aron Baynes

How He Got Here: After graduating from Washington State University in 2009, Baynes played professionally in Europe for a few years before latching on with the San Antonio Spurs in January 2013. After a two-year stint for the Detroit Pistons, Baynes joined the Celtics this summer as a free agent on a one-year, $4.3 million contract.

What to Expect: The 6-foot-10 center is expected to lend some heft to a team that lacks frontcourt depth. He can line up alongside veteran big man Al Horford, giving the Celtics a size advantage against most teams, or he can anchor the second unit as a backup center. Last year, he had the second-best net rating on the Pistons, with the team considerably better on defense when Baynes was playing.

Career Highlight: Baynes won an NBA title with San Antonio in his first full season in the league. Although he barely played in the Finals, he tallied 10 points and 7 rebounds in the Spurs’ Game 1 win over Portland in the second round of those same playoffs.

Did You Know: The New Zealand native played for Australia in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, nearly helping the country to its first men’s basketball medal in its last appearance. Baynes scored the go-ahead layup with 9.7 seconds left during the bronze-medal game against Spain, but last-second free throws gave the Spaniards an 89-88 win.

Semi Ojeleye. Photo credit: Brian Babineau

Semi Ojeleye

How He Got Here: One of 2013’s top high school recruits in the country, Ojeleye started his college career at Duke. Barely playing in two seasons, he transferred to Southern Methodist University, where he led the school to a conference championship. After declaring for the NBA Draft, the Celtics selected him this year with the 37th pick and signed him to a four-year deal.

What to Expect: When he was drafted in June, the Celtics still had a full roster, but after purging payroll to sign Gordon Hayward and trading away three players to Cleveland in exchange for Irving, there was suddenly room for the rookie to log some playing time. His defensive effort and hustle are already at an NBA level, and once he learns the team’s defensive rotations, he could be an above-average defender. Ojeleye shot 42 percent from three-point range in college, so he’s expected to develop into a good spot-up shooter as well.

Career Highlight: In his final college season, Ojeleye averaged 19 points and nearly 7 rebounds a game. He was named the player of the year in the American Athletic Conference, and he scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in SMU’s first-round loss in the NCAA tournament.

Did You Know: Named Jesusemilore Talodabijesu Ojeleye, the 22-year-old led his teammates in a sideline prayer after Gordon Hayward’s horrific injury in the season-opening game.

Daniel Theis. Photo credit: Brian Babineau

Daniel Theis

How He Got Here: The 25-year-old forward came up in the German youth basketball system, playing professionally for a few years and even suiting up for the NBA’s Washington Wizards summer league team in 2014. In June—long before the Celtics had any roster or cap room—reports spread that the team was committed to signing Theis and bringing him to Boston. He officially inked a rookie deal with the team in mid-July.

What to Expect: The 6-foot-9-inch Theis appears to possess the versatility that the Celtics covet as he can stretch the floor with three-point range, and he showed he can defend bigger players during his career in Germany. He’s seen his minutes steadily increase during the early part of the season, posting an 11-point effort in 21 minutes against the Knicks.

Career Highlight: Theis was named the defensive player of the year in the German League last season, one of many awards he’s won in that league. Other honors include best young player in 2014 and most effective German player in 2016 as well as four straight All-Star appearances.

Did You Know: Theis won the German League as a member of Brose in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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