Ice Hockey, Sports

As NHL playoffs begin, former Terriers enter spotlight

Charlie McAvoy became the first Terrier to make his NHL debut in the postseason, as he helped the Bruins take Game One from Ottawa. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

As the puck drops to kick off the NHL playoffs, a total of 12 former Boston University men’s hockey players representing eight teams will take to the ice, looking to lift the Stanley Cup.

Three of them will be in the coaching box, including Mike Sullivan, head coach of the defending champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The other two coaches are assistants on the hometown Boston Bruins.

The B’s account for four of the 12 former Terriers participating in this year’s postseason. Assistant coach Joe Sacco, a Medford native, is in his second season with the Bruins after previous experience in Buffalo and four seasons as the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche.

The other former Terrier on the bench is assistant coach and Burlington native Jay Pandolfo, a member of BU’s 1994-95 championship squad, who is in his first season on the bench after finishing his playing career with the Bruins and serving as the team’s director of player development last season.

While Boston’s two assistant coaches boast impressive pedigrees, all eyes will be focused on the Bruins two most recent signings, former Terriers Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy.

The duo signed with the Bruins after their sophomore season concluded with a gut-wrenching overtime loss to eventual national runner-up University of Minnesota Duluth in the national quarterfinals.

McAvoy, Boston’s 14th overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, signed with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. After playing only four games in Providence, McAvoy signed a three-year entry-level contract with Boston on Monday and made his debut Wednesday evening in Game One of the Bruins’ matchup with the Ottawa Senators.

McAvoy’s promotion to the show is in part due to a rash of injuries that have hit the Bruins, and he was paired with Bruins captain and star defenseman Zdeno Chara in practice on Tuesday. McAvoy is the 81st Terrier to play in an NHL game and the first to make his debut in the playoffs.

In contrast, Forsbacka Karlsson, more affectionately known as JFK on Commonwealth Avenue, jumped straight from Agganis Arena to TD Garden. Many had at first expected Forsbacka Karlsson to remain with BU for at least another season, but the offer to go straight to the NHL proved too good to pass up. The Swede made his NHL debut on Saturday night against President’s Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals, in a 3-1 loss for Boston. Forsbacka Karlsson played over eight minutes on the ice and went 1-2 from the faceoff circle.

While it is unclear how much ice time either former Terrier will see in the first round series, it speaks volumes about their talent that they are being entrusted to play in the most important games of the season.

There are also a number of veteran former Terriers who will be chasing the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Shattenkirk of the Washington Capitals has 56 points this season and will try to help Alex Ovechkin bring the elusive Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital.

Nick Bonino of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who was drafted the same year as Shattenkirk, will look to help the Penguins repeat as champions.

Other former Terriers on playoff teams are Adam Clendening of the New York Rangers, Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild, Colin Wilson of the Nashville Predators, Alex Chiasson of the Calgary Flames and Eric Gryba of the Edmonton Oilers.

With at least one player in each first round series, there is a good chance that a former Terrier could end up playing for a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.

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