BOSTON - Two weeks ago, David Pastrnak was a 6'0" 167-pound forward from Havířov, Czech Republic, playing for Södertälje in Sweden.
He had an 8-16=24 stat line to his name through 36 games playing in the Allsvenskan League in 2013-14. He had just recently celebrated his 18th birthday.
Now, he's all of that, plus a first-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins, having been selected 25th overall in Philadelphia on June 27.
Being in Philly was his first time in the United States. On Monday night, it marked another first for Pastrnak, as he made his first trip to Boston in advance of the Bruins' annual development camp.
On-ice sessions for Pastrnak and the rest of the prospects begin Wednesday, July 9, at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. and are open to the public (check out BostonBruins.com for the full schedule).
After a long day of travel from Prague on Monday - consisting of a nine-hour flight to JFK International Airport in New York and a connecting flight to Boston - he didn't show an ounce of fatigue as he arrived to the baggage claim at Logan Airport, clad in his Bruins' polo and draft hat with the Spoked-B.
Always smiling, Pastrnak dismissed the 'positive' of having Tuesday to rest before camp kicks off on Wednesday. "It's all mental!" he said, of any jet lag.
The only worry he had was that his bag had not made the journey with him. But then the duffel bag he received from the Bruins at the draft, outfitted in Spoked-B embroidery, made its way around the conveyor belt. All clear.
Pastrnak had been on a whirlwind ride for the past week and a half, and his emotions hadn't changed since the night he was drafted.
"Unbelievable" was his word of choice that night. "I was getting nervous after every pick more and more and I’m really proud that Boston believed in me and they picked me. They’re a good organization and great people," he had said after being selected by the Bruins.
So, have those emotions subsided yet? Not quite.
"Still the same," Pastrank said on Monday in Boston. "I feel really good and still so happy."
Having only known English for a couple of years, he's still not completely comfortable doing interviews, especially on-camera. But his persona goes far beyond his words.
While the on-ice product is ultimately what matters - and Pastrnak has established himself as a right winger with solid play along the boards, grit and a strong shot, with plenty of room to grow - his optimistic personality certainly shines through.
"He competes and he’s got skill and we thought we needed some more skill. He handles the puck real well, and he protects the puck real well," Bruins Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky said after he was drafted. "And he’s full of energy. You just, you gravitate to him."
General Manager Peter Chiarelli had the same takeaways on the forward, starting when the B's brass first met him and had dinner with him prior to the draft.
"He looks up to [David] Krejci. All those young Czech players look up to Krejci and he certainly is one of them. He's got a real good personality," Chiarelli said, from the draft floor after the first round.
"Have you met him yet? He's a real energetic kid, enthusiastic, and loves to play, and he respects it as a profession. I really like the kid's personality and I like the way he plays."
Pastrnak knows he needs to get stronger, and development camp will point him in the right direction as he continues to develop his pro game in the Bruins' organization.
The off-ice components are just as meaningful, and with the forward's work ethic, he'll certainly take in all that the camp has to offer. He wants to make the Bruins proud.
Now, just as he moved away from home to Sweden when he was young, he's embarking on a new adventure. For the beginning of July, that new adventure takes him to Boston.
"It's the first time [in Boston] - it was a long flight but I was looking forward to getting here, and now that I'm already here, I've got to enjoy it," said Pastrnak.
As he walked through Logan Airport carting his bags and his skates, a view of the Boston skyline could be seen through the windows.
"This looks just like my town," he joked with a smile, as downtown Boston was pointed out to him.
His hometown of Havířov is just about on the border of the Czech Republic and Poland, and less than an hour drive from Slovakia. With a population of around 77,000, compared to Boston's roughly 637,000, and not many skyscrapers, it was an enticing sight for the newest member of the Black & Gold, even if he had seen bigger cities before.
With a new city, new organization and new 'teammates' for the week whom he's never met, Pastrnak was in for a completely new experience.
He was happy to learn that his new roommate was from Sweden, fellow 2014 draftee Emil Johansson. If he has any questions, he can also take solace in second year campers from Sweden, Linus Arnesson and Anton Blidh, along with Slovakia native Peter Cehlarik, the only other prospect Pastrnak is familiar with as he begins camp.
Outside of Pastrnak's comfort zone, he's still learning what it means to be a part of Boston and the Bruins, and part of that new education means knowing the Boston-New York sports rivalry.
In the Czech Republic, a hat with a NY Yankees logo is just a hat. After being drafted, Pastrnak quickly learned to rock a Red Sox - and only a Red Sox - hat, for the Boston faithful.
But beyond the nuances of learning about a new place and its loyalties, the newest member of the Bruins' organization is just excited for the whole process to begin.
"Exciting, very much. I'm not even tired after that [travel]," said Pastrnak. "I'm just really looking forward to being on the ice and in practices, and meeting the guys. It's going be fun."
As David Krejci would say (in Czech), Hodně štěstí!
BostonBruins.com - As the nation celebrates its 238th birthday and honors another Fourth of July, fireworks, parades and barbecues are stretching across the country.
You won't be surprised to find one of the Bruins' only Americans, Torey Krug, joining in the festivities.
The native of Livonia, Michigan has become a New Englander and Bostonian since first wearing the Spoked-B in 2012, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Just as he takes pride in the Black and Gold, he's especially grateful for the Red, White and Blue.
The defenseman, who spends his summers training in Connecticut, checked in with BostonBruins.com via phone on the eve of the Fourth.
"Still out East, and loving every second of it," Krug said of his summer so far. He and his wife, Melanie, were heading to Rhode Island to take part in Fourth of July festivities.
Since being around New England, and in Boston, he's sensed the pride the area takes in being rich in American history, with landmarks and the Freedom Trail winding near TD Garden through Boston's North End and Charlestown.
"I spend a lot of time walking around, and you can feel the patriotism inside the people of Boston," said Krug. "I feel like it's just a great city to be a part of, and it represents everything about the United States as a whole, when you talk about freedom, patriotism and pride in general."
BostonBruins.com - When the NHL's free agency period opened on Tuesday, July 1, the Bruins hadn't planned to go full force into the open market.
They have roughly $5.6 million to work with in cap space, once Marc Savard is placed on long-term injured reserve, to stay under a salary cap upper limit of $69 million for 2014-15.
For Cup contending teams, there's usually not much room to spend on attractive unrestricted free agents. With a strong core and organizational depth in place, that's often not the first method of addressing offseason roster moves.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins had a notable UFA they wanted to sign, though, in future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. Chiarelli was trying to clear cap space to sign him. The winger would have liked to stay in Boston.
But with their current restrictive cap situation, an eye to the future in leaving room to re-sign core players like David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk, and the need to give young players an opportunity with the big club, the Bruins weren't able to re-sign Iginla.
The winger signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
"I ended up talking to Jarome's agent [Don Meehan] last night and I said it doesn’t look that good; it wasn’t going to be a fit," Chiarelli said on a conference call with media Tuesday evening. "So it was late last night when we had the discussion and we said we would circle back if we think there is anything else we could do."
BostonBruins.com - It's just past 4:30 p.m. in Boston, and there's been a flurry of activity around the League since free agency's opening at noon.
Three hours in, there were already nearly 50 signings and $390 million-plus in spending.
Free agency has seen three departures from the Bruins so far, the biggest of which is Jarome Iginla, who signed a three-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche (reportered worth $16 million - $5.5 million in the first two years, and $5 million in the final year of his contract, when he'll be 39).
Shawn Thornton (who Chiarelli had informed on June 16 the Bruins weren't re-signing) signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers worth $2.6 million after seven seasons in Black & Gold.
Goaltender Chad Johnson inked a two-year deal with the New York Islanders ($2.6 million) after serving as the backup to Tuukka Rask in 2013-14. Boston signed restricted free agent goalie Niklas Svedberg on June 23 to a one-year, one-way deal worth an annual cap hit of $600,000. He's in line to earn the backup role.
BostonBruins.com - Before the NHL's free agency period officially opens at noon ET today, General Manager Peter Chiarelli took a few minutes to update BostonBruins.com on the club's expectations.
"Well, we go into it, we've done a lot of preparation. Obviously, we've got a big name in Jarome Iginla that we're trying to sign and I've had a lot of discussions with Jarome's agent Don Meehan," Chiarelli said from his office on Tuesday.
"You know, my guess is that he's going to test the market. He wants a little more term and stuff - normally I don't comment on negotiations, but Jarome's been really good for us, and if we don't have him back, I wish him well."
"So, there's that going on. And then we look to the trade market, which is existing right now, and the free agent market for right wing, so we're looking for that also."
"There's some smaller pieces that we look for, a couple of depth players, but not really too active. We may be a little more active in the trade market or the secondary free agent market. You probably won't see the Bruins attached to any of these big names today."
BostonBruins.com - Heading into NHL Draft weekend, General Manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff had a tight list of potential draft picks.
After picks 10 or 11, the draft would thin out, and when that happened, teams all had many different lists, based on need, preference and club identity.
"There’s a lot of skilled forwards in the mix and that’s kind of one of the things we’re looking for," Chiarelli said prior to the first round on June 27 in Philadelphia. "We’re looking for size, strength, speed — I don’t know if we’re going to get that in the first round. But there’s a lot of skilled forwards."
The Bruins ended the two-day draft with four forwards and a defenseman.
The forwards include first rounder David Pastrnak (25th overall), Ryan Donato (second round, 56th), Danton Heinen (fourth round, 116th) and Anders Bjork (fifth round, 146th). Defenseman Emil Johansson was chosen with the Bruins' final pick in the seventh round (206th).
"The plan was we wanted some skill," said Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky, heading up his first draft in that role. "Everybody wanted skill. You could see the picks, that were highly skilled guys. More of the 'plumbers' were coming later on and we were excited that we could get Donato and Heinen who are two really skilled players. We’re excited."
BostonBruins.com - On Sunday, 210 more NHL hopefuls woke up one step closer to making it to the big-time.
With 25 first-round picks selected on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and another 185 on Saturday, the members of the 2014 NHL Draft class now have a tangible goal.
What happens after this weekend, though, is what matters most, whether the draftees heard their names called in-person or received phone calls with the good news, and whether they were chosen in the first round or as the final picks.
Being drafted is just the beginning of a process.
Many first rounders don't make it in the NHL. Many later picks work their way to the top.
PHILADELPHIA - "I'm still shaking."
Ryan Donato was outfitted in his new Black & Gold sweater with the Spoked-B on the front, and a new Bruins' hat as he tried to let it sink in.
The forward had just been drafted by his hometown team, the Boston Bruins, 56th overall in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The Massachusetts native was shaking, as he said, and he was all smiles while speaking about his time growing up around Boston, and around the Bruins.
His father, Ted, was selected by Boston 98th overall in the 1987 NHL Draft, and went on to play eight years as a Bruin, then for eight different teams before finishing his career with Boston in 2003-04.
"Surreal. It really is. It doesn’t feel like it’s happening right now," said the forward. "It feels like a dream."
It was an incredible experience for his father and family as well.
"I think he was really excited, too. I think my mom was almost as excited as my dad - my name got called, I just knew she was going to bawl, so I had to give her a quick hug and get out of there before she got too embarrassed on the cameras," he laughed.
The second day of the NHL Draft in Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center kicks off at 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 28, with Rounds 2-7. Broadcast coverage can be found on NHL Network.
Here's a rundown of the Bruins' picks...
PHILADELPHIA - On Friday night, the Bruins picked Czech native David Pastrnak 25th overall in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
When Bruins President Cam Neely announced his name, the camera panned to the forward in the crowd. His reaction was simple, and powerful. He kissed his hands and pointed up to the sky. His father, Milan, passed away last May and could not be with him to witness his dream coming true.
Pastrnak walked up to the stage at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, walked down the line of Bruins' brass doling out strong handshakes to Neely, GM Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Boston staff. He then slipped on the Spoked-B for the very first time.
"It’s unbelievable," said Pastrnak, beginning his trek through what's often termed as 'The Gauntlet,' first doing interviews with media, followed by photo shoots and autograph signings.
"I was getting nervous after every pick more and more and I’m really proud that Boston believed in me and they picked me. They’re a good organization and great people."
From the Bruins' perspective, he was higher on the draft list than where they thought they would get him.