Czech David Pastrnak Proud to be Drafted by Boston
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.
"We talked a lot about moving up to get him, and we're fortunate to get him here [at No. 25]," Chiarelli said from the draft floor.
Pastrnak had met the Bruins' brass prior to the draft.
"We brought David in and we had dinner with him, and we talked a lot about it, he's got a really good upbringing - it's a little difficult, but he's a real good kid as a result of it," said Chiarelli.
"He looks up to [David] Krejci. I mean, all those young Czech players look up to Krejci and he certainly is one of them."
"He's got a real good personality, he's a real energetic kid, enthusiastic, and loves to play, and he respects it as a profession and I really like the kid's personality and I like the way he plays."
Pastrnak is a winger with a right shot, who comes in at 6-0, 167-pounds. He plays both sides, but he's mainly on the right.
"I compare him a lot to David Krejci. I think he's more of a winger than Krech, who is kind of a center that slows the game down, picks it up, chance of pace. This guy's a little better on the boards, he's a more natural winger," said Chiarelli, who labeled Pastrnak a better shooter than Krejci.
"But like David [Krejci], he protects the puck, he sees the ice well, he's got a level of grit, and it's kind of that level of grit with a good combination of skill that really attracted him to us."
The Krejci comparison would be well received by the Czech, who grew up idolizing the Bruin.
"I’m trying to play like Krejci from when I was born," gushed the forward. "He was my idol from when I was small and he is still, and still he is my idol."
He spent the majority of the 2013-14 season with Södertälje in the Swedish B League (Allsvenskan League). He lead the team with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points in 36 games, before reportedly suffering an injury in January/February that kept him out the rest of the season.
He also skated in one game for the Södertälje J20 team (SuperElite) where he totaled two points with a goal and an assist.
Pastrnak returned to make his second appearance for the Czechs at the Under-18 World Championship in April, earning the silver medal (the U.S. won gold) as assistant captain. He was part of the country's World Juniors squad earlier in the year as well.
He's a puck handler, and battles strong down low. He considers his skating one of his best assets, along with his hockey sense and ability to read the game. He can score, and be a playmaker.
"It’s just, he competes and he’s got skill and we thought we needed some more skill," said Bruins Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky. "He handles the puck real well, he protects the puck real well and he’s full of energy. You gravitate to him."
We got to witness that firsthand on Friday night. Pastrnak was electric following the selection, and his enthusiasm showed through, starting with the massive smile that would not leave his face.
His English is not perfect, but his charismatic smile told much more about his emotions than any words could depict. He adores the game.
"At the beginning, I felt that they were great people and there was a great meeting and right away, I didn’t have it like that with other teams, that I liked the meeting so much," he said. "And it was good talking to them, and they knew what they were talking about, and I’m really happy."
"This kid, he’s got a great story," said Chiarelli. "With his mother and what he’s done away from home at an early age, he’s got a great story. Single parent, and she works two jobs to support to him back in Czech."
The now 18-year-old Pastrnak was 15 when he first began playing in Sweden. His team, Södertälje (where LA's Anze Kopitar played), has a chance to move up to the Swedish Hockey League (top league in Sweden) in 2015-16.
"I was 15 years old when I got there and they also support me so I’m just trying to give back to them," he said.
"He gets a lot of ice time for a young kid and we saw him in April in Europe, and we thought maybe there was a chance that he’d be there [at No. 25]," said Gretzky. "We focused on skill and his compete, and you can have all the skill you want, but if you don’t compete…"
That compete level is exactly what keeps driving Pastrnak. He doesn't give up on plays. And just like many young players, he's still working hard to improve his defensive play to go along with his offensive ability.
[Krejci's] two-way game, you know, he's a great offensive guy but if he isn't scoring goals in the game, he's still helping the team defensively," said Pastrnak. "And I think that's the right guy for me to look up for because his kind of hockey is not just about offensively, because you have to play for the team and be a team player, and he is."
"And that's what I like about him and he's a great hockey player and I think he's a great person, too."
Strong play at both ends fits right into the Bruins' mold.
"You have to be good on defense, too. If you want to be a good hockey player you have to play for the team and you don’t play for the team just with scoring," said Pastrnak. "You have to do something on defense, and that’s something like blocking shots."
His willingness to put in the work was apparent to the Bruins' scouting staff. Gretzky and newly appointed Assistant General Manager Scott Bradley, along with scouts Dean Malkoc and PJ Axelsson, saw that commitment firsthand.
"He moved away when he was young; he wanted to be a hockey player," said Gretzky.
Pastrnak knows that he must keep getting stronger, and keep improving, if he wants to reach the next level.
"There’s a lot of things I have to work on and I will do that and I hope I can get better and make the Bruins proud that they picked me first," said the forward.
While Chiarelli doesn't mind him staying over for another season in Sweden, there's always the chance that he's ready to make the transition to the North American game.
He projects be a definite second-line player, and has an opportunity to carve himself out a top-line role in the future.
"I don’t know if it’s first line but he’s got sense, he’s got skill and those two things give him a chance," said Chiarelli.
His work ethic will also help him down the road in Black & Gold.
"It was an unreal moment," said Pastrnak. "I will remember this for all my life."