Pastrnak growing on Bergeron's wing

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It's only natural for Boston Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron to be the type of leader to help teach rookie David Pastrnak about life in the NHL.

Pastrnak made his NHL debut Monday during the Bruins' 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. The 18-year-old forward started on the fourth line, but by the end of the game Bruins coach Claude Julien had Pastrnak skating on Bergeron's line.

The Bruins had Tuesday off, and when they returned to the practice ice Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena, Pastrnak was wearing a gold jersey, signifying a spot on Bergeron's line. Pastrnak played the right wing, as Brad Marchand was on the left side. Reilly Smith, who's normally on that line, was moved to the third unit with Chris Kelly and Matt Fraser/Seth Griffith.

Pastrnak is currently the youngest player in the NHL, so Julien is considering all the elements and trying to promote the rookie's development without putting him in a position to fail.

"You try not to put him in a situation that may be too much, but at the same time he's a good player, and we know he's a good player," Julien said. "Offensively, he's a really good player -- explosive. He makes plays and is pretty dynamic. He'll only get better, so we need to continue to give him that opportunity to grow in the right environment. You don't put him on the fourth line and think he's going to become the player he is on the fourth line."

Julien was quick to add that his comment was by no means disrespectful to players on the fourth line, but it's more about putting Pastrnak where he can develop and hone his game as a highly skilled forward.

From the time he was drafted in the first round (No. 25 overall) in last June's draft, it didn't take Pastrnak long to realize he needs to be a complete two-way player in order to succeed in Julien's system. During the organization's rookie development camp last July, Pastrnak specifically mentioned Bergeron and David Krejci as players worth emulating.

Playing the role of on-ice mentor comes naturally for Bergeron, and that's why Pastrnak will see some time on that line.

"To [Bergeron's] credit, you put [Pastrnak] on his line and you know there's going to be a reliable guy to help him grow as well," Julien said. "He was that age, too, when he started in Boston and he had somebody help him along the way, so he's certainly capable of doing that now."

Bergeron loves Pastrnak's enthusiasm and genuine love for the game. That's how Bergeron was when he first arrived in Boston as an 18-year-old. He remembers how then-Bruins veteran Marty Lapointe helped guide him on and off the ice, making Bergeron's transition to the NHL easier.

"It's definitely something I still remember from my first few years, how the older guys took me under their wing and helped me a lot," Bergeron said. "They taught me a lot of things on and off the ice and I definitely want to do the same for younger guys, and David's definitely one of them. He's a great player. He has a lot of smarts on the ice, great vision. Off the ice, he's definitely a great kid. He wants to learn and I'm definitely happy to be here and help. I'm excited to play with him."

Players like Marchand, Tyler Seguin, Reilly Smith and now Pastrnak have all had the opportunity to learn how to be a complete two-way player at the NHL level with Bergeron's help. Most of them gained valuable experience from Bergeron's tutelage.

Pastrnak appears to be more than willing to learn from the veteran.

"Marchand and Bergeron are great players. I can't believe I'm practicing on the same line with those guys," Pastrnak said. "I enjoyed it and they're really good players. It's fun to play with them."

Pastrnak possesses explosive speed, playmaking ability and a keen hockey sense. There's plenty he'll learn over the course of the next few seasons. He'll learn to become a more reliable player in the defensive end, and he'll realize that will create more scoring opportunities.

From the start of training camp it was evident Pastrnak wants to learn. He's always asking questions, and veterans have been willing to give him the answers.

"He's got the offensive instinct to make the smart play and the good play," Bergeron said. "You just try to read off of that and that's how chemistry needs to be built is by reading off each other. It might not happen overnight, but he definitely has the hockey IQ to make the good plays, the right plays."

There's a lot to like about Pastrnak's game. Hopefully he never loses his outgoing personality and the Bruins allow him to be himself, as long as he's responsible on and off the ice. Now that the Pastrnak era has officially begun in Boston, Julien will give the rookie the opportunity to shine.

"He's an 18-year-old so let's give him a chance here and let him find his stride," Julien said. "Hopefully that happens, and if not then it'll just be a matter of time. I'm not worried and eventually it will happen. When? I'm not sure."