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OTTAWA, ON - NOVEMBER 27: Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins looks on in a game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on November 27, 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

It certainly appears that the Bruins won’t be making any major moves to add a premium talent to the roster for the 2020-21 season. Their best hope to do so is that they get one internally – with Charlie McAvoy joining the ranks of the elite.

No doubt, McAvoy has become a very good player at the NHL level and is still just 22 years old. He’s clearly the Bruins’ No. 1 defenseman already. He’s defensively responsible, brings a physical edge when needed, and keeps improving at pushing the puck up ice and joining the rush on offense.

If and when McAvoy’s offensive confidence makes another jump, and he becomes even more aggressive shooting the puck and more comfortable manning a power play, he may take the leap the Bruins need. From a No. 1 defenseman to a franchise defenseman, the kind of blue liner that can take over all 200 feet of the ice whenever he’s on it.

Can McAvoy become the Bruins’ version of Victor Hedman as soon as next season? The NHL Network seems to believe so. They recently released their own official defenseman rankings on Nov. 1, and unsurprisingly they put Hedman at No. 1.

May 12, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) smiles at teammates after their 6-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in game two of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Can Charlie McAvoy become a truly elite defenseman as soon as next season? (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Here’s the full top-10:

  1. Victor Hedman, Lightning
  2. Roman Josi, Predators
  3. John Carlson, Capitals
  4. Alex Pietrangelo, Golden Knights
  5. Seth Jones, Blue Jackets
  6. Cale Makar, Avalanche
  7. Dougie Hamilton, Hurricanes
  8. Kris Letang, Penguins
  9. Charlie McAvoy, Bruins
  10. Miro Heiskanen, Stars

It’s encouraging that the NHL’s own network, which is obviously jammed with hockey experts, thinks higher of McAvoy than it does of the Canucks’ Quinn Hughes, the Blue Jackets’ Zach Werenski, and the Golden Knights’ Shea Theodore, among other good young defensemen. Hopefully these rankings come true and McAvoy can blow by established veteran franchise D-men on the list like Drew Doughty, Brent Burns, Shea Weber, and Erik Karlsson.

The best comp for McAvoy as a player may be Doughty, so if he can become the Bruins’ version of him then that would be a boon for Boston’s blue line. The only thing holding him back at this point is offensive production and consistency. He’s flashed his accurate shot, deft puck-moving, and 1-on-1 rushing abilities many times, but has yet to put it together over a full season or be that threat on a nightly basis. Imagine he starts scoring 60-70 points while also holding things down in his own end like he’s already been doing.

MORE: Why the Bruins should bring Zdeno Chara back

It’s fair to believe that he will get there. McAvoy still hasn’t passed the 200-game threshold, sitting at 187 career contests at the NHL level. Once he passes that, we’ll begin to have a truly clear idea of what he is as a player. So the hope is that McAvoy makes the leap toward a true Norris Trophy candidate in 2020-21. If the Bruins want to put themselves over the top as a Cup contender, McAvoy’s improvement is their best avenue.

Ty Anderson and I discussed McAvoy’s development and placement on the NHL Network’s list as part of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast this week. Have a listen below. The Bruins stuff starts at 49:45.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.