Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk’s first media availability of training camp came with something we rarely, if ever, saw last season: a smile.
A gregarious player by nature, 2021 was as bad as it’s ever gotten for the 24-year-old DeBrusk. He admitted he wasn’t having fun, he talked about his uncertain future openly, and acknowledged the external noise. An isolated life — NHL players were hotel-bound on the road last year and had to follow strict COVID protocols in their hometowns as well — did little to help a racing mind. But a Boston summer, one with a reopened city and more ‘normal’ surroundings, certainly did.
“Yeah, it’s nice to see you guys. It’s been a while,” DeBrusk, facing reporters face-to-face for the first time since Mar. 2020, told us. “That was definitely a big thing. It’s not perfect, there’s still some guidelines and things like that, but this [past] summer was huge for that. I actually stayed here in Boston for just under two months. I had a good time, just enjoyed the city, and lived life. It puts things more in reality than what you’re thinking about throughout that tough time. Just being able to go out with the guys and have some fun was something that I needed.”
That decompressing was just one part of DeBrusk’s preparation for the 2021-22 season has come with a hard reset and a summer focused on finding the mindset that he struggled to play and live with last year.
“Mindset, I think, is the biggest thing for me,” DeBrusk said. “I just wanted to get right, come in and work out and stuff like that. Wanted to get bigger and stronger. But I’d probably say more mindset, getting right, and liking the game again.
“I’m clean-slating it. I think it’s a pivotal point in my career, so I’m just trying to do the little things every day, take it day by day, and not look too far in advance or the past.”
That includes what’s been constant trade buzz involving DeBrusk’s name.
“Yeah, my name was getting dropped a lot this year, eh?” DeBrusk said with a grin when asked about the persistent trade rumors that have followed him around. “It’s been like that for probably four years. Obviously I like being a Bruin. I was drafted here, and I love the boys and all that stuff. It’s one of those things that I took a little more personally when I was younger.
“But yeah, my name was getting dropped out there. Kind of funny. I’m here.”
In every sense of the word, too, with a rejuvenated DeBrusk making an early impression on one of his new teammates.
“I can tell he has a ton of potential and a ton of talent, and he wants to be a great player,” DeBrusk’s potential regular-season linemate, Nick Foligno, said. “I think it’s just a matter of understanding what that takes. A lot of times people think it’s just a snap of the fingers and a guy figures it out. Sometimes it takes a little bit of a step back to realize, ‘OK, that’s not the way I want to go about doing things.’ I’m sure he’s hungry to prove to people that he’s the player we all envision and that he envisions.
“[DeBrusk] has higher standards for himself than a lot of people realize. So I’m looking forward to helping him in that regard, but also just helping the line and maybe helping him become that player.”
And though DeBrusk actually stopped and knocked on wood when acknowledging that he doesn’t think things could get worse than they did a year ago, he made it clear that worrying about the noise is not on the menu for 2021-22.
“It’s going to take a lot more than Twitter to get to me this year,” said DeBrusk.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.