Charlie McAvoy is no stranger to the spotlight. The US National Team Development Program product has seemingly thrived under the pressure of performing on the game's biggest stage.
The Boston University freshman didn't take long to make a positive impression in his first game action of his draft eligible season. McAvoy effortlessly entered the zone, skating down the right boards and all the way around the net. Showing tremendous poise, he patiently waited before finding a wide open teammate for the game-winning goal with 1:50 left in regulation in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game last month.
"The AAPG helped me get back into game shape. It was a special experience and fun environment," said McAvoy, a right-shot who typically plays on his strong side.
The puck-moving defenseman from Long Beach, NY scored a goal in the Terriers' season-opening loss at Union last Saturday night, as well.
"I'm an offensive defenseman. I think I'm pretty mobile and a good skater," McAvoy said when asked to describe his style of play. "But, I also take pride in my defense. I want to be strong in my own zone."
Despite being a young freshman, McAvoy won't turn 18 until Dec. 21, he has a pro-ready frame at six-foot-one and weighing in at 211 lbs. He credits the NTDP for much of his development, but specifically bragged about the program's weight training regimen.
"It's definitely the best place to play for a young hockey player. It prepares you physically. The schedule is so good, playing college teams in your 18-year. It makes you feel that you're not really a freshman once you get to college," McAvoy explained.
McAvoy has been excited to jump into the training program at Boston University, something the Terrier hockey program has always been known for nationally.
"It's been awesome hopping right into the weight room here. The new Strength & Conditioning Coach [Sean Skahan] is awesome. He really emphasizes what's right for your body and he cares about the form and technique," commented McAvoy.
In addition to the program's strength program, there were several other factors that played into his opting to play for Boston University, including the tradition and mystique of wearing the scarlet and white.
"[The tradition] was a big reason I came here. I knew what kind of program it was. I wanted to be part of something special," said McAvoy.
Having the opportunity to play for a coach such as David Quinn with a strong background including experience at the professional level certainly didn't hurt.
"Being able to play for Coach Quinn was one of the main reasons I came to BU. The personal defensive practices and his knowledge of how to play in the defensive zone," McAvoy explained. "My offensive game is there, but defense comes first."
McAvoy is coming into a Boston University team with no shortage of excellent defensemen. All six starters from last year's Hockey East Championship team are back, including four NHL Draft choices. McAvoy views the battle for ice time as a challenge that will push his development further.
"Every practice is an opportunity to get better," he said.
McAvoy, who has always exhibited terrific puck possession skills, a strong skating ability and poise with the puck on his stick, is looking to show NHL scouts that he has what it takes to be drafted in the top half of the first round with his play in all three zones.
"I want to sharpen up my defensive skills. I want to be responsible in my own zone and trusted to be on the ice at the end of the game," said McAvoy when asked what he hopes to work on this season.
McAvoy, who grew up just a short train ride from Madison Square Garden, has always been a huge New York Rangers fan and considered Ryan McDonagh his favorite player. However, he said he tries to emulate and model his game after Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie.
Rated an "A" Player by NHL Central Scouting, most draft rankings have McAvoy inside the top 20. He is taking all the attention from scouts, media and fans in stride and not letting it distract him from playing the game he loves.
"I will just play hockey like I always have. I view each day as another day to get better. I try my best not to worry about all the other stuff," said McAvoy.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.