BOSTON — Five years ago, 16-year-old Charlie McAvoy watched his beloved Rangers battle the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
This year, the Long Beach native will get a chance to earn the right to lift hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, beginning Monday night with Game 1 of the 2019 Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues at Boston’s TD Garden.
“I’ve always watched [the Stanley Cup] and been a fan of the game,” the now-Boston Bruins defenseman said Sunday. “The one I was most in tune with was the Rangers when they made it to play L.A. in the Final. That was my younger teenage years, and unfortunately they lost. That was me cheering for my team.”
It’s been a fast progression since. McAvoy went from the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Boston University. He was taken 14th overall by the Bruins in the 2016 NHL Draft, made his debut during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs and quickly became one of the team’s best defensemen.
“When he came into the league in the playoff series against Ottawa, you could tell he wasn’t going to be bothered by the moment,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s been steady for us.
“Generally, the bigger the moment gets, he relishes being in it, and for a young guy, that’s impressive. And that’s why he’s had the success he’s had.”
Long Island has produced a handful of NHL players, but Rob Scuderi, who went to St. Anthony’s in South Huntington, is the only one to have his name engraved on the Cup as a player. He did it with the Penguins in 2009 and the Kings in 2012.
McAvoy is the first of a wave of players from Long Island who could make an impact.
“I don’t think people would consider Long Island a hockey hotbed by any means, but I think there are more and more people who are growing up on Long Island and playing at the [NCAA] Division I level and [junior hockey] and developing and making it to the professional ranks,” McAvoy said. “There’s a few of us, with [Freeport’s] Jeremy Bracco, who is with the [AHL’s Toronto] Marlies, and [Jericho native] Adam Fox, who is a Hobey Baker winner this year and signed with the Rangers, and I’m anticipating him having a special career.
“Myself and a couple of other kids . . . some who are still in college and great players, and the sky’s the limit. Who knows? It would be special to see five or six guys from one Long Island team [the Long Island Gulls] playing in the NHL, and it’s crazy to think about.”
The Bruins reached the Final by outlasting John Tavares and the Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round, then knocking out two Cinderella clubs, the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes, to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in nine years.
They will face the Blues, who were last overall in the NHL in early January but rallied in the second half of the season to make the playoffs and then beat the Jets, Stars and Sharks to reach the club’s first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 — famously finished by Bobby Orr in a four-game Bruins sweep.
McAvoy has been a strong presence for the Bruins this postseason with a goal and six assists. He plays with captain Zdeno Chara on the team’s top defensive pairing.
With his family from Long Island in tow for the playoff run, McAvoy now hopes to get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
“Here I am now, I’m living in real life,’’ he said with a grin, “and it really is a dream come true to be here.”