New England Sports fans currently are focused on the Super Bowl, and little else.
There’s a great reason to watch Tuesday night’s game between the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets, though.
In addition to being a matchup between two great teams, the game will mark the debut of center Trent Frederic, one of Boston’s top prospects. The 20-year-old is projected to center the third line between David Backes and Danton Heinen.
So, who is this guy? Let’s start with how he got here.
A St. Louis native, Frederic was drafted by the Bruins with the 29th pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Boston acquired the pick and Sean Kuraly in the deal that sent goalie Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks in 2015. As you might recall, the Bruins traded Jones just four days after acquiring him in the trade that sent Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings. Boston also landed defenseman Colin Miller (now with the Vegas Golden Knights) and the 13th pick in the 2015 draft (Jakub Zboril) in the trade.
So, in essence, the Bruins traded Lucic for Kuraly, Frederic and Zboril. Considering Lucic’s play in recent seasons, we’d say Boston made out all right.
Frederic played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin, where he won Big Ten Freshman of the Year in his first season and led the Badgers in goals and assists in his second. Following his sophomore season, Frederic signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Bruins and played in 13 games for Providence (AHL), scoring five goals and logging three assists.
Now, let’s look at what kind of player Frederic currently is, and what he projects to be.
Let’s get this out of the way: Frederic is not some electrifying, top-line center who’s expected to light up the NHL. He’s more of a bruising, two-way center who should make a living on second and third lines. Think David Backes in his prime — though those might be aggressive expectations.
During Boston’s rookie camp last summer, Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach broke down the game’s of Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and fellow top prospect Jack Studnicka. All three were competing for a vacant spot on Boston’s third line.
“They all have different assets,” Leach said. “JFK has high-end skill, he can make high-end plays. You can put him with some real skilled players, and he’ll be able to make plays. (Frederic) is a little old school, he’s up and down. He can make plays –by no means is he lacking on the skill front — but he has a little bit more of an abrasive style.
” … From what little I’ve seen of (Studnicka), he’s probably a cross between the two of them, really.”
Frederic failed to make the team out of camp and was sent to Providence to further refine his game. He struggled out of the gate but has improved in recent weeks, capped off by a two-goal, two-assist weekend before his promotion. He has 10 goals, seven assists and is a plus-4 player through 37 games this season.
Frederic also has four fights through his first 50 AHL games and never shies away from dropping the gloves, something Bruins fans will love.
“He had a real good weekend, playing assertive hockey, some of the best hockey he’s played all year,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Monday, via the Boston Herald’s Steve Conroy. “It was the plan all along to take a look at him at some point.”
Ultimately, Bruins fans shouldn’t be surprised if Frederic makes a brief NHL cameo before being sent back to the AHL. Boston on Monday assigned Forsbacka Karlsson and Ryan Donato to Providence, but both players likely will be recalled relatively soon.
Still, Frederic is an important piece in Boston’s youth movement, and Tuesday night could offer a first glimpse at a future TD Garden favorite.
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images