As a prospect for the Bruins and a former first round pick, Trent Frederic was never going to wow you with dazzling puck skills, mesmerize with silky hands or blow you away with his skating game. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound St. Louis native is the opposite of a “combine player” that blows you away in the stopwatch and measurement categories, but then comes up lacking once it comes down to actual play on the ice.
Instead the strong, big-framed center showed up on scouts’ radars when it came time to compete, win battles with determination and physical strength and do the things that help build a winning hockey team. It was perhaps Frederic’s lack of eye-popping explosiveness that caused a few moments of hesitation when he was selected by Boston in the last few picks of the first round in the 2016 Draft, and a hand injury that hampered his offensive game certainly didn’t help sell him as the selection during his draft year.
At times in his draft year Frederic looked like a third line center with modest offensive skills, but it was a different story this summer after he healed up and excelled in the world of college hockey. Frederic responded with an excellent freshman season where he posted 15 goals and 33 points in 30 games for the University of Wisconsin as a true, teen-aged freshman at the NCAA level. The skill level popped a little bit more in game action for Wisconsin than it did playing third and fourth line roles in the US National Team Development Program.
That was something Frederic found pretty satisfying after putting the work in and making sure he played, and produced, like the NHL first round pick that he is.
“This year I got put in some good positions to score a little bit more. I got a little more power play, and I was put in a position to maybe develop a little more confidence than in the past,” said Frederic. “Tony Granato, Don Granato and Mark Osiecki taught me a lot about my offensive game, and it was pretty fun to see it all work out.
“In the past I might have thrown it way or just put it down deep, but now I hold onto it a little bit longer and extend plays. I’m doing skating stuff, still working on my hands and I watch a lot of video showing where I need to go to get into scoring position. My game is changing a little bit, but my player to watch for the last few years has been David Backes. I like to play physical like him and there’s some similarities there.”
He now looks a lot more like the Backes-type player he models his game after on the ice. Heavy and strong on the puck, Frederic was one of the most physically impressive prospects at Bruins development camp after clearly doing some W-O-R-K in the weight room while also filling out naturally.
“He’s filled out, I’ll say. He’s gotten a stronger upper body. He’s obviously a big kid to start with. His dad is a big man also. So, that was to be expected that he would fill out. He was a young kid a year ago, and he’s continuing to grow and develop and taking good strides,” said Bruins Player Development Coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “He plays top line at Wisconsin. I think playing for the [US] development program, sometimes depending on what group you’re in, you get slotted into certain areas a little bit. Because of some of the players they had in his age group, he maybe played a little bit down the lineup which can be what it is, I guess.
“But at Wisconsin, he’s been playing in the top-6. As a freshman on a pretty decent Wisconsin team, he was one of the driving guys in that top-6. Obviously, time will tell as he turns to pro hockey in years down what he’ll be. But, there’s more skill to his game than I think people thought coming out of the draft.”
The size and strength advantage he gladly showed against his peers is exactly the kind of thing that will serve him well in the pro ranks, and it caught the eye of B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy as a college player that might be ready for the pro game more quickly than originally anticipated.
“That’s what you want to see out of these camps…the guys from year to year come in and mature physically as much as they can in one year,” said Cassidy. “There are some guys I think that both sides of it…a guy like [Trent] Frederic, who now everyone’s talking about, is close to being…I know he’s got a lot of school left.
“[But] how he’s grown and how thick he looks on the ice. You’re watching him a little closer, obviously a lot of talk within that. It looked like there are some really good players.”
Time will tell on Frederic, of course, and what kind of player he settles into at the pro level. There will always be some that will pine for more dynamic, skilled players produced with their first round picks like Alex Debrincat, who dropped to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round in 2016 after being bypassed by the Bruins scouting staff.
Debrincat went on to lead all of junior hockey in scoring (65 goals and 127 points in 63 games) with the Erie Otters this past season, and is the exact opposite of Frederic as a player in that he might explode at the NHL level as a small, skilled player in the Johnny Gaudreau mold. Then again he might also flame out with a lack of size, strength or toughness that all those small-ish players need in great amounts to survive at the NHL level, and Frederic appears to have the kind of solid, no-frills attributes that will make him a solid, dependable NHL forward whether it’s as a top-6 player or a solid, physical third line-type that every team needs.
The good news for the Bruins is that Frederic took a major step forward in all categories after they selected him 29th overall little more than a year ago. It looks like he’s developing into exactly the kind of big, strong and productive leader-type that should look awfully good donning the Black and Gold in the future.