Bruins

Frederic showing good gains in prospect department for B's

Frederic showing good gains in prospect department for B's

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. 

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 

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