BOSTON -- There were a couple of schools of thought about 20-year-old Bruins prospect Trent Frederick going into his NHL debut last night.
One was that Frederic was getting a well-deserved shot at the third-line center spot that Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson never really seized during his multiple auditions in the first half of the season. The other was that Frederic was merely here for a short-term showcase ahead of next month's trade deadline and that he’d be back in Providence rather quickly.
As is often the case, the player plays a big part in deciding which school of thought becomes accepted knowledge. This morning, we know which one everyone believes.
Frederic burst onto the scene with an impressive fight and a great big helping of physicality in Boston’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets. It was as lively and truculent as the Bruins have been all season, with both Kevan Miller and Frederic dropped the gloves during the second period, but it was Frederic’s fight that brought the energy and life into a TD Garden crowd that’s been yearning for the slowly disappearing rough stuff all season.
After Miller drilled Brandon Tanev with a massive hit that led to a fight with Adam Lowry, Tanev decided to get into it with the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Frederic on the very next shift during a scrum around the Bruins net. Frederic hammered Tanev with a flurry of punches before dropping him to the ice, demonstrating the type of snarl most of Boston’s young players have lacked throughout the bulk of this season.
"[Great] scrap, good for him. We need some of that,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “There are a lot of younger players in the league now, so it can’t be Zee [Zdeno Chara] and [David] Backes policing 20-year-olds every night . . . you need a little bit of the younger guys to stiffen up. And Freddy brought that tonight.
"Hopefully it rubs off . . . He’s a big body. He’s got some of that in him where he’s willing to do that. So if those are your strengths, or the intangibles I guess, that you bring, then you need to bring them. He did. I think he knows that there’s a window here to show what he can do, and that’s part of it.”
It was also more than just a fight for Frederic. The big rookie finished with a couple of shots on net, a couple of hits and a 4-for-7 performance in the faceoff circle where he was hard to play against.
“I thought he played very well," said Cassidy. "He’s as advertised, played between the dots, strong on pucks, played behind their ‘D’, made a few plays. If he had a chance to shoot it, he did."
Still, it was the fight that everyone was talking about . . . especially after the television cameras caught the celebration from his proud parents. Frederic’s mother and father were so excited that they missed connections when his dad fist-pumped and his mom went for the high five. It soon became a thing on social media and Frederic saw it while riding the bike after his rousing debut.
“My parents probably showed a lot of emotion," he said. "[A] fight isn’t as cool as a goal or something. I can only imagine what they would do then,. But, yeah, it’s a lot of emotion.
"I’m just pumped and I’m pumped to have them in my corner so you know, a high-five, missed or not, they’re in sync and they’ve been great.”
Frederic also had good initial chemistry with the 34-year-old Backes, who he grew up idolizing as a St. Louis Blues fan. He may turn a similar kind of hard-nosed player, and if they both continue that north/south, hard-to-play-against mentality, the third line that may just have found its identity.
“I thought he was good,” said Backes. “[He’s a] big body, good support as a center, and created some havoc on the forecheck. I think he was doing a good job on the faceoff dot, and then obviously he drops the mitts and holds his own and shows his presence there. That’s a great sign. That’s like the old days when you got into the lineup and you wanted to make your mark and show that you’ll do anything to stay there. I don’t know if [fighting's] a regular [thing] for him, but he did a heck of a job.
"I’m proud of him, and he got his feet wet tonight. I think a few plays, maybe, we get more pucks to the net and we get a little bit more action there. Overall, I think he was doing the things he needed to do and [we’ll] keep building our chemistry and hopefully pot a couple next game.”
The bottom line?
Frederic showed some very good potential and brings something to the table with the size and strength that so many of his fellow B’s prospects don’t really have as qualities. It's clearly something this Bruins team has needed more of this season.
It will take time for the 20-year-old to show he’s actually the answer for a third line center spot that’s bedeviled Boston all season. But his debut was a crowd-rousing hit with a style Bruins fans have come to expect from their players, and that's a damn good place to start.
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