Rugged Boston Bruins forward Trent Frederic knew this was going to be a crossroads kind of year for him.
The 22-year-old former first round pick established himself in the AHL last season with some impressive brute force. Frederic led the American League in penalty minutes and played a rugged center position while chipping in 32 points in 59 games. At the NHL level, he hasn’t really found his offensive game or consistently played with the aforementioned snarl even though he started off with a bang by pounding Brandon Tanev in his first NHL game.
But then fate intervened in the form of a last-minute injury to Craig Smith on opening night. Frederic was an emergency addition to Boston’s lineup and that’s allowed him to start carving out a role as a physical, agitating force on the B’s fourth line. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder got into it with PK Subban on Saturday afternoon drawing the veteran Devils defenseman into taking a penalty, and even managed three shots on net while averaging 12:28 of ice time in those first two games.
Trent Frederic and P. K. Subban exchange pleasantries. pic.twitter.com/SP9OGFukTn
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 16, 2021
If he can keep playing that way, Frederic is going to be a nice fit with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner as a fearsome fourth line that can factor into games.
“Maybe the first game [Subban] didn’t like a time that I finished him [with a check]. It was nothing crazy,” said Frederic, explaining his exchange with the veteran Devils blueliner. “We had some exchanges, but nothing came out of it. It just happened to work out that me and Subban had some talking, and maybe he found [he didn’t] like me so he took that penalty. Hopefully, I can keep doing stuff like that.
“It’s kind of something that’s small, but I kind of feel like I won that battle between me and him in the sense that he took a stupid penalty. It’s hard to do that [stuff] at the college level, but I think ever since I turned pro, I’ve added that to my game. Each year I’m trying to get better at it, and it worked out pretty well last year. We played a lot of the same teams at Providence last year on the schedule, so hopefully this year it’s the same.”
More of that Frederic attitude and abrasiveness is something the Bruins could absolutely use from their fourth line moving forward.
“I thought he was excellent in camp. He was moving better and more consistent. We said he’d get into the lineup in a hurry. He got in by accident the other day [with the Smith injury], but he was still going to go in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “In his games, he was better in the second [game] than the first. We like that he’s getting consistent.
“He’s understanding he can get under people’s skin and use his body and his physicality and abrasiveness. He got a shot off in the slot late in the third that easily could have won the game for us. He’s got a good release. We’ve asked him to get more pucks to the net and to not overthink it. It’s good to see that. Puck-protection down low. He drew a penalty on Subban and got him agitated. These are some of the things he can bring because of his size and tenacity. We’re going to stick with him, remind him and hopefully he doesn’t get away from that style of play. That’s is what is going to get his foot in the door and get him in the lineup every night.”
The feeling in the past was that Frederic was stuck between being a former first round pick and a likely future as a bottom-6 center in the NHL, and hadn’t really grasped the attitude, assertiveness and sandpaper style required to win a regular job in Boston. A couple of games into the new season, though, it looks like Frederic is figuring all that stuff out to the benefit of him, and to the Boston Bruins.
The challenge now will be stepping up when the Bruins need him to protect teammates and consistently playing with the surly attitude he’s shown early. If he can do that and chip on offensive, Frederic is going to become a Boston Bruins fan favorite based on the old school way he approaches the game of hockey.