One thing the Boston Bruins have been missing over the last few years is a truly intimidating force amongst their forward group.
Sure, they had 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara on their back end, but he wasn’t going to pick too many fights with opposing tough guys or throw his weight around too much because he was too important to habitually land himself in the penalty box.
What they didn’t have was a Milan Lucic-type up front that could instill fear into the other team’s players and let hard-driving opponents know there would be somebody to answer to if they stepped too far over the line. Trent Frederic may not be exactly like Lucic in his prime and the 22-year-old is going to have to prove he can consistently be that guy by doing it over a long period of time, but he’s showing signs he could be the homegrown Bruins tough guy that the hockey club has desperately missed for the last handful of years.
But Frederic has done the job for the first month of the season and the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder made an unmistakable statement when he threw down with Washington Capitals tough guy Tom Wilson in Boston’s 5-3 comeback win on Monday night. Frederic finally got Wilson to drop the gloves after challenging him for two games and both big boy heavyweight threw big shots in a pretty evenly matched bout.
Trent Frederic drops the gloves with Tom Wilson. pic.twitter.com/8CnbGI3cPX
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) February 2, 2021
“I think Freddy had a lot to do [with the comeback]; his scrap with Wilson kind of got everyone’s attention on the bench. Wilson is arguably the toughest guys in the National Hockey League, but Freddy stood in there and gave us a bit of a boost,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I don’t know what it does to their team, but it gives us a boost.
“It’s part of his game. He knows it’s in him. He tried [to fight] the other night. He tried with Wilson the other night, so he’s recognizing what he needs to do to spark us. We’re going to give him some rope with his offensive game, but he needs to bring the assertiveness and the abrasiveness. He’s drawing penalties and he’s annoying people, so that’s just some of the intangibles he can bring. We wanted to be heavier this year and tried to build our club to be a little more abrasive while still holding the speed and skill. If he can bring that when it’s needed without being a goof, then we’re going to relish it. Tonight, it was perfect timing.”
Needless to say Frederic’s teammates were impressed and appreciative afterward watching the youngster step up and fight the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wilson at center ice.
“It’s huge. He’s a young kid that wants to get in there and be physical,” said Craig Smith, who popped in the game-tying goal in the aftermath of the Frederic-Wilson bout. “That’s a tough job to do. He can certainly handle himself. It’s impressive too because he’s got other attributes to his game that are helpful too. When he can jump in and do that, it fires our bench right up. He plays with no fear and it’s a big part of his game.”
The Boston Bruins bench was clearly energized by the pugilists and scored the game-tying and game-winning goal while Frederic dutifully served out his five-minute fighting major. Frederic joked he had one of the best seats in the house for the entire thrilling comeback.
“In the box, I was like a little kid in [the penalty box] jumping around when we scored. It felt good to watch that,” said Frederic, who led the AHL in penalty minutes last season and really began building his reputation as a legit tough guy. “They were pretty physical both nights really, so I was just trying to give it back. Both games we were down and it’s tough sometimes with no fans when you need a spark. Both games the opportunity presented itself [to fight Wilson], but it obviously takes two [willing combatants] to do it.
“I would have liked to do it earlier in the game, but I never got the opportunity. The two guys have to agree on it. It’s almost an honor thing. That’s what happened and it worked out great.”
Beyond the fight, Frederic has also done an excellent job of drawing penalties in the early going without stepping over the line. The rugged forward has one assist and 11 shots on net in nine games thus far, so there is more offense to be mined for the youngster as Frederic gets more comfortable around the net at the NHL level.
But the 21-year-old Frederic seems like the perfect truculent, young player coming along at exactly the right time that plays to the Big Bad Bruins identity that, at times, has been a little light over the last few years. Now Frederic just needs to keep doing it when it’s called for and prove that the Boston Bruins are indeed a more abrasive bunch of hockey players this year.