From now until the beginning of training camp, Boston Hockey Now is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2022-23 Boston Bruins. Today’s player: Brandon Carlo.
What Happened Last Year: Carlo, 25, is coming off a season where he largely stayed healthy, was as effective as ever on the penalty kill and continued to make gains in other areas of his game where improvement is welcome. The big defenseman finished tied with his career-high with six goals scored and had 15 points overall in 79 games, which is decent production for a player that’s strong suit is defensive zone play, killing penalties and killing off plays with his big wingspan around the Boston net. Carlo has come to use his big, heavy point shot as more of a weapon as time has gone on and did that last season when opportunities called for it.
It feels like Carlo has been a little more mistake-prone in the last couple of years after really looking solid during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, but part of that might be him also trying to expand his game beyond simple meat and potatoes.
The biggest adjustment for Carlo continues to be life without Torey Krug as he’s adjusted to multiple defensive partners once Krug left for St. Louis. Matt Grzelcyk has been Carlo’s partner much of the time, but he’s also missed plenty of time with injuries while the Boston Bruins coaches moved players around trying to find a good fit on the middle pairing.
It may turn out that Hampus Lindholm becomes the best partner that Carlo has ever had if they separate the two top B’s defensemen once Charlie McAvoy gets healthy, but that remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen if Carlo comes into camp even more energized, confident and ready to go after a very meaningful offseason for the Colorado kid.
Another NHL player has tied the knot this off szn! 👏🏼😁
Congrats to Mr & Mrs Brandon Carlo
Repost B Carlo pic.twitter.com/ah3wVHTWEb
— TheBosBabes (@BabesBos) August 17, 2022
Questions To Be Answered This Season: Carlo is what he is at this point. He’s a good stay-at-home defenseman that has become Boston’s best penalty killer now that Zdeno Chara is gone and is truthfully one of the best players that Boston has developed over the last 5-7 years.
The question is whether there’s any more that the 25-year-old Carlo can give in terms of puck-moving, offensive production and playing a more physical role that’s pretty much required for a 6-foot-5, 217-pound defenseman. Some have compared Carlo in some ways to Hal Gill during his time in Boston, a solid defensive defenseman with size and strength that helped the Boston Bruins win games, but was perhaps never the dirty, mean and nasty big, intimidating defenseman that fans pine for when they see a blueliner of that size.
Perhaps there’s a little more offense to be squeezed out of Carlo as he reaches his prime years, but it feels like Carlo knows what he is and plays to those obvious strengths whenever he’s on the ice.
In Their Words: “There were ups and downs. I felt like there were a lot of positives with what I did and things where they can be looked at and analyzed for sure. There’s still growth to be had. I definitely feel like I’ve learned to emulate the guys that lead by example, but there are times when I can learn to be more vocal and keep guys more reliable. I’m more non-confrontational, but I think there are times where it is necessary.” –Brandon Carlo on his season both on and off the ice.
Overall Outlook: It seemed like almost every Boston Bruins defenseman outside of Charlie McAvoy struggled at times last season if their overall numbers didn’t seem all that bad. Brandon Carlo was no different as there were periods of time where the play was extremely solid and other periods of time where mistakes seemed to compound on each other.
The bottom line with Carlo is that it feels like he’s stayed flatline or slightly regressed since 2018-19 when he looked like a player on the rise. It’s impossible to tell how much some of the concussions that Carlo has suffered have made in impact on him, or if it’s simply a player that’s plateaued for the time-being. It could be that a new coaching staff might make a difference when Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Mike Reilly and Connor Clifton all seemed to be simply “okay” last season, so perhaps we’ll find that out this season with the former second round pick.
It remains to be seen if the Boston Bruins beef up a back end that will be missing both McAvoy and Grzelcyk to start this season, but either Carlo is going to be relied upon to shoulder a big part of the back end workload.