By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
By no fault of his own, Trent Frederic’s Bruins career got off to a rocky start when since-departed director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky publicly classified the 2016 first-round pick as a future bottom-six forward shortly after the St. Louis native was selected 29th overall.
Putting aside the fact that in this day and age, even third- and fourth-line forwards have to provide some level of skill and production, it was way too early to pigeonhole a player. And this season, Frederic did the best he could to exceed low expectations during his freshman season at Wisconsin.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-handed shot had 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 30 games for the Badgers.
“Going into [freshman year] I didn’t really know [what to expect]. I was a freshman, I was just trying to pass class and do well in hockey,” Frederic said after a practice at Bruins development camp at Warrior Ice Arena. “And then everything kind of went well, I passed class and hockey went well. So I couldn’t complain really.”
One year ago, Frederic showed up at his first development camp thin and baby faced. He’s bulked up since then and even his baby face has a little meanness to it. Although he had scored just seven goals in 57 games over two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program, he used his first pro camp to show off the offensive skills that some of the Bruins’ brass had seen, even if he hadn’t produced and even if Gretzky wasn’t as high on him as others. Those hands have been on display again at this year’s camp.
Wisconsin turned out to be the perfect place for Frederic to prove he was more deserving of his lofty draft position than many thought.
“Great coaching kind of helped me, gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “And then my teammates as well, I had some good players playing with me. … I think I played with every forward on my team, everyone but like three. So that was kind of cool, I got a lot of exposure, first line, third line. So I couldn’t complain really. I played in most situations, so it was pretty nice.”
While scoring more than he had in years, Frederic was able to maintain the solid defensive game that the Bruins loved and many players his age take a while to develop. That allowed Wisconsin coach Tony Granato to move Frederic up and down the lineup as needed.
“Playing a two-way game, I think that helps with playing with most people. Sometimes I can shut people down or try to maybe pop in a goal or two,” Frederic said.
No one was happier to see Frederic playing a legitimate two-way game and not just playing a shutdown role than the Bruins’ front office. No one wants to miss on a pick in the top 30 of the draft. And the Bruins hope there are more goals and assists for Frederic in the seasons ahead.
“There is in my mind so far,” Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner said. “He plays top line at Wisconsin. I think playing for the development program, sometimes depending on what group you’re in sometimes you get slotted in a certain area a little bit. Because of certain players they had in his age group, he maybe played a little bit down in the lineup. … But at Wisconsin he’s playing in the top six. So as a freshman on a pretty decent Wisconsin team, he was one of the driving guys in the top six. Obviously time will tell as he turns to pro hockey as to what he’ll be. But there’s more skill to his game than I think a lot of people thought coming out of the draft.”
Frederic didn’t hesitate to assert himself as a freshman because of the cajoling of first-year head coach Granato, who encouraged Frederic to watch video for ways he could make more plays and to be more aggressive offensively.
“He said ‘do your thing.’ And he kind of gave me the freedom to do that,” Frederic said.
That freedom should give Frederic plenty of opportunity to continue to develop his game as he tries to keep making the Bruins look smarter than the critics who panned his being picked where he was in the draft.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.