By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Although he’s had his first two NHL seasons shortened by injury, you can’t call Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo injury-prone.
The 6-foot-5, 208-pound Carlo, who’ll turn 22 on Nov. 26, was blasted from behind by Alex Ovechkin in the regular-season finale in 2017 and missed the postseason. Last season, Carlo sustained a left ankle fracture March 31 when he tried to kick the puck away from Florida’s Aleksander Barkov in the corner. He had season-ending surgery April 3.
There’s nothing he could’ve done to prevent either injury.
“I mean maybe work on my soccer skills a little bit,” Carlo said after Bruins captains’ practice at Warrior Ice Arena on Thursday. “I was trying to kick the puck there and it was pretty embarrassing. But overall, no, I feel like just kind of a coincidence, but I feel like coming back stronger this year is just going to help me in all those situations, in the corners, and hopefully resist injury.”
Had the injury Carlo suffered last year happened earlier in the season, his absence may not have been a big loss. After a steady rookie season in 2016-17, Carlo was riding a roller coaster, with more lows than highs, during his sophomore season up until a few weeks before he was injured. Suddenly he started using his size to take the body and was moving the puck with more confidence.
Maybe the greatest lesson from his second NHL season was to have a short memory.
“I think just forgetting about the past, forgetting about mistakes I make,” Carlo said. “I feel like every guy in this room’s going to make a mistake every now and again. But overall I just started to believe in myself a little bit more. I think confidence is the biggest thing that I’m coming into camp with this year. I’m going to take it; I’m going to run with it. I worked really hard to get to this point and I’m damn excited about this year.”
Carlo had 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) as a rookie but only produced six assists in 76 games last season. The Bruins are going to need him to be a little more effective at the offensive end as he continues to mature. He’s shown the puck savvy necessary to get the offense rolling with a strong first-pass and his shot can be effective when he gets it through from the blue line.
But Carlo will also have to continue to defend well and use his reach, whether he’s playing with Torey Krug again or is paired with another Bruins defenseman. There are eight defensemen with NHL experience coming to training camp next month, and in order to be among the top six, Carlo’s going to have to show an expanded all-around game.
Carlo got a taste of what it’s like to compete with teammates for ice time last season, when the Bruins added Nick Holden in a trade and had eight defensemen available for the stretch run until Carlo’s injury.
“Definitely, I can tell you when I was in the stands healthy in Buffalo [Feb. 25], I really didn’t enjoy that experience. So I’m going to do everything that I can to help this team and be in the lineup every night,” he said.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.