Frederic's offense, assertiveness helping lift Bruins to top of NHL

Frederic's offense, assertiveness helping lift Bruins to top of NHL originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins have had a couple young players break into the NHL roster and play well this season, most notably rookie centers Matthew Poitras and Johnny Beecher, as well as rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei.

One player getting a little less attention despite being quite impactful is center Trent Frederic.

The Bruins selected Frederic with the 29th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, and it was a bit of a questionable decision at the time. Many experts thought the B's reached for the truculent forward.

After struggling to reach his full potential over parts of four seasons under previous head coach Bruce Cassidy, Frederic really took off last season in Jim Montgomery's first year behind the bench. The 25-year-old center posted career highs with 17 goals, 14 assists, 31 points, 120 shots, 11:55 ice time per game and 79 games played. He made a meaningful offensive contribution for the first time in his career, and it didn't impact his ability to be an effective enforcer, either. Frederic still fought several times, tallied 105 hits and took fewer bad penalties under Montgomery.

The hope for the Bruins entering the 2023-24 season was that Frederic would build on that success in Year 1 with Montgomery and take his production to an even higher level.

So far, so good in that regard.

Frederic played a leading role in Saturday's 5-2 win over the rival Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden, a performance Montgomery said was "absolutely" one of his team's best of the season so far.

On a night where the B's honored their "Big Bad Bruins" of the 1970s, it was fitting that the team's modern-day power forward, Frederic, shined brightest. He scored twice -- once late in the first period to double Boston's lead to 2-0, and again in the second period shortly after he took a penalty.

His speed and improved shot were on full display as he beat Canadiens goalie Jake Allen five-hole.

"They just scored, so it was not great timing on the penalty," Frederic told reporters postgame. "The penalty is what it is, you're kinda sitting there frustrated. Every time you're in the box, you think you might get a breakaway. It's never really happened (for me), but you think about what you're going to do, visualize it and it actually came true."

What did Montgomery think of Frederic's game Saturday night?

"Just moving his feet and being strong and heavy. I thought early in the game he took pucks wide, gained the zone and held on to it," Montgomery said. "When he's doing those things, I know he's on top of his game."

Frederic is on pace to score 25 goals with 10 assists, assuming he remains on track to play all 82 games. He's also on pace to set career highs in goals, points and individual scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength, per Natural Stat Trick. In fact, his 1.51 goals scored per 60 minutes is tied with David Pastrnak for the team lead through 16 games.

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Frederic becoming a quality third-line player who can score 15-plus goals, provide much-needed toughness, win puck battles in the dirty areas of the ice, fight when needed, and give the team valuable depth and versatility is so important for this group.

Saturday night was a great example of how dangerous the Bruins can be when Frederic sets the tone physically and constantly puts pressure on opposing defensemen by skating into the attacking zone with speed and purpose.

Frederic has never looked this confident and assertive on the ice. He's looking to take the puck and create more of his own offense, and the results have been positive so far.

It's taken a little while for Frederic to become the type of reliable middle-six forward people envisioned when he was drafted seven years ago, and while he's taken great strides in his development since the start of last season, the exciting part for the Bruins is he still has plenty of room for improvement.