Trent Frederic was one of the more controversial picks in the first round of last year’s NHL Draft when the Boston Bruins went slightly off-the-board and selected the center out of the US NTDP with the 29th overall pick.
There were a couple reasons for this:
- There’s a disproportionate amount of attention placed on the top 30 picks. The first round gets its’ own night and is televised. Most draft projections that casual observers read focus on the first 30 picks. Meanwhile, there were probably two reaches bigger than selecting Frederic at 29 within five picks of Frederic being taken, but they got almost no attention because they were in the second round.
- The Bruins’ front office hadn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt after making a bunch of trades in 2015, including giving away Dougie Hamilton, and then making three questionable first round picks in a row.
- Bruins director of scouting Keith Gretzky gave an absolutely horrible description of Frederic shortly after the pick. I’m all for avoiding unfair expectations, but Frederic was definitely undersold here.
Despite that initial outrage, Frederic has mostly gone on to prove Boston correct in taking the big center in the first round of the Draft. He’s been a top line center for the University of Wisconsin this year, and has been incredibly productive for the Badgers. His 15-17-32 scoring line in just 24 games puts him tied for 10th nationally in points per game.
I took a closer look at Frederic last weekend when Wisconsin traveled to Minneapolis to take on the University of Minnesota to get a better idea of how he’s playing this year and how he projects for the future.
One of the first things to stand out is that it looks like Frederic is in an ideal spot for his development. In the second half of the season, Frederic has been moved up the line-up to become Wisconsin’s number one center. The Badgers don’t have a lot of depth at forward, but do have a couple decent players to give him somebody to work with. He’s consistently been paired with fellow first round pick Luke Kunin and a rotating cast of pretty decent wingers. Wisconsin leans heavily on that grouping to play as many minutes as possible in all situations.
In terms of style, Wisconsin tends to want to open games up more and play a more aggressive offensive style, which has certainly helped Frederic’s point totals. That said, the Badgers don’t quite have the talent in the first year of new head Tony Granato—a former NHL head coach— to pull that off yet. The Badgers spent a lot of time stuck in their own zone on Friday night with Frederic having to spend a lot of effort supporting his defense.
Overall, it’s about as good of a situation as one could hope for to develop a dynamic two-way center for the pro game.
Frederic is listed at 6’2” 205 lbs. this year, after being listed at 6’2” 203 lbs. last year. That’s not much difference, but by the eyeball test, the 203 felt a lot more inflated than the 205 does now. He’s not an overly physical player, but he does seem to have a little more thickness to his build which allows him to compete more for pucks along the boards.
As for his style of play, much of what I wrote last summer prior to the NHL Draft still holds up.
He didn’t have a lot of opportunities to dazzle offensively because Wisconsin spent so much time in their own end, but he was very good with the opportunities he had.
I still have serious questions about Frederic’s skating and footspeed. He really struggles to gain zone entry because he doesn’t have the speed to make defenses uncomfortable and force them to soften gaps.
Frederic makes up for this with a combination of positioning and anticipation. His best chances came off of turnovers in the neutral zone that created transition opportunities. He was involved in a pair of two-on-one opportunities in the second period. On the first, he received a pass and had a smooth finish for a goal.
That’s good hustle to get into position and make himself open for the pass. He sees that opportunity for a 2-on-1 before the Gopher backchecker who initially goes after the puck carrier, and as a result, he ends up with a lot of time and space with the puck. He also shows really nice footwork to get himself turned with the puck to open up that inside-out shooting angle.
On the second two-on-one, Frederic ended up keeping the puck and putting a shot off the shin pad of the defender. You could probably second guess the decision to keep the puck there, but if he was feeling confident after the goal, it was worth a try. Plus, it set up a play later in the game where he was able to draw in the defense by faking a shot, and opening up a passing angle for a great scoring chance that a teammate just missed.
Defensively, I liked the way he pressured the puck on the forecheck. That was something I didnt really see in his game last year. He was able to force a few turnovers in the Minnesota end by taking away time and space.
Overall, I think Bruins fans should be extremely pleased with how their first round pick has turned out so far. His offensive production is exceeding any reasonable expectation heading into the year, and he looks a like closer to contributing for the Bruins than initially expected. Frederic should likely return to the University of Wisconsin for his sophomore season, and his numbers might take a bit of a hit if Luke Kunin signs with Minnesota this summer, but should be ready to join the Bruins organization the year after that.
As a pro projection, the Bruins were obviously intrigued by his potential as a center. I could still see him sliding over to the wing some day to utilize his offensive talents while hiding his skating ability a bit. But he’s a smart player and might be able to make it work up the middle. Before the draft, I said third line center with upside of a second line center, and thus far he looks like he’ll hit the high-end of that projection. He’s definitely showing the promise to a play a scoring line role in some capacity at the NHL level.