Get ready to hear the name Jesper Froden at lot the next few weeks.
Froden enters the 2021-22 NHL season as one of the Boston Bruins’ biggest unknowns, but it hasn’t taken him long to earn rave reviews.
“Skates well, shoots the puck well, seems to get in good areas. Seems like he’s a real good player,” Brad Marchand said this week.
The 27-year-old has spent his professional career playing in Sweden, proving to be a reliable offensive player who was no slouch on defense despite his diminutive stature (5-foot-10, 176 pounds). It was clear in his performance at last weekend’s prospects challenge that Froden is much farther along than players years younger than him also taking their first crack at the NHL — or even AHL.
For Froden, the big thing is going to be the translation of his offensive game from the SHL to North America. It’s not uncommon for high-end Swedish players to come stateside, only to find themselves most useful as a bottom-six grinder because the offense just didn’t come with them. Former Bruin Par Lindholm is a simple example of that.
But if Froden finds a way to contribute offensively, the Bruins potentially will have found themselves a nice depth piece.
It’s clear they are going to test how that skill plays over here during the preseason, as evidenced by Froden skating with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the first day of on-ice practice.
“He’s a smart player,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who also acknowledged that Froden could get an NHL look this season. “We didn’t know how (his game) would translate over here, but so far the results are good.”
What might ultimately help Froden is he’s a natural right winger. The Bruins’ near-NHL-ready forward pipeline is loaded with players who either are natural centers, left shots or both. With Boston loading up on southpaws this offseason in free agency, Froden is in a relatively small group of players who are natural right wingers.
That’s a small detail, but he’ll surely take any little thing that factors into his case.
Here are some other notes from the first week of training camp.
— Maybe the Bruins need to go all-in on giving Jake DeBrusk a blank slate.
And what better way to do that than by giving him two brand new linemates?
DeBrusk, for the first time in years, enters camp without David Krejci as his center. Instead, he skated with Nick Foligno and Erik Haula on his line this week. Maybe this is reading into it too much, but this could be a good thing for DeBrusk in a number of ways.
For one, DeBrusk gets to start fresh with a new group of linemates. He can rebuild chemistry and go from there. It also helps that both Foligno and Haula are steady, reliable veteran players. DeBrusk was moved all over the place last season, and even with Krejci he seldom has a consistent opposite winger. You know what you’re getting in Haula and Foligno, and that could work out well for him. Maybe he just needs consistency and to play on his left side
It can’t be overstated how important that third unit is. Haula and Foligno both figure to be in the 20-to-30-plus-point range, while DeBrusk at his best is a 40-point player. If the Bruins can get that type of productivity from their third line, especially when you consider what the top six could be capable of, they could be a really sharp team up front.
— A lot already is being made about the logjam on the roster. Look up and down the lineup, and prospects will be hard-pressed to even get a spot on the 23-man roster, no less the game night lineup.
No doubt, it has to be discouraging. But it is probably worth it to put a spin on everything and consider that young players getting time in the AHL is not a bad thing — especially this year.
Many players have had their development impacted by the pandemic. Those entering their second professional season — Brady Lyle, Jack Ahcan, Samuel Asselin and Curtis Hall among them — probably played somewhere around two dozen competitive games in the truncated AHL season earlier this year.
Having all these veterans in the NHL ultimately could be a good thing in the long term.
“We have the ability to have players marinate in the American League and when they’re ready, they seem to go up when their games are tight and good,” P-Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel said last week. “That’s a testament (to) the organization and the competition from within that we have the ability to wait on some players and make sure they’re the best version of themselves.”
— Tomas Nosek has the chance to be an under-the-radar big pickup for the Bruins.
Nosek plays a fourth-line game but couples it with some solid offense. He has nice hands, and while he isn’t the most fleet of foot, he doesn’t drag down a line. He can play both wing positions and center a line, and while the defensive metrics don’t always favor him, he historically has been an impactful player.
The easy comparison is probably Bruins-era Noel Acciari, albeit with a little less thickness, a jack-of-all trades who has some offensive upside and can play in a third line role when needed. Keep an eye out for him, he was a key piece on many a Vegas Golden Knights teams.
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