The Boston Bruins are heading into the 2022-23 season with a lot of uncertainty. After an underwhelming first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, they are entering the new year with injuries to several of their top players. As a result of this, they will be hoping for some of their younger players to have breakout seasons. Thankfully, they have a handful of players who may be heading in the right direction on that front. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Trent Frederic is a player to watch very closely during the 2022-23 season. After recording an underwhelming five points in 42 games during 2020-21, the 2016 first-round pick had eight goals and 10 assists in 60 games this past campaign. This was encouraging to see from the St. Louis native, but one has to wonder if he can take his offensive game to an even higher level this upcoming season.
Secondary scoring has been an ongoing issue for the Bruins, and general manager (GM) Don Sweeney has never been able to properly fix it. As a result of this, Frederic took on third-line minutes this past season, and there’s a good chance he will yet again in 2022-23. At this juncture of his career, his production is more reminiscent of a fourth-liner, so it would be nice to see him take that next step offensively.
Nevertheless, I think Frederic has the potential to provide more points for the Bruins in 2022-23. During an eight-game stretch this past season, he notably scored two goals and had six assists. If those kinds of hot streaks occur more frequently in the future, we could finally see a much-needed breakout year from the tenacious forward.
Although the Bruins re-signed Patrice Bergeron and are expected to bring back David Krejci, that, unfortunately, does not have any potential of being a long-term plan. Both of these veterans are in the final stages of their careers, which is immensely scary when looking at how weak their depth is down the middle. Thus, this needs to be the year that Jack Studnicka makes some sort of impact at the NHL level.
Even at 23 years old, Studnicka is still viewed as one of the Bruins’ top prospects, but he has yet to have any long-term success in the NHL. During the 2021-22 season, he appeared in just 15 games for the Bruins, where he had three assists and a minus-5 rating. Truthfully, that was underwhelming to see from the Tecumseh native, but it certainly wasn’t a bad year entirely for him. He performed quite well for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL) this past season, as he had 10 goals and 35 points in 41 games. Now it’s time for some of that offensive production to translate over to the NHL level.
With the Bruins having a new head coach in Jim Montgomery, it will be intriguing to see how often Studnicka gets utilized. The 2017 second-round pick will first need to make the team out of training camp, but I have genuine hope that this will be the season where we see Studnicka cement himself as a true NHL-caliber player.
Before tearing his ACL last season, Jakub Zboril was showing signs that he was on the verge of breaking out. The 25-year-old defenseman looked far more confident with the puck and was simply more reliable than he was during his rookie campaign in 2020-21. Unfortunately, the sample size was small, as he was limited to just 10 games last season, where he recorded three assists and sported a plus-1 rating. Yet, even with this, there’s reason to have faith that he will continue to trend in the right direction this upcoming season.
The Bruins will begin the 2022-23 season with both Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk out due to offseason surgeries. Although this is certainly bad news for Boston, it should open the door for Zboril to receive more minutes. He showed this past season that he can play the right side, and that could help him play on the second pair ahead of Connor Clifton. He also seems to have a good shot of being placed on the Bruins’ second power-play unit due to his puck-moving ability. Players simply need experience to improve, and perhaps these injuries could allow Zboril to take that next step.
With Atlantic Division rivals like the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, and Buffalo Sabres on the rise, the Bruins will need players like Zboril to show signs of improvement in 2022-23. If the 2015 first-round pick is ever going to blossom into a top-four defenseman, this is simply the year he has to. He won’t be given a better opportunity than now.
Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see if these three players can each put together breakout campaigns in 2022-23. With the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window appearing to be closed, seeing this trio thrive could be a way for it to open right back up. Alas, time will tell what happens on that front.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.