Bruins’ COVID Situation Provides Opportunity for Prospects

When Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was placed into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols on Nov. 30, they were hoping to control a possible outbreak within the team. It appeared that they did, but a recent three-game road trip through Western Canada proved to possibly be too much for them to control.

Monday, the Calgary Flames, the Bruins opponent on Dec. 10, placed six players into the league’s COVID-19 protocols. As each day has gone along, the number of Flames and team personnel entering protocols climbs. With news coming out of Calgary, it was only a matter of time before you knew that the Black and Gold would start feeling the effects.

Related: Bruins Need to Figure Out How to Survive COVID Outbreak

Tuesday, Brad Marchand and Craig Smith entered protocols, followed by captain Patrice Bergeron Wednesday. Thursday ahead of their game on Long Island against the New York Islanders, Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh and Jeremy Swayman entered protocols, quickly bringing the Bruins number to six players. With the additions to the list, Boston has had to dive down to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL) to fill in the gaps on their roster, which gives some of the organization’s prospects an opportunity to show what they can do in the NHL. 

Bruins Call-up Top Prospects

Things have not gone well for the Bruins forwards through the first 25 games of the season, mainly with their bottom-nine. You know what you are going to get with Marchand, Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, but after that, things have been a big struggle. Losing two-thirds of their top line is not ideal, but it’s the hand they have been dealt.

Before the Bruins 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at the TD Garden Tuesday night, young forwards Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen were recalled from the AHL, but did not play. Following the game, they were sent back to Providence, but three new positive tests brought them back for the road trip.

They were not the only call-ups by the Bruins, as Jesper Froden, who signed a one-year deal in June and backup goalie Kyle Keyser, also made the trip with Studnicka and Steen. It was a deserving opportunity for Studnicka and Steen, both of who have played in games this season for the Black and Gold, while Froden has played well with the P-Bruins.

Prospects With Golden Opportunity

With the struggles of the Bruins bottom-nine forwards, there has been some talk for some time that a shake-up was needed and that Studnicka, Steen, and Froden were seen as possible players that could get a shot. When Cassidy went into protocol, Providence faced their own shutdown with a COVID-19 outbreak, which did not allow Boston to call anyone up. Now that their outbreak has been controlled, the youngsters are getting their opportunity.

Jack Studnicka Boston Bruins
Jack Studnicka, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Studnicka had a solid showing in training camp and preseason games, as he battled for the second-line center spot with Charlie Coyle to replace David Krejci, but he was sent to Providence prior to the season. In 13 games, he has four goals and nine points, while playing well in all situations. Steen, who collected an assist in two of the three games he played in Boston earlier this season, showed flashes in his appearances with impressive skill and a good skating game. In 14 games this season with the P-Bruins, he has eight goals and seven assists and his 15 points lead the team. Froden, who is 27 years old, leads Providence in assists with nine and has 13 points. In training camp and preseason games, he showed that he was adjusting to North American hockey with a good skill set. 

Ninty-minutes before Thursday’s game, Steen became the seventh Bruins player to enter protocols, which meant that Boston would only have 11 forwards and six defensemen available. Studnicka centered the third line with Jake DeBrusk on his left and Froden on his right. Studnicka logged 16:27 of time-on-ice in all situations and Froden, who was making his NHL debut, had three shots on the net in 12:59.

Studnicka and Froden are promising prospects who are NHL-ready. With the veteran signings of Erik Haula, Nick Foligno, and Tomas Nosek in the offseason, it was a long shot for any of the prospects to find their way onto the Boston roster. They each have had good seasons in Providence and now have an opportunity to help the Bruins keep their head above water during their COVID-19 outbreak and show Cassidy and the front office what they can do in the NHL. Barring a cancellation of some games, now is their time to shine.

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