Bruins Prospect Oskar Steen Deserves More NHL Playing Time

After a 16-day break, the Boston Bruins have returned with two of their better performances in the 2021-22 season. They rallied for a 4-3 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on New Years Day, then followed that up with a very impressive 5-1 road win over the Detroit Red Wings Sunday. The two wins have vaulted the Black and Gold into the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 54 games remaining.

There have been several issues that have haunted the Bruins this season with their forwards. They have lacked secondary scoring, but more importantly, they have lacked a lot of questionable efforts from some of their bottom-nine forwards. From the second line down to the fourth line, there have been some performances that have been less than stellar.

Most of the inconsistency is coming from veterans, but in his short time in Boston, one prospect has raised some eyebrows. Oskar Steen has played in just four games this season, but the 23-year-old is certainly making an impact in those games. It’s a small sample size, but Steen is opening some eyes and making a case for more playing in the NHL, despite being sent back to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) on Monday.

Steen Impesses Again in Another Return to Boston

Following the Bruins overtime win over the Sabres Saturday, Karson Kuhlman was placed into the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Despite not playing in the game against Buffalo, Kuhlman did not travel to Detroit with the team as a member of the taxi squad. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney called up Steen from Providence for the trip. It did not take long for him to be inserted into the lineup.

Boston Bruins Oskar Steen Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews
Boston Bruins Oskar Steen defends against Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

After taking warmups in Detroit, Curtis Lazar was scratched from the lineup after being injured late against the Sabres. Steen was inserted into the lineup on the fourth line with Trent Frederic and Tomas Nosek. Like Steen did in his previous three games this season, the 165th pick in the sixth round of the 2016 Entry Draft proved that he can be a bottom-six NHL forward.

Steen only had 14 shifts against the Red Wings with a 10:33 time-on-ice, but he was around the net and a presence on the forecheck. He had the primary assist on Nosek’s third-period goal with a nice pass through a defenseman on the zone entry to put the game away at 5-1.

That was nothing new for Steen, as he had a similar assist this season on a Jake DeBrusk goal in a win over the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 24. Steen is not going to blow you away with his skill, but he is a smart player that makes the right play and is aggressive in all three zones, something the Bruins have been lacking this season, mainly from their bottom-six.

Steen’s Fit in Boston

Where does Steen fit in Boston? A bottom-six forward, most likely on the fourth line. That is not bad for him or the team. The next question is, who does he replace? The Bruins are not going to take Nosek or Nick Foligno out of the lineup after signing as free agents in the offseason. Both have been disappointments, but the reality is, unless there is an injury, it’s not happening.

Related: Bruins Rookie Spotlight: Oskar Steen

Frederic, who scored against the Red Wings, can play both center and wing, but other than bringing a physical presence, he has not made much of an impact. It’s only four games but Steen has three assists this season, while Frederic has four points in 20 games. Lazar has primarily been a fourth-line player, but he does bring value as a penalty-killer if needed.

With the P-Bruins this season, Steen leads the team in goals with 10, is tied for second in assists with 10, which gives him a team-leading 20 points in just 16 games. It has been a small sample size in both the NHL and AHL this season, but it has been an impressive sample size for the Bruins prospect.

“What’s happened is he’s come up and played well but you’ve got this depth in our lineup, contract situations, roster issues, so it becomes asset management. He doesn’t need waivers. It happens to certain guys in the league and then you eventually push your way through and you won’t get taken out. And then you adjust your roster. That happens to a lot of different teams…… so yeah, we’ve got a decision to make when it comes to him, and those are good decisions when guys push their way up.”

Bruce Cassidy (from ‘Haula latest Bruin to step up’, Boston Herald, 1/3/22)

Jack Studnicka, who was in battle with Charlie Coyle in training camp for the second-line center position, is the highly-touted Bruins prospect that is NHL-ready. Steen, however, is making a case for a spot on the roster on the fourth line and right now, it’s not a bad move if Cassidy decides to go that route. Regardless of what happens, Steen is making an impact for the Bruins in his time in the lineup in 2021-22 and making a case not only for this season, but for the future. He is clearly pushing his way up.

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