Boston Bruins: Has Trent Frederic earned a 4th-line spot?

There’s perhaps no player that embodies what it means to be a member of the Boston Bruins more than Trent Frederic.

The first-round pick from 2016 throws his body around, playing a physically, gritty game in the bottom-six for the Bruins. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves with anything, as we saw him fight the likes of Tom Wilson (twice) and Brendan Lemieux. He was rewarded with a two-year extension this summer.

However, the 23-year-old has not put together an impressive preseason thus far. Frederic started off his preseason being on the ice for all three goals against the New York Rangers on Sept. 28. He then was criticized by coach Bruce Cassidy after the win on Sept. 30 against the Philadelphia Flyers, where he had a couple of turnovers and a lazy hooking penalty that negated a Bruins’ power play.

He followed that up with a slightly better performance against the Flyers on Monday. But then in Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals, Frederic got caught going too low in the defensive zone and lost his man coming from up top. With Frederic trying to cover a Capital in front who already had a Bruin on him, it allowed Evgeny Kuznetsov to walk in untouched and chip in the rebound.

Frederic has shown some good signs. He’s taking the puck to the net on multiple occasions, which is never a bad thing. he had seven hits in the second Philadelphia game. And it is preseason hockey, where the rough-and-tough stuff doesn’t happy nearly as frequent as in the regular season.

But it’s hard to deny that Frederic hasn’t exactly looked impressive through training camp and the preseason. He finished five preseason games with no points and a -5.

There’s a fourth-line spot carved out for him. He’s the type of player that the Bruins lack – a hard-nosed, physical presence that will step up for his teammates. Outside of new Bruins Derek Forbort and perhaps Connor Clifton, there’s not another Bruin like him.

But in today’s NHL, being on the fourth-line is no longer about just throwing the body around. You have to make smart decisions and play well defensively as well. I think we’re starting to see Frederic get exposed in those areas. Sure, you want him in the lineup to go at Tom Wilson or send chirps at P.K. Subban. But that doesn’t help when he’s on the ice when the puck goes in the back of your own net.

The Bruins are going to have an odd man out of the lineup. Tomas Nosek and Curtiz Lazar have played well enough that I would pencil them in on the fourth line. Chris Wagner hasn’t been impressive enough and looks like the 13th forward, but has the experience over Frederic.

This, of course, is if Jack Studnicka doesn’t make the roster, which could cause a ripple effect. He’s had an incredibly strong showing in the preseason, but for development purposes, may be better suited to start in Providence and get top line minutes as a first-line center.

But if he does make the roster, Erik Haula or Nick Foligno will slide down off the third line to make room for Charlie Coyle or Studnicka in the middle. Then someone else is getting bumped out of the lineup on that fourth line, which could be Frederic.

I think Frederic gets a fourth-line spot come opening night, but I’m not sure he’s necessarily earned it. Cassidy knows the tools are there for him to succeed and that’s why he’ll play. He’s still young and has showed enough promise to develop into an effective bottom-six player. But he’s going to need to start proving he’s a positive in the lineup, otherwise he’ll be watching from the press box.