Bruins Beat: The Three Young Defensemen
Last season was a treat for Bruins fans. We got to see the much anticipated arrival of prospect Dougie Hamilton, and the impressive playoff performances of Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. Each of these player’s performances made them worthy of a spot on this year’s roster, as well as making Andrew Ference expendable. There is a lot of hope for each of these three young players, but there are only two spots available between the three of them. Competition is never a bad thing, but there will likely be difficult decisions ahead.
Here we are going to look at each of these player’s strengths, weaknesses, and outlook on the upcoming NHL season.
Dougie Hamilton: Dougie’s first NHL season was what you would come to expect from a rookie in today’s game. He had his flashes of brilliance with glimpses of what is to come in the future sprinkled throughout the year, but he also had those many brain lapses that demonstrate the learning curve for rookies at the NHL level. In 42 games last season Hamilton scored 5 goals, 11 assists, and a +4. He also averaged 17:07 minutes of ice time per game last season.
Hamilton was also benched for parts of last season akin to Coach Claude’s methods when approaching the development of Tyler Seguin. Julien knows what he is doing when it comes to rookies, and the tough love he shows is monumental in developing these young players. Yes, he was benched in favor of Krug and Bartkowski throughout last season’s playoffs at times, but he is still the most talented of the young defensemen in question. He also has the highest ceiling as far as potential is concerned. Hamilton will have more experience under his belt heading into this season. The mistakes will be there to be sure, but expect a more confident Dougie Hamilton this season. The Bruins are going to need him to be a bigger part of the defense this season.
Torey Krug: Krug might hold the record for becoming the fastest player to reach fan favorite status in Boston sport’s history. The young Bruins defenseman scored 4 goals, 2 assists, and a +4 in 15 playoff games last season after injuries opened opportunities for him. Krug went from being a star in Providence to a star in Boston in a matter of 4 games. Though he wasn’t present for the regular season aside from one game, he was a force with the P Bruins with 13 goals, 32 assists, and an even +/- rating.
One knock against Krug is his size, as he only stands at 5’9″ and weighs in at 180lbs. To me, his size is not an issue because he is a great skater, he controls the puck well, makes quick passes, and is quite physical despite his stature. The most important thing for Krug this season will be his consistency. He was exceptional against the New York Rangers scoring goal after goal on one of the best in the game in Henrik Lundqvist, but his offensive production disappeared in the next rounds against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks. He will also need to bulk a bit to better handle the rigors of a full NHL season. I expect Torey Krug to line up next to Adam McQuaid on the B’s third pairing, but is no slam dunk.
Matt Bartkowski: Bart was one of the most unheralded players in the Bruins’ playoff run. He didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, only scoring a goal and an assist in 7 games, but he played big minutes against some of the league’s best. Bartkowski averaged 19:46 minutes of ice a game during the postseason which is far more than the two defenseman ahead of him in this article. In Providence last season he played big minutes on the team’s top pairing, and he added 3 goals, 21 assists, and a +2 in 56 games.
Bart is the elder statesman of the three young defensemen featured here, and it shows in his mature simple approach to the game. After nearly being shipped to Calgary, Bartkowski played with a great amount of confidence in important spots where the Bruins really needed him. I expect him to challenge for a spot on the roster, but I don’t see him getting the nod of Krug and Hamilton. He is the clear choice for the B’s seventh defenseman position, and it is very possible that Claude Julien elects to adopt a “committee” with both Krug and Bartkowski depending on matchups, or injury.
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