After failing to capture a starting role at the pivot on a Bruins club starved for production at the position, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is heading back to the AHL.
Boston assigned the 22-year-old forward back to the Providence Bruins on Sunday afternoon after the BU product tallied two goals over nine games with the Black and Gold.
Even with his pair of tallies, “JFK” struggled to get into much of a groove during reps both on the third line and alongside Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, winning just 33 percent of his chances at the dot.
Forsbacka Karlsson has often been singled out for his tepid play at times — a trend that continued during his latest stint up in Boston. Through nine games, “JFK” only landed three shots on goal despite having 70 percent of his zone starts in the offensive zone.
Forsbacka Karlsson last played on Monday against the Maple Leafs, with the forward bumped from the top line in favor of Colby Cave at the end of the first period while only logging 10:58 TOI.
Since that game, JFK was a healthy scratch for Boston’s matchups against the Islanders and Red Wings.
"I didn’t like his compete,” Cassidy said of Forsbacka Karlsson following Monday’s game. “We’ve talked about this. He needs to bring it every night. If he’s going to play with those guys … it was Crosby, it’s Tavares. It’s a big ask. I’ve said it too, we weren’t sure if he was ready to move up. (But) we saw something we liked (and) we moved him up.”
Ahead of Saturday’s loss against Detroit, it seemed like JFK was destined for a trip down to the AHL, with the club keeping him up as an extra skater as added insurance for the weekend matchup.
“I think for one weekend, we’d be comfortable if someone was to show up sick or if we want to make a move at the last minute, because (Joakim Nordstrom) is in the middle, he can easily go to the wing,” Cassidy said of JFK’s spot on the roster. “There’s a lot of guys that can move around. Wouldn't’ matter which position player was taken out, save Krejci, as the center, but let’s say (Danton) Heinen showed up sick, we can easily slide Nordy or a right winger for that matter. We’re okay with it now, but we wouldn't wait forever. One weekend to see some games down there, be around our group, maybe the next time you go in, you hope it’s a motivating factor as well for some of those guys.”
Rather than sit around as a scratched player, Forsbacka Karlsson will be able to get more reps down in the AHL — joining Anders Bjork, who was sent down following Ryan Donato’s recall earlier this week.
With Forsbacka Karlsson out of the equation, the situation at center is looking pretty dire for Boston, with Cave expected to remain with the Marchand line and Nordstrom playing out of position at the pivot on the third line.
Given the unsuccessful attempts to bump up players like Sean Kuraly and David Backes to the third-line center, this could set the stage for the Bruins to bring Czech forward Jan Kovar into the fold, although questions still remain about his NHL potential given the questions about his pace — a factor that can be mitigated when playing on the larger sheet of ice over in Europe.