LOS ANGELES — The Bruins were in need of an extra skater ahead of their five-game, 10-day road trip, but Bruce Cassidy was quick to note on Tuesday that the team wasn’t necessarily looking for the best player available for a stint up with the big club.
Rather, he was looking for the right player. (Can’t help but throw a Miracle reference in there, eh?)
“We’ll see tonight after the game, what’s our best fit going forward for the road trip,” Cassidy said ahead of Tuesday’s win over Chicago. “If we go the offensive route, the guys that are scoring down there, maybe a solid, defensive player if we decide to say that we want to go down that route. It could be anybody down there. Usually, it’s the most deserving guy, but in this case, we may be a little more lineup specific.”
Obviously, a player down in Providence wasn’t going to pick up the scoring slack as David Pastrnak recovers from thumb surgery, but Boston did have options if it was looking for a spark up front, including Ryan Donato — who has tallied 12 points over 15 games with the Baby B’s.
But rather than opting for offense, it looks as though Boston will roll with a prospect with a more rounded-out game — giving the club’s depth a versatile option to slot into a third line that still hasn’t gained any steam this season.
Boston announced Wednesday morning that it has recalled forward Karson Kuhlman up from Providence, with the 23-year-old center earning his first call-up to the NHL after a promising first season of pro hockey.
While Kuhlman will serve as an extra skater for the trip, it seems likely that the Esko, Minnesota native should get a spin in one of Boston’s tilts on the West Coast. Kuhlman could slot in at the pivot for Trent Frederic on that third line, while David Backes has usually sat out the second leg of back-to-back slates, opening up another spot for Kuhlman to contribute with Boston set to play the Ducks on Friday and Kings on Saturday.
Kuhlman wasn’t drafted by Boston, but the center has seen his stock rise since inking a two-year contract with the Bruins back on April 10, 2018. The deal came right off the heels of Kuhlman helping Minnesota-Duluth capture an NCAA championship, with Kuhlman — the captain of the Bulldogs — earning 2018 NCAA Tournament MVP after tallying a goal and an assist in the team’s 2-1 victory over Notre Dame in the title game.
Kuhlman hasn’t lost a step in his first foray into pro hockey, tallying 12 goals and adding 13 assists over 50 games with Providence, posting a plus-22 rating along the way.
The hard-nosed, two-way center stood out during Boston’s Development Camp back in June — validating the high expectations that Bruins Director of Player Development, Jamie Langenbrunner, placed upon the forward after signing with the team.
“He’s a kid that I’ve personally been tracking for a while,” Langenbrunner said during Dev Camp. “He’s from my area [in Minnesota], I’ve known him for a long time. One: his attention to detail. He’s a kid that plays a pro-style game in the way he positions himself, uses his body, gets pucks out on walls. He’s a winner. He’s been on a national championship, captain at Minnesota-Duluth, was in the finals the year before, had great playoffs.
“Came into Providence at the end of the year and was a good player there. He chipped in right away, put up some points and looked like a pro as a guy stepping in. He’s a good guy that helps your team. Character kid, when I asked him to come to Development Camp he said, ‘Absolutely.’ He wanted to be here. That’s what you want on your team and he’s going to push guys to be better.”
Kuhlman, whom Cassidy labeled as a “Swiss Army Knife” during the preseason, could function as Joakim Nordstrom 2.0 on that bottom-six if given a chance to play — solidifying a third line that may not generate too much tangible scoring in the offensive zone, but won’t be a liability down the other end of the sheet as well.
Perhaps it’s not the most exciting name to join Boston’s ranks this season, but Kuhlman plays a hard, physical game — and if Boston continues to get the level of production it’s received from its Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen line, they can afford to sacrifice some scoring potential in the lower levels of its lineup, so long as both the third and fourth lines keep buzzing and possess the puck.
B’s jumping into the rental market?