Bruins add size, snarl to lineup with addition of college free agent Nick Wolff

(Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Nick Wolff has heard plenty over the years about the perks of playing for the Boston Bruins. 

Of course, the imposing defenseman has experienced it firsthand over the last two summers, participating in Boston’s Development Camps in 2018 and 2019 as an invitee. But among the NHL ranks, Karson Kuhlman — Wolff’s former teammate and captain at Minnesota Duluth — has also served as an effective pitchman over the last couple of seasons. 

“Coming from Karson — If he says it’s a great place to play, then it's a great place to play,” Wolff told BostonSportsJournal at development camp last summer. “He’s a hell of a guy and a great guy to be around. Just a great role model. To have him say that, it means a lot. … I felt really comfortable coming into this organization, people are really friendly around here. Great guys, great staff. It’s just that family atmosphere that I really, really enjoy.” 

Given Wolff’s previous stops at Warrior Ice Arena and the recent ties between the organization and the UMD Bulldogs, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the 23-year-old defenseman inked an entry-level contract with the Bruins on Wednesday afternoon — giving the B’s an intriguing piece to add to their blueline prospect pool. 

A left-shot defenseman that captured two national championships with the Bulldogs in 2018 and 2019 — and very well could have made another legitimate run this year had the 2019-20 season not been cut short — Wolff has been on Boston’s radar for some time now, due in large part to both his off-ice pedigree and his physical tools. 

Whereas the influx of blueliners in Boston’s system over the last few seasons (both in NHL and Providence) have featured versatile, puck-moving options like Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril — Wolff projects as much more a simple, stay-at-home presence.

Just a quick glance of him on the ice reinforces such a thought, given his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame.

Wolff served as co-captain of the Bulldogs in 2019-20, recording 10 assists over 33 games while ranking third in the NCHC conference with 71 blocked shots. Over his four-year collegiate career, Wolff racked up 14 goals, 39 assists and 233 penalty minutes in 156 games. 

Wolff’s potential as an offensive catalyst may be rather limited, especially when compared with other defensemen in Boston’s system, but Providence head coach Jay Leach noted back in June that Wolff is much more than just a bruiser out on the ice. 

“He’s an interesting guy. You wanna talk about competitive? He’s as competitive as it gets,” Leach said. “He’s out there and he’s trying his hardest — to the point where I think he falls down a few times, but it’s just because he’s out there trying his tail off. What I’ve been impressed with, especially today… I was impressed with his passing ability. 

“I don’t know if he had that the year before as much. He’s growing into his game, I’m sure. I know the physicality will always be there, but the polish with the puck, which does come with time, is certainly something that I’ve seen this year a bit more.”

Wolff has an uphill climb if he wants to crack an NHL roster in short order, given the likes of Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton and Vaakanainen all likely ahead of him in the pipeline. 

However, few prospects in Boston’s system has the physical tools that Wolff possess, and it could make him a valuable commodity for this franchise if he continues to develop down in the AHL. The ideal development path Wolff would want to follow is that of another physical blueliner in Kevan Miler, who spent two-plus seasons down in Providence before eventually becoming a mainstay with the big club. 

You could make the case that Wolff is also cut from the same cloth as his former teammate in Kuhlman — a hard-working skater lauded for his leadership. Kuhlman may not be flashy, but the young forward went from college free-agent pickup to playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in the span of a year.

Who knows where a winner like Wolff might find himself in a year's time.