Be it injuries or ineffectiveness, the Bruins' bottom-six forward group has often been put in a blender for most of the 2021 season.
While the initial plan was for a Ritchie-Coyle-Smith / Bjork-Kuraly-Wagner grouping to round out Boston's forward corps out of training camp, that fell to the wayside before the puck even dropped on the season opener, with an injury to Smith prompting Boston to insert Trent Frederic into the lineup.
And yet, through all of the lineup shuffling, benchings and tweaks since then, Frederic hasn't warranted a night off from game action — appearing in all 19 games that the B's have taken part in so far this year.
As expected, there's been some hiccups along the way as the 23-year-old forward adjusts to faster play and more daunting competition up in the NHL ranks — headlined by a sequence during Thursday's loss to the Islanders in which Anthony Beauvillier picked Frederic's pocket in the low slot and buried a goal against the B's.
But rather than opt for a harsher sentence for the rookie miscue, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins instead kept Frederic in the lineup moving forward — a fate not afforded to a few others in Boston's bottom six, with both Chris Wagner and Anders Bjork benched for Sunday's rematch against the Rangers.
As costly as his gaffe was on Long Island, Boston knows that developmental bumps in the road come with the territory for players getting their feet wet in the top league in the world — and fostering the potential that Frederic brings as a physical presence, forechecking asset and overall pest far outweighs burying him on the depth chart for one error.
Boston was rewarded for their patience on Sunday, as Frederic put together one of the best games of his young career in New York — with the former first-round pick continue to build a case for himself as a bottom-six fixture on this team moving forward.
As much as Frederic's proficiency with dropping the gloves and driving the opposition crazy have been well-documented, the rest of his game is also falling into place — most importantly, his comfort level in the offensive zone. Even though his speed and increased strength have been evident on the forecheck and is one of the reasons why his shot-possession metrics to open the year were so strong, most of those extended offensive-zone possessions didn't lead to much on the scoreboard, with Frederic limited to just one helper through his first 15 games this season.
But since then, Frederic has