Badgers men’s hockey: Pro projection leaves first-round pick Trent Frederic with something to prove
In the days after experiencing one of the highlights of his hockey life, Trent Frederic had to wrestle with the prospect of being pigeonholed.
A first-round NHL draft pick after the Boston Bruins selected him 29th overall in June, Frederic was quickly labeled by the team’s director of amateur scouting in comments to the media as a player who wasn’t going to be a top-six forward.
It was a head-scratching admission, especially to Boston fans who wondered why the team would spend such valuable capital on someone it doesn’t project to compete for a top spot.
And it left Frederic, about to head off to his freshman season with the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team, in an odd spot. Every interview he did at the Bruins’ development camp in July had a question about being a third-line center, he said.
Months later, now making what appears to be a smooth transition to college hockey, the 18-year-old looks at the kerfuffle in a measured way.
“You can take it as they think I can play in the NHL as a third-line guy, which is obviously awesome,” Frederic said. “And then you can also take it as, I think I can prove them wrong. I’ve done a little bit of both of that.”
With a non-conference series against Northern Michigan ahead tonight and Saturday night at the Kohl Center, Frederic has been heeding the advice of UW coaches to develop more of an offensive side.
When he was with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program the past two seasons, he was usually in that third-line role for which the Bruins pegged him. The perception of the third line often is a group of grinders — less skilled offensively than those on the top two and more defensive-minded.
But Badgers coaches have said they see more offensive potential in Frederic than that.
“I think the biggest thing for us for him is to push him offensively. Let him go,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “Sometimes with the team he came from he was somewhat of a two-way, solid center. Here, we want him to think more offensively. And he’s got really good offensive skill.”
Playing as the second-line center, Frederic has three goals (one off the team lead) and eight points (two behind the leader) in six games.
But UW isn’t letting go of the strong defensive skills that made Frederic a two-way player. Asked recently which center he’d pick to take a defensive-zone faceoff with five seconds left and a one-goal lead, Granato didn’t take long to pick Frederic.
“He has a big body, he’s strong,” he said. “His faceoff technique needs to keep improving, but he is, for me, if you look at all four of those (centers), he’d probably edge those guys out a little bit.”
Granato also lauded Frederic’s penalty killing and his knowledge of defensive situations in explaining his reasoning.
And the freshman indeed was in the circle when the Badgers had 3.4 seconds to kill and a faceoff in their own end in the Oct. 21 exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team. Frederic won that draw and UW ran out the clock.
He said he studies opposing centers during the game to get clues on how to challenge them at the faceoff dot.
“A lot of guys at this level do consistently the same thing, so you can see how a guy’s cheating and then beat him that way,” Frederic said.
Growing up in St. Louis, Frederic got to watch a lot of former Blues center David Backes, a former UW nemesis at Minnesota State-Mankato. Playing in Michigan the past two seasons, Frederic closely studied Detroit Red Wings winger Justin Abdelkader, a Michigan State product.
Both have translated decorated college careers into NHL jobs where they’re known for being strong at both ends of the ice.
“I’d say that’s my game,” Frederic said. “And then I can bring offense, too.”
If he does more of the latter, he’ll continue to chip away at the third-liner mold that’s been cast on him.
“I still am only six games in so I’ve got a lot of stuff to prove,” Frederic said. “But so far, I’ve had a different role, not just a third line, playing defensive scenarios. It’s more of an offensive style. I’ve still got a lot to do to prove that I’m not just a third-line, fourth-line guy.”