It seems like forever ago that Brandon Carlo was the talk of Beantown. The second year defenseman came flying out of the gate last season, quickly establishing himself in the NHL. Carlo rapidly became one of the league’s most promising young blueliners. Under the guidance of Zdeno Chara, Carlo played a ton of minutes in a shut-down role for the Bruins. However, although Carlo started the youth movement for the Boston Bruins, he sits on the back burner for many Bruins fans this season. The rapid emergence of McAvoy, Bjork, Debrusk, and Heinen obscure the view.
While Carlo can have a tendency to disappear at times, his upside makes up for that and more. During a penalty-filled game, Carlo dominated all afternoon in Philly, leading the team to a clean six for six on the penalty kill. The young blueliner was a monster in his own end, blocking shots, and protecting the slot, something lacking for the B’s this season.
The second-year defenseman so far has had a sneaky good season. After his excellent showing in Philly, Carlo now has a +5 rating with 24 blocked shots. While most of the Bruins’ young talent have great offensive upside, most of them lack the physicality required of shut-down defenders. Carlo has that ability, crucial for a team contending for a cup. He could potentially play a Niklas Hjalmarsson role for the Bruins in a couple of years.
This may be the most crucial part of Carlo’s game. While the 21-year-old defenseman won’t make the highlight real with flashy offensive plays, he has the ability and the hockey IQ to make the smart and responsible play on the back end. Chara’s influence on Carlo cannot be stressed enough. Chara played the shutdown number-one defenseman for the Bruins when they won the 2011 Stanley Cup. The veteran’s knowledge on how to handle speedy young forwards and experience in the postseason could have a substantial effect on Carlo’s career.
So far its shown up with how dependable he has been for Cassidy. Carlo currently ranks sixth on the team in time on ice, averaging 19:09 minutes per game and has rapidly become one of Cassidy’s go-to players. While mistakes occur from time to time, his consistency throughout the game and the season is invaluable.
While both fans and coaches have been impressed with the his defense, the Bruins hope Carlo’s offensive game can continue to develop. He posted a solid offensive year last season with six goals and 10 assists. The offense has taken a step back this season with Carlo only posting four assists, and zero goals on 23 shots. The injuries and more defensive responsibilities placed on the 21-year-old have not helped. Cassidy has started playing Krug with Carlo a bit over the past few weeks, which should get him more involved in the offensive end. Playing with a more offensive heavy defenseman like Krug could serve Carlo well.
Carlo has rapidly developed into a very good defenseman for the Boston Bruins. Hockey fans beware. Suddenly the Bruins have a one-two punch combo on the back end with Carlo and McAvoy.