It’s fair to say optimism about Boston’s blueline was tempered heading into this season.
GM Don Sweeney’s search for a ‘transitional’ defenseman never panned out. Neither did the PTO for veteran rearguard Christian Ehrhoff. So the B’s went into this year with nearly the exact same defense they had last year — a defense that Sweeney admitted was a “work in progress.”
Which is why Brandon Carlo’s emergence is a big deal.
Carlo, the 19-year-old rookie, has been a revelation. He’s scored two points through four games, and done so while shouldering a pretty significant workload — 21:54 TOI per night, second on the team to Zdeno Chara.
“He’s impressed the heck out of us,” head coach Claude Julien said on Friday, per the Bruins’ Twitter account.
Julien’s faith in Carlo goes beyond words. In last night’s 2-1 win over New Jersey, Carlo was put out in the final minutes with Cory Schneider pulled for an extra attacker.
“He gave me no reason not to put him out there,” Julien said.
There’s plenty to like about Carlo. He’s got terrific size — 6-foot-5, 200 pounds — and shown maturity well beyond his years and professional experience, having played just seven AHL games prior to making his NHL debut.
Boston has to be thrilled.
Remember, the club is pretty old on defense. Chara is 39, John-Michael Liles is 36, Adam McQuaid is 30 and Kevan Miller turns 29 in November.
Though the team does have some intriguing young d-man prospects in the system — including first-rounders Charlie McAvoy and Jakub Zboril — they’re not expected to make an impact at the big-league level for a while.
Of course, neither was Carlo.
Injuries to McQuaid and Miller fast-tracked the former WHL Tri-City standout, and he’s made the most of the opportunity. His teammates have certainly been impressed.
“He’s a great defenseman,” goalie Tuukk Rask said, per the Boston Herald. “Very poised out there, and he positions himself well.”
“He’s been playing phenomenal right now,” added Brad Marchand. “He’s stepped up.”