Clifton Enters Season With Higher Expectations
This time last year was very different for Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton. The Quinnipiac product had yet to appear in the NHL and arrived at camp battling for a spot.
That will not be the case this time around, as the New Jersey native became an important piece of the Bruins last season. He will enter the season with a guaranteed roster spot after agreeing to a three-year extension this summer.
When injuries ravaged the Bruins roster, they were forced to rely on their depth throughout the season. As a result, multiple prospects saw time in the NHL, including Clifton. The former fifth-round pick was able to take advantage of his opportunity and became a pleasant surprise.
As a rookie, Clifton appeared in 19 games and recorded one assist. He was able to earn Bruce Cassidy’s trust, as he averaged 17:42 minutes of ice time. In the playoffs, he was equally impressive and became more involved offensively. In 18 postseason games, he had two goals and three assists. Although his offensive numbers do not jump off the page, he impacted the game in many different ways.
Additionally, Clifton was a physical presence in the regular season, recording 40 hits. The Quinnipiac product was not afraid to sacrifice his body as he had 13 blocked shots. He seemingly made all the right decisions and did not seem overwhelmed by the increased pressure. His emergence was a pleasant surprise on a team full of talent.
Furthermore, in Clifton’s first season, he proved to be a reliable piece on the Bruins blue line. In the postseason, he was just as good and only had five giveaways. His rise came at the perfect time as the Bruins blue line needed a boost.
With the regular season only weeks away, Clifton is projected to be paired on the third line alongside Matt Grzelcyk. They should be a reliable pair that can move the puck and be physical. The duo can help out on the Power-Play as they both have room to grow offensively. If needed, they have proven that they can step up and play big minutes.
Even with the increased expectations, Clifton showed last year that he was NHL-ready. He was smart with the puck and did everything that Bruce Cassidy asked. If he can repeat last years success, then it could be the start of a memorable run in Boston for Clifton.