( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins )
By: Mandi Mahoney | Follow Me On Twitter @phonymahoney
The Boston Bruins road trip is not going according to plan. During a loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center Wednesday night, captain Zdeno Chara injured his knee while checking former Bruin Carl Soderberg. Chara left in the second period, and the Bruins did not fare very well without him, dropping a two-goal lead and eventually losing 6-3 to the Avs.
As a result of Chara’s injury, the Bruins called up blueliner Connor Clifton from their AHL affiliate in Providence on an emergency basis. Clifton traveled to Dallas to meet with the team yesterday, in the midst of their road trip. It looks like the right-shot defenseman will make his NHL debut tonight, as John Moore, who has typically played on the Bruins’ second defensive pair, will not be in the lineup to play against the Stars in Dallas tonight.
Clifton was originally selected 133rd overall, in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Arizona Coyotes. He and the Coyotes failed to reach an agreement in August 2017, and the Bruins signed him to a two-year entry-level deal this May. Prior to being drafted, the Long Branch, New Jersey native played for the USNTDP in juniors, and then for the U.S. National Under 18 Team, where he racked up 8 goals and 15 assists, totaling 23 points in 66 games. This put him second in scoring among defensemen on the team, only behind current New Jersey Devil Will Butcher. During that season, Clifton was a teammate of fellow Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald, and former Bruin Frank Vatrano.
In 156 games at Quinnipiac, Clifton scored 56 points and was +39 during his college career. He captained the Bobcats in 2016-17, which was his senior year. Skating at 5’11” and 174 pounds, Clifton isn’t the biggest player on the ice, but he is definitely not afraid to throw his body around and play a physical game, and he does not back down from that, no matter the opponent.
Clifton has been a noticeable presence on every team he has played for, as he’s known for work ethic and compete level, on top of his energy and enthusiasm for physical hockey. He can sometimes take risks in the offensive zone, which has come back to bite him from time to time, but Clifton has learned from those mistakes and is definitely getting the hang of playing in the AHL. This season, he has played in fourteen games for the Providence Bruins, has assisted on 4 goals, and has a plus/minus rating of +4.
For tonight’s game in Dallas, expect Clifton to be playing alongside the only established veteran left in the Bruins’ defensive corps, puck mover Torey Krug. This leaves Jeremy Lauzon and Matt Grzelcyk on the second pair, and Jakub Zboril, another Providence Bruin making his NHL debut, skating on the third pair with Steve Kampfer. Tonight’s game against the Stars will be interesting at the very least, with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn going up against Grzelcyk, Krug, and four AHL defensemen.