( Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/ Getty Images)
By: Jamie Gatlin | Follow Me On Twitter: @JamieGatlin1217
So far this season the Bruins young defenseman have been tested due to injuries. Key players such as Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Kevin Miller have missed significant time causing the Bruins to rely on their depth. As a result, Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton have made their NHL debuts sooner than many anticipated. While they both have performed well Clifton, has been a pleasant surprise. He has quietly been one of the Bruins best defenseman as injuries mount.
Coming into the season, the expectations were not high for Clifton. He was seen as a longshot to make it to the NHL after being signed as an undrafted free agent. When Chara, was injured Clifton was the only right-shot defenseman left on the Providence roster. His numbers were not overwhelming as in 14 games he had only four assists. Despite his low expectations, the former Quinnipiac star has not let others opinion define him.
Clifton made his NHL debut against the Dallas Stars on November 16th and set the tone early. Less than 13 minutes into his NHL career he got into his first fight with veteran Jason Spezza. The rookie made a statement showing that he will not back down from any challenge. Since his debut, Clifton has been all that the Bruins could have hoped for.
Through his first seven games, Clifton has yet to register a goal or an assist. Despite his lack of offense, he has been impressive in other ways. The rookie has shown confidence and grit while providing the Bruins with valuable ice time. He is playing big minutes which reflects the trust the Bruins staff has in him. After being an afterthought, he has been critical to the Bruins of late.
As his solid play continues, the expectations will only rise. That could dictate just how long he stays on the roster. Kevin Miller will be out until mid-January however the Bruins will get a couple of key pieces back soon. Brandon Carlo could return this weekend, and Charlie McAvoy continues to improve. The return of these two will not only improve the roster but limit playing time for others.
In his brief NHL career, Clifton has played well enough to deserve a roster spot. He is improving every game and looks more confident on the ice. He has been shut down on the backend and played a career-high 24 minutes in the Bruins lose to on Monday. Despite his solid play the Bruins defenseman has continued to play with a chip on his shoulder.
While injuries have tested this teams depth, it has given players like Clifton the opportunity to shine. He has seized the opportunity and at the very least has made his mark. When everyone is healthy the Bruins, will have some tough choices to make. If Clifton can continue his recent play, then he could secure himself a roster spot something nobody expected when the season began.
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