By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio
Trades that are executed throughout an NHL season carry some inherent risk. These risks range from injuries to improper fit into the lineup and locker room. Though, no one could have predicted a postponement in gameplay and watching their newly-acquired players’ contracts expire.
Thankfully, the Bruins traded for two players who have more than a year on their contracts: Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. The latter was acquired to compete for a role on David Krejci’s right-side. Bruins fans sound like a broken record when they plead for a long-term solution for the second-line right-winger position. General Manager, Don Sweeney, hopes the former Anaheim Duck fits that mold.
The Bruins acquired Ondrej Kase on February 21, 2020, for David Backes, Axel Andersson, and their 2020 first-round pick. The Ducks have been staring down a rebuild for over a year. Rebuilding teams generally hold onto one or two high-end talent players and unload the rest of their promising young stars. The Bruins saw the opportunity to not only acquire a forward with some untapped potential but also rid themselves of a horrid contract signed back in 2014. The large-cap hit forced the Bruins to sweeten to the pot for Anaheim, which is why their first-round draft choice was included.
It is a tough pill to swallow for an organization that missed out on a promising 2018 draft class because of a lack of a first-round selection. Don Sweeney hopes Kase can make Bruins fans forget the same reality during the 2018 off-season.
Ondrej Kase is a former 2014 seventh-round draft selection. He was drafted out of the Chance Liga, which is the Czech Republic’s second-highest level of professional hockey behind the Extraliga. He was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the final round of the 2014 draft. It is not unheard of for a player to hail from the seventh-round and become an important NHL piece. Henrik Lundqvist, Joe Pavelski, Patric Hornqvist, and Ondrej Palat were seventh-round draft picks who have had incredibly successful careers. The 24-year old winger is in great company if he can replicate their paths.
Kase began his Duck career as a 21-year old rookie 2016, where he netted 15 points in 53 games. He spent most of his time with Antoine Vermette and newly acquired Bruin, Nick Ritchie, on their third line. A year later, Kase and his linemates experienced a more successful season, as he ended with 38 points in 66 games. He’s been plagued by the injury bug during the first six years in the league. He began the 2018-19 season on pace to crush his career point total, amassing 20 points in 30 games. Unfortunately, Kase suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that would leave the Ducks waiting another year for Kase’s untapped potential.
The Bruins have traded for Ducks winger Ondrej Kase in exchange David Backes, a first round pick and Axel Andersson. #NHLBruins
Kase (pronounced An-dre Ka-sha) has 7 goals, 16 assists, 23 points in 49 games this season. Here are some highlights: pic.twitter.com/82Oszbqxwd
— Jordan Moore (@iJordanMoore) February 21, 2020
Before the trade to Boston, Ondrej scored seven goals and 16 assists in 49 games with the Ducks. He sustained an upper-body injury near the trade deadline, but Sweeney took the chance anyway. Kase has only played six games for the Bruins, which is a small and difficult sample size to predict his role going forward. Though, his skills haven’t faltered. Kase has incredible vision along with great pucks skills and tremendous adaptability. He has been described as a “toy-car that never seems to run out of energy.” This is something the Bruins have needed in past playoffs, especially as the playoffs have transitioned to a faster, more creative gameplay.
Kase can keep up with the speed of the NHL and his elusiveness can wear teams down in the offensive zone. The St. Louis Blues beat the Bruins in game seven of the Cup final last year because they were able to wear the Bruins down and capitalize on their few chances. Kase fits that mold and his linemates will prosper.
#NHLBruins GM Don Sweeney on the acquisition of Ondrej Kase: “Really pleased. A young, talented player…will either play with Krejci or Coyle…adds speed and offensive ability. It addresses a need.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 21, 2020
Sweeney projects his newly acquired winger to play either with Krejci or Charlie Coyle. Interestingly enough, Coyle could succeed Krejci as the Bruins’ second-line center, which allows Kase and Coyle to build chemistry in the meantime. Before the season’s suspension, the Bruins had both Anaheim Duck forwards anchoring Krejci’s line. If the season were to continue, Kase would be given a considerable chance to thrive on Krejci’s right side. The season will look particularly different than a normal season, so Kase and his teammates will have to participate in a mini-camp before the playoffs. This will allow Head Coach Bruce Cassidy the time to see how comfortable Kase is with Krejci. Bruce has been known to tinker with the lines when something isn’t working, unlike his predecessor Claude Julien.
Long-term, Kase is a front-runner the second-line right-wing position. He is a young, lethal forward who is still learning and growing into the player he is projected to be. He has the great fortune to learn in a room full of seasoned veterans and talented leaders. Whether the second-line features Coyle or Krejci, Kase projects to fit the glaring hole behind David Pastrnak. Though, it would not be a disappointment if Kase sticks on the third-line for a longer period of time because the NHL has shown that teams need four well-rounded and effective lines to win Lord’s Stanley Cup. Either way, Sweeney made the right decision in trading for a player who is a young, talented forward with the effective ability to be a force every time he is on the ice.