You wouldn’t believe me if I told you at the beginning of the season that Parker Wotherspoon would be a pivotal piece to the 2023-24 Bruins. You also wouldn’t believe me if I told you he’s been one of the team’s best defenders since the new year. But without Wotherspoon’s stout defensive play and penalty killing, the Boston Bruins could have a MUCH different record.
The 26-year-old defenseman played just 12 career NHL games for the New York Islanders before being thrust into duty for the Bruins this season. Injuries to Derek Forbort, Mason Lohrei, and, most recently, Brandon Carlo have forced the veteran to take on a much more significant role than he previously anticipated, and he’s earned the praise of his coach because of it.
“I think we see a player that has the confidence to know that he can play well and help us night in and night out,” said Montgomery of Wotherspoon. “And the physicality that he brings, the consistency of it, is something that we need back there, and he’s given that to us. So he’s a very, very welcome addition, and he’s earned the right to be here.”
Wotherspoon has been a critical part of an ailing defense corps for the Boston Bruins. In the five games since Brandon Carlo went down with an injury, Wotherspoon has averaged 19:29 of ice time per game, playing primarily alongside defensive top dog Hampus Lindholm. He also hasn’t been on the ice for a goal in any of those five games despite logging heavy minutes against the likes of Robert Thomas, Ryan Johansen, Jesper Bratt, and Clayton Keller.
But his five-on-five play isn’t even the highlight of Wotherspoon’s game, and his penalty-killing has raised eyebrows. Over the past five games, the first-year Bruin has led the team in penalty kill time on ice with 14:13, all without allowing a goal. For reference, McAvoy and Lindholm spent under 14 minutes on the kill and were each on the ice for a goal. Wotherspoon is settling into his new role with the Bruins, and he’s getting more comfortable the more he plays.
“It’s growing and growing,” said Wotherspoon when asked about his confidence. “It took a little bit to get comfortable with the system but the coach has been helping me out a lot and bringing me up to speed.”
It’s always difficult to gauge the value of a defensive defenseman because most of what they contribute to their team doesn’t appear in the form of stats. But in doing my research for this article, I came across one intriguing piece of data that supports just how well Boston’s new addition has been playing: Among all skaters who have logged at least 225 minutes of ice time, Wotherspoon is seventh in the NHL (yes, the entire league) in on-ice save percentage. Whether he’s skating at even strength, on the penalty kill, or with the goalie pulled, his team has a 94.94 save percentage while he’s on the ice.
With how Jim Montgomery has mixed and matched his lines this season, it’s anyone’s guess what the D-corps will look like once everyone is back and healthy. But one thing is sure: the Boston Bruins are a better team when Parker Wotherspoon is on the ice.