Most 20-year-olds go home for the summer after experiencing life in Boston as freshmen. Brandon Carlo is an exception.
The Bruins defenseman has been spending a good amount of the offseason in Boston instead of returning full time to Colorado Springs. It marks Carlo’s continuing transition from hockey student, so to speak, to a pro.
Had he chosen college hockey, Carlo could be preparing for his sophomore season. But Carlo, having spent all of his rookie year in the NHL, is a step ahead of where his employer originally projected him to be. In retrospect, it was a very good one (82 games, 6-10—16, 20:48 of average ice time), as Carlo made his mark as Zdeno Chara’s first-pairing partner.
“For myself, an opportunity opened up at the beginning of the year,” Carlo said. “It was great for me to take advantage of that. I exceeded my own expectations of where I was going to be this year. I’m more confident and ready. We have good youth and good leadership. It should be a really good year.”
Perhaps the lone blemish was the season-ending concussion Carlo suffered in Game No. 82, courtesy of Alex Ovechkin. The Bruins missed their first-year pro against Ottawa, when they had to reach deep into their reserves to dress healthy defensemen.
Post-concussion syndrome flattened Carlo to the point where an appearance against Ottawa was out of the question. A second-round return was not guaranteed. So it has been with an extra sense of satisfaction that Carlo has been skating at Warrior Ice Arena several times per week. Carlo felt more like himself approximately a week after the season’s conclusion and has sailed through offseason workouts without any issues.
Carlo’s summer prep and first-year experience could give him more confidence to go on the attack. He’s been trained as a shutdown man. But the Bruins believe Carlo’s feet could put him in places up the ice where he was hesitant to tread as a rookie.
Kevan Miller, for example, has progressed to where he’s comfortable slamming down the walls in the offensive zone, where his roughneck approach and power skating make him a threat. Carlo has yet to express his hands, stick, and vision offensively. The wheels are already there.
“I’ve spoken with him about it — to have poise at the offensive blue line,” Sweeney said. “Not just to hurry it down off the boards, but to take the puck and have more confidence when certain things are in motion. Bruce [Cassidy] and his group will encourage that. It’s up to him to have that confidence. But the way he skates, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be more involved.”