BOSTON — Frank Vatrano can shoot the puck, that much we all knew from his time in training camp. He did nothing to change that perception when he scored 10 goals in 10 AHL games in Providence.

But what Vatrano has shown in his first two career games with the Bruins, and what may be just as important as his trigger, is that he’s willing and able to do the little things a young player needs to do to stick in the NHL.

When he needs to put his body on an opponent, he doesn’t hesitate. He’ll step in front of a slap shot if he has to. And he’s willing to work for his scoring chances.

Coach Claude Julien liked Vatrano in camp. The coach really likes the forward now.

“He’s shown me that he’s reliable in those areas in our own end, coming back and backchecking. He skates well. I’m extremely pleased with what I’ve seen from Frank,” Julien said Sunday after the Bruins’ 2-1 victory against the Islanders in New York. “There’s a confidence level now. In camp, for the first time you’re playing with NHLers. He played some preseason games. And then he’s gone down there and played 10 games, and he played some last year (five). I think he’s come in here saying, ‘I can play at this level.’ And he’s gone out there and shown no fear. If anything, he’s shown a lot of confidence.”

In Vatrano’s NHL debut Saturday in Montreal, he popped right back up after his first big hit from Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin, one of the hardest checkers in the league. And later in the game, it was Vatrano who knocked Emelin off the puck in the corner to continue a Bruins threat on which he eventually scored his first goal. The East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, native was credited with four hits and two blocks in the 4-2 loss to the Canadiens.

“His biggest asset is his shot, but (in Montreal) I thought he was very physical,” Julien said. “He was good along the walls. He wasn’t intimidated. He skated well and he forechecked. I thought for a young player to play his first NHL game, playing for his hometown team against Montreal, he didn’t seem intimidated or in awe of anything. He just went out there and played.”

Vatrano didn’t score against the Islanders but was every bit as noticeable. He took nine shots, hitting the net five times, delivered two hits, was credited with two takeaways and blocked a shot for which he did not get credit on the scoresheet.

“To play in the NHL you have to be good in all areas of the game,” Vatrano said. “My D-zone and my (defensive) work was something that I definitely needed to improve on in order to have a shot to play in the NHL. In these games I paid extra attention to it. I just tried to keep moving my feet when I was away from the puck and tried to get in the area for plays to develop, and I think I did a pretty good job at that.”

Not known for his speed when he was signed as a free agent out of UMass last spring, Vatrano showed in Montreal and New York that he has enough of it after dropping weight in the offseason.

“I feel a lot faster,” Vatrano said with a wide grin. “I feel like the Energizer Bunny out there at some points. I can definitely see the difference just dropping 10 or 11 pounds. I feel a lot quicker in my first few (strides). Even my lateral movement is always something I wanted to work on and I think losing that weight really helped.”

Vatrano could force management into tough decisions when David Pastrnak returns from a bone contusion is his foot – and the Bruins already may have made one. Late Monday they sent veteran Max Talbot to the AHL club.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.