Frank Vatrano was set to get a look as a top-six forward for the Boston Bruins, but his big chance will have to wait. Vatrano tore ligaments in his foot and isn’t slated to return to action until December at the earliest.
Replacing Loui Eriksson and his 30-goal potential was never going to be easy for the Bruins, but an already tough task has been made more difficult as Boston will be without young scorer Frank Vatrano for three months.
The Bruins announced Saturday that while training for the season, Vatrano suffered torn ligaments in his left foot. According to NESN’s Joe Haggerty, Bruins GM Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was slated to see s specialist and head for surgery Monday. Sweeney said it’s a bad break for both the team and Vatrano, because the 22-year-old winger would have had a real shot at cracking the top-six to start the 2016-17 season.
“How that was going to play out remained to be seen, but he was going to be afforded a position to see if he could grab hold of it,” Sweeney said, according to Haggerty. “So obviously, he’s disappointed, and we are as well. You look at as with all injuries…it’s a setback. But the doctors feel very good that three months from now he’ll be able to play and move forward.”
This past season, Vatrano was named joint AHL Rookie of the Year — he shared the honor with Colorado Avalanche prospect Mikko Rantanen — and was one of the league’s most lethal snipers. Vatrano was a near shoo-in for the honor as he accomplished a rare feat by becoming a goal per game player, netting 36 goals and 55 points in 36 games in his first season with the Providence Bruins.
Vatrano’s scoring prowess saw him in the NHL by November, and he remained in the league until nearly the all-star break. He was back in the big league again by March, and he stuck with the Bruins for much of the final month of the season.
While Vatrano’s offensive numbers may not be mind-blowing, his eight goals and 11 points in 39 games would put him on a 17-goal, 23-point pace over the course of a full season. However, the opportunity he got this past season — and his production over that time — is hard to compare to the chance he would have likely been afforded this coming campaign.
Vatrano was, based on minutes alone, a fourth-liner when he skated with the Bruins in 2015-16. He averaged less than 12 minutes of ice time per game and rarely saw the ice on the power play. But a long list of off-season moves would have given Vatrano a chance to shine.
With Eriksson gone — as well as the departures of Lee Stempniak, Brett Connolly, Landon Ferraro, Max Talbot and Joonas Kemppainen — the opportunity was there for Vatrano to, at the very least, earn a part-time spot in the top-six. And if he found chemistry with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci or off-season acquisition David Backes, Vatrano could have secured himself regular top-six minutes.
The Bruins should still have the tools to replace some of Eriksson’s scoring, though, and Vatrano’s return could give the club a mid-season boost.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.