Entering next season, the Boston Bruins will have a few different faces with the departure of Torey Krug. One returning face will be Connor Clifton, who has become a fan favorite. Although Clifton is only 25, the Bruins will be looking for him to improve his game next season after the President Trophy winners suffered a disappointing playoff exit.
Clifton made his NHL debut two years ago and since then has played his fair share of minutes on the Bruins blueline. The Quinnipiac product has endeared himself to Bruins fans with his toughness and determination on the ice. Clifton has also shown an ability to move up and down the lineup as injuries hit.
Additionally, in 50 career games for the Bruins, Clifton has landed 130 hits and blocked 46 shots. In a career-high 31 games last year, Clifton improved his puck control as he only had seven giveaways. His focus in 2021 will be improving his offensive production. The Bruins are expected to start the season without their top two scorers in David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand as they recover from offseason surgeries.
Over the past two seasons, Clifton has scored two goals and recorded three points. In the playoffs, the New Jersey-native has been slightly more productive as he has five points in 25 games. He is also shooting the puck 14 % of the time, which is ten points higher than his regular-season percentage.
The Bruins will be looking for Clifton to bring that aggressive style throughout the regular season. Clifton is not expected to replicate Krug’s numbers, but they need more offensive production. The Bruins defenseman has also attempted 47 shots in the playoffs, which is five more than his total from the past two seasons combined.
Furthermore, Clifton is expected o start next season on the Bruins third defensive pairing. He will, however, have competition in the form of top prospects Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril. The duo has appeared in a combined 5 NHL games but will be motivated to prove themselves.
As Clifton prepares for his third NHL season, he will be looking to take his game to another level. The Bruins, however, will have a blue line full of opportunity as they look to make a deeper playoff run.