Connor Clifton can officially be classified as a permanent National Hockey League defenseman. Clifton played in his 60th NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.
That may not sound like a lot of games, but that number carries a special significance in the contractual arena. Now, if the Bruins want to assign Clifton to the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence, he would first need to clear waivers.
Of course, Bruins’ management knew what allowing Clifton to play in his 60th game with the big club would mean. The fact that the team let that happen must mean it sees a future for Clifton in the Spoked-B. Otherwise, the move, or no attempt made to stop it, signifies that the Bruins are willing to take the chance of losing the New Jersey native to another team.
Making the Jump
Clifton first got a chance with the big club in Boston amid a glut of injuries to Boston’s defensive corps in the 2018-2019 season. He impressed the coaching staff enough to remain with the team in its 2019 playoff run, and he stuck around again out of camp this season. In 42 games played in Boston, Clifton has recorded two goals, both coming this season, and one assist. Perhaps more telling, his boasts a plus-10 rating in that span.
That being said, there has been room for Clifton on the roster so far in the 2019-2020 campaign thanks in large part to Kevan Miller and John Moore recovering from long-term injuries. Although head coach Bruce Cassidy said last week that Miller has suffered another setback, Moore appears ready to rejoin the team as soon as Thursday.
Finding a Place
As a result, speculation abounds. The first question that arises is whether the team expects Miller to be unavailable for the foreseeable future. He played in fewer than 40 games last season, and has suffered several setbacks on his road to recovery,
Steven Kampfer has been in and out of the lineup, but mostly out, for two years now. However, the Bruins signed him to a contract extension this summer. Of course, Clifton also got a new deal, but he could be moved from Boston to Providence without consequence, until now.
A Step Ahead
Urho Vaakanainen performed well in his brief stints in Boston this season. Last year, Jeremy Lauzon also showed promise before he was relegated back to Providence. Clifton getting a more guaranteed spot in Boston could mean fans will see less of those two, and other defensive prospects.
It seems Clifton fits into the Bruins’ future plans, at least for the time being. If his time in Boston so far is a good indicator, he will surely do all he can to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been afforded.