BostonBruins.com - On July 18, the Bruins announced that they had signed restricted free agent Zach Trotman to a two-year contract that becomes one-way in the second year.
If you're a defenseman on the Bruins' lengthy depth chart like Trotman, that's the vote of confidence you're looking for from the Black & Gold.
Entering his third year pro in 2014-15, the blueliner who was once the final pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (the Bruins traded with Chicago for the pick in order to nab him) will earn an NHL salary in 2015-16.
"I'm really excited to have another two years with the Bruins and I'm really looking forward to continuing to work hard and move my way up the ladder," Trotman said over the phone.
"It's great to be a part of something like that where excellence is almost expected every year, so coming in, you have high expectations for yourself, knowing everyone around you is going to be working just as hard, trying to achieve the same goal."
He'll continue following steadily behind home-grown defensemen in Providence like Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid. Even Torey Krug spent a year developing with the P-Bruins before his NHL transition.
"Obviously, that's a dream come true for any player," said Trotman, of the contract becoming one-way. "And just taking that next step, to being able to have that opportunity to try and prove myself at the next level."
"I'm extremely appreciative that the organization has put that trust in me as a player, to develop and to keep continuing to grow and they have the faith in me to be able to play at that level."
Trotman has spent the past two full seasons in Providence after a three-year college career at Lake Superior State University. He's suited up in 110 regular season AHL games with the P-Bruins, recording 11 goals and 32 assists for 43 points and a plus-13 rating. He played in all eight Calder Cup Playoff games in 2014, putting up four assists.
The 6'3" 219-pound defenseman made his NHL debut on December 28, 2013 in Ottawa against the Senators, after a chaotic day traveling nearly five hours by cab from Glens Falls, New York where Providence was set to play the Adirondack Phantoms that night.
With Captain Zdeno Chara labeled a late scratch after morning skate, Trotman received the call and arrived seven minutes into warmups.
Despite all of that, the defenseman made enough of an impression that he was recalled again in January to play against LA, when Boston was without Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton and Adam McQuaid due to injuries.
Even though Trotman only played two NHL games, he realized the areas where he needed to improve.
With the blueliner's size, physicality and an offensive mind that usually has him seeing power-play time in Providence, he just has to adjust to the pace of the game.
"For the most part, the biggest thing is really just closing and ending plays in the 'D' zone and as long as I'm doing that, then the rest of my game kind of just follows suit," Trotman said, of what he and his coaches are focusing on the most.
"So that's always going to be a big focal point for me, is just ending plays and then coming to my zone, and then making quick transition back to the wing and getting the puck in our forwards' hands."
During the Bruins' development camp this summer, Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy labeled Trotman and fellow defensive prospect Joe Morrow as "clearly the next guys in line" for a spot in Boston.
"I think they have a real good chance to play," Cassidy said. "I think they’re both going to be in Providence another year to find their game so I’d expect those guys to be really good defensemen in the AHL next year."
Cassidy has helped develop a steady stream of blueliners through the Providence pipeline. From his perspective, once a player develops a 'man mentality,' being heavier and more competitive on a daily basis, he's on the right trajectory.
"That’s a normal process, I think a lot of them go through it," he said. "Zach Trotman went through it and you see it now in his game - every night he wins the lion's share of his battles where maybe the first year, for a strong guy, he was winning half of them. And you can see that now, that mindset – he’s developed that."
Trotman has put in the work, and taken advantage of his opportunities thus far. Like with most players, a vote of confidence from the organization - and his coach - can go a long way.
"Stuff like that is a huge confidence boost, for me and for any other player, when you hear something like that from your head coach," Trotman said, when told how Cassidy labeled him one of the 'next guys in line.'
"You know, during the year you always don't know, you don't always hear it from them. But [you look] for them to be hard on you, and just keep working away and getting better as they give you more opportunities, and then you hear stuff like that from them, it obviously means a lot."
"It's a huge confidence boost that they have that kind of faith in you or that they see that type of potential in you."
It's also not always easy trusting the process, and being patient with development.
The 23-year-old Trotman could look at the roughly nine NHL, or NHL-caliber, defensemen 'in front of him' in Boston (Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, David Warsofsky), or he could look at the opportunity that lies ahead.
"It's one of those things where you just have to take it day by day. If you look at it as the big picture, like 'Why am I not there yet?' or you get antsy about it, then it's going to kind of eat away at you and I think it's going to hurt your performance," he said.
"But if you can shrink everything down to size and take it day by day going in, just work hard every day and focus on, 'What did I do today? How did the day go?' then it's obviously going to make it a lot easier long-term to reach your goal."
With Boychuk, McQuaid and Bartkowski all set to become unrestricted free agents in 2015-16 (though GM Peter Chiarelli has spoken about leaving cap room to re-sign Boychuk), that long line could get a little shorter for Trotman.
For now, though, he's just focusing on the immediate future.
"I'm working my butt off this summer and I want to go [into training camp] and try and prove myself again, and prove that last year wasn't just a fluky year," he said.
"And I want to try and grow and show that I've made strides over the summer, and not just stayed the same."
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