The Boston Bruins have inked minor league defenseman Connor Clifton to a two-year entry-level contract, which will carry an average annual value of $725K. Clifton played this season with the Providence Bruins on an AHL contract, after leaving Quinnipiac University as a free agent in the spring of 2017.
From all accounts, Clifton took several large steps forward in his development this year and is now showing that there might be a higher ceiling than originally believed. First selected in the fifth round by the Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes in 2013, Clifton didn’t sign with the team despite showing relatively well in his four years in the NCAA.
There was interest in him immediately, as he signed with the Providence Bruins quickly after becoming a free agent in August. The knock on him was that there was a limit to his potential, and that his physical style might break down his somewhat undersized frame. This season in the AHL he recorded 13 points in 54 games, which actually ranked him third on the Providence defense corps.
If he’s ever to make the NHL, he’ll have to keep developing an all-around game that doesn’t rely on big hits to make an impact. Puck movement, defensive zone coverage and a relentless work ethic will have to be Clifton’s calling cards to crack the Boston lineup. At 23, he’ll have to take those steps quickly or be labelled as a minor league player before long.