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Frederic to make NHL debut with Bruins, extend connection with Backes

Boston rookie took photo with idol 12 years ago, now will play on same line against Jets

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON - Trent Frederic was 9 when the picture was taken, another kid in a St. Louis Blues jersey and hat waiting for a photo with Blues rookie David Backes before a game.

Backes took dozens of those photos that season, the rookie sent out for winners of a promotion because the timing, immediately before warmups, was inconvenient for the rest of the players. He'd take the photo and sign whatever they had for him to sign and head back into the room to get ready for the game.

Tweet from @andystrickland: A 9-year old Trent Frederic having picture taken with David Backes. Good chance the two are on the same line tomorrow when Frederic makes his #NHL debut with the #NHLBruins. #stlblues

This one was different, though, at least in retrospect.

Because that kid will make his NHL debut Tuesday, skating on a line alongside Backes.

The Blues sweaters have been traded for Boston Bruins jerseys. The hair is changed. The 9-year-old kid is now two weeks from his 21st birthday. And, at 6-2, 203 pounds, he's nearly as big as Backes (6-3, 215) these days. They will be standing next to each other again when the Bruins play the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, NESN, TSN3, NHL.TV).

"I try not to be too starstruck to him," said Frederic, who will center a line with Danton Heinen and Backes. "But I'm sure he has a clue."

The pair met on a more intimate level that season, not just in the smile-and-flash area for Great Clips. Frederic, who was friends with the two sons of Blues forward Keith Tkachuk boys (Matthew, now of the Calgary Flames, and Brady, now of the Ottawa Senators). He recalls being at the Tkachuk house during Backes' rookie season in 2006-07, when Backes lived with Keith.

"We played mini hockey or knee hockey and that's kind of how I first got introduced to him," Frederic said. "He obviously built a name from there. So, everyone knew who he was by then."

But the connection grows even more. At one point during his time with the Blues, Backes and his wife, Kelly, were looking to move to a house closer to the city of St. Louis and toured the Frederic family home. They didn't end up buying it, but the link remains.

"Know his father, know of him, obviously being a prominent player from St. Louis, and to get to share the ice for his first game, play on a line together, there's a lot of emotions, a lot of stuff just trying to contain yourself in your first NHL game," Backes said. "He's a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. If I can give him a little direction, just let him do his thing, I think it'll be a successful debut for him."

Backes, who was able to recite the tagline from Frederic Roofing, the family's business, said that he could relate. He came up on a Blues team that was rife with veterans - Tkachuk, Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, Dallas Drake - and perhaps, for him, this is "an opportunity along the way to pay that forward a little bit."

"It's certainly humbling to see a kid - I think he was 9 when we took that picture - but … from then to 12 years later, playing on a line with the kid, that's a small world," Backes said. "That's pretty cool. Hopefully that storyline continues and we have a good night together for his first game."

Frederic first got to play alongside Backes during the preseason in the 2018 NHL China Games. But the young center was shipped to Providence of the American Hockey League to start the season as the Bruins cycled through third-line centers, never finding one that stuck.

Now it's Frederic's turn.

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Frederic, who will have both his parents, two of his brothers, and a sister on hand for his debut, has played in 37 games with the Providence Bruins this season, scoring 17 points (10 goals, 7 assists). It's his first full professional season after two years at the University of Wisconsin. He was taken by the Bruins in the first round (No. 29) in the 2016 NHL Draft and seven days later Backes left the Blues and signed a five-year contract with Boston on July 1.

Tuesday is the first chance for Frederic to prove his worth at the NHL level. And he'll get to do it alongside a familiar face, a player who Frederic was never shy about emulating, who was part of the highlight reel of his hockey-playing youth.

"Growing up, in St. Louis, he was the best player, so who doesn't want to play like the best player from your hometown team?" Frederic said. "So that's kind of something I tried to play like. Maybe it was a fluke that I started playing like him and then they're like, you know, you kind of play like David Backes. And I was like, yeah, well I like him. So that's how I got the comparison.

"Hopefully I can live up to that, or something close to that."

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