Zach Trotman, the final pick of the 2010 draft, has already made it beyond where most of those drafted ahead of him can still only dream. Over the course of the '15-'16 season, Trotman suited in 38 games, more than doubling his total career appearances. This year, it was more of trial by fire, as the departures of two top-4 defensemen required a revolving roster of blueliners; as the season ground on, gaps created by injury also needed to be filled. As one of the less experienced players, Trotman (along with Colin Miller, and a handful of games from others) was paired with the Behemoth himself, Zdeno Chara, in the hopes that he and his fellow platoon members would be somewhat sheltered by Chara's presence. This pairing leads to strong competition, which pushes the development of a young player - especially when you have Chara to report to when you make a mistake.
How did Zach Trotman respond to this season's pressure? For this season, it might be most fair to compare him to the person who took his place for nearly an equal amount of games: Colin Miller.
Trotman's effect on his partner was negligible; of course, this is pretty normal - Chara plays his own game, and it would be hard for a newer player like Trotman to have much of an effect on Chara's success. Miller, however, was much more valuable to his linemates, and... oh, forget it. I'll leave Cam to write his report card in a few days.
Trotman's contributions as a "Bottom-Pairing Shutdown DMan" on the top pairing went as expected. Being paired with Chara, who maintained a questionable top-pairing rating himself, afforded Trotman some support - but it also meant drawing the strongest competition and stronger chances against. To his credit, he fared no worse than one might expect; it's just unfortunate that Trotman didn't make visible improvement over the course of the season - or, if only he had been given a chance to finish the season. After January 1, Trotman played most of January and February but just 2 games after that.
What happened? Throughout the year, Trotman's +/- was unpredictable; so much so that, though he came out in the positive overall, he had multiple -2 games either against doormats (Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Toronto) or in important games (Los Angeles and Nashville). A couple positive +/- games against more doormats doesn't a top-pair defenseman Trotman make; after averaging nearly 20 minutes a night, Julien pulled him from the lineup to make space for John-Michael Liles and Trotman's season was basically over.
How did Zach Trotman respond to this season's pressure? Pretty well, given the circumstances. His partner took the tougher assignments, as he should, but Trotman held his own enough of the time without blowing anyone's socks off. For someone's first true taste of the big show, Trotman fared as well as one should expect.
It's tough to blame Trotman for the results of his up-and-down season; as a bigger body, he was tasked with matching up against smaller, faster, and better players. Chara's loss of a step or two left the B's with two mid-level pairings, and Trotman bore the brunt of management's miscues on the top pair.