- Given Joe Colborne's "healthy scratch" again on the weekend, this question may indeed be relevant...
- An interview with former long-time Leaf strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol
- Some thoughts on current Marlies who may be future Leafs
- Why Ted Lindsay should have a seat the the CBA table
So it is indeed a challenge at times to get traction around any serious discussion about what some of our young players really are. When it comes to Matt Frattin, the former collegiate player from Western Canada who is on the cusp of becoming a full-time Maple Leaf (if and when NHL hockey ever returns…), there seems to be a mixed “review” of him out there. Some project him as strictly a third-line kind of guy at best. I, on the other hand, see his ceiling as somewhat better than that, however.
Frattin is one of the last remaining vestiges of the John Ferguson regime, as a fourth-round pick of the blue and white in the summer of 2007. He has generally impressed me in his time with the big club. “Numbers” aside (those were fairly modest; 15 points in 56 games with the Leafs last season), he showed some of those essential things we tend to look for in someone we think can be a “player”. Maybe most importantly, the young man can skate. And, he seems to have a bit of an extra gear, which I love. I also like the fact that he can bust in on his off-wing, a trait a lot of forwards don’t (can't?) display and one I appreciate a lot in any winger who wants to be an impact player in the best league in the world.
In my mind, when you can skate like Frattin, you are that much more of a dangerous player—or at least you should be. Well used, speed is a threat. Always. And when you are strong on your skates, as Frattin usually is, that makes you a load to handle most of the time for the opposition.
He also has hands- as in, he can find the back of the net and has quite a nice wrist shot, which never hurts.
Last spring in the AHL playoffs, he was a major factor, a big-time contributor for the Marlies, averaging a point a game in 13 contests before he was injured- including 10 playoff goals. Not too shabby.
This season with the Marlies, his debut was delayed somewhat by that rather serious injury, but he has certainly gotten out of the box quickly offensively, to the tune of 7 goals in 8 games. (Only two assists so far, I think, but let’s not be too choosy…) I don’t believe anyone expects the emerging winger to exactly keep up this early season goal-scoring “pace”, but bottom line, he continues to demonstrate that he can score goals. Given the occasional lack of so-called “secondary” scoring on the Leaf side of things, that skill would/will be a bonus.
Based on what I observed a season ago with the blue and white, I see Frattin’s ceiling as higher than just another replaceable third-line guy. I believe he could be an effective penalty-killer and I sense he has the skills to be a kind of mini power-forward type. He’s not huge at only 6 feet (and maybe 200 pounds- I remember when being a 6-footer automatically made you a fairly big man in hockey...), but when he is on his game he does not play timidly and will go to the net—traits that Leafs can certainly use whenever NHL hockey returns.
People may not get as excited about Frattin because he’s turning 25 next month, so he’s somewhat beyond the young “prospect” stage, though he has played less than 60 NHL games. And I think a lot of fans see him as a guy who may be in a “piece” we have to give up if we make a deal for an elite goaltender—like, say, Luongo. But regardless, he has some hop to his game, and as I stated here a number of times toward the end of the 2011-’12 NHL season, he’s simply a player I like quite a bit. As an ex-collegian, he has played a relatively limited schedule thus far in his career and should be a “young” 30 when he hits that age—and still be in his hockey-playing prime. He is not at his peak yet, because he doesn’t have the experience or moxie to be at that stage.
But he seems to be a smart player with, again, some jump in his game, a good shot—and wheels, which rarely hurts. And with a bit of physicality in his game, I’m not going to say the sky’s the limit, but he has a work ethic and skill set which should make him a valuable NHL player.
An actual impact guy with the Maple Leafs? We’ll see. The jury is out for me on that one.
What about you—where do you see Frattin fitting with the Leafs?