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Matt Frattin: can he be more than many Leaf fans expect?

Some recent posts you might have missed....
  • 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

Leaf fans are well aware of (in broad terms, at least, and speaking quite generally, I realize) our reputation for significantly over-rating and over-valuing our players (as in, "we'll trade you our second-best penalty killer for, ah....that Crosby guy...Ok, OK, we'll take Malkin...).  We can certainly be cited for undue exuberance at times when it comes to our young “prospects”.  It’s been this way for a long time in these parts, eh?  It’s often difficult to take a step back and have perspective in this regard when recent times have been, well, let's just say.....unsatisfying for us as Leaf supporters.

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?


  1. Frattin?

    A good third liner who will eventually become a 2nd line winger at the peak of his career.

    The big question is his shot. It's deadly at the AHL level, but is it enough to consistently beat NHL goalies.

    You have to admit I had a good call on Spencer Abbott. He had a 3 point game today, so that's 9 points, + 5 in just 6 games.

    That's a heck of a pass:

    Abbott looks to be at least an AHL star. I hope we bulk up enough on the big team so that he could actually get a chance at the NHL.

  2. Abbott is an interesting player. He is fighting the odds given his size, DP, but we'll see if he can handle the heavier NHL going. He turns 25 before the end of the current season so, like Frattin, he is past the "kid" stage...Thanks DP.

  3. Michael, I think your assessment and comments on Frattin are bang on. He has a lot of upside, and with time could be a very strong second line winger. One of the things that has plague the Leafs (for far too many years) has been a lack of depth. As a result, sometimes players get moved around too much and getting consistent line combinations can be a problem. Guys like Frattin are more likely to improve if they can find some line chemistry and stick consistently with those pairings. This is probably even more a challenge for Eakins in that he is trying to give 5 lines ice time. Injuries at either the AHL or NHL level can really affect the line combos as well.

    I, for one, would hate to see Frattin let go in a trade, simply because the Leafs don't have many wingers with his set of skills. On the other hand we have a bunch of small-sized centers who we know simply can't fill the #1C role.

    Frattin is a quality NHL-er IMO. Now if only we can determine if Colborne can make the jump to the next level. This season he has yet to impress.

  4. We're on the same page with regards to Frattin, Don (TML_fan). I'm not saying he will necessarily be what people think of as a "star" at the next level, but I, like you, believe he can be more than just another guy.

    And yes, Eakins does have a challenge this season - lots of players, limited roster spots. Will make "developing" players even more of a creative effort.

    Colborne? So far, he is a guy with tools, but not much of an impact, it seems. But he's still young. We'll see.

  5. Hi Michael,

    I like Matt Frattin. The kid's got jam, and he can score a couple. He works hard, at least looks like he is (and sometimes there is a difference).

    I'd peg him as a third line guy, but in a different way than 'just another replaceable third-line guy'. I think you're correct, he could probably develop into a good PK guy, little bit of offense, bit of crash n' bang.

    I want to say I hope he won't be a second liner on this team. I think back to the Burns years... I liked Ozzy and Zez and Bergie, I thought Zez had a lot of skill, and remember he was a bit of a point getter with Philly. But, in Toronto he was just further down the depth chart. I hope that's the case with Frattin.

    I know there's a long way to go, but I would much prefer to see a guy like Kessel get better, and a top-flight centre with him, and maybe JVR can elevate. Maybe Lupul is more a 'second-liner', and Grabbo is also a decent second line pivot.

    I know the team is not stacked by any means, but I really think that's always been a problem with the Leafs when they struggle... trying to take a guy who should be 3rd line material on most teams and sell him as a scoring wing or something. I'd rather have the plan be get guys so good that a 32nd liner on any other team can't crack better than 3rd line in Toronto.

    All that said, I think Frattin will be a fan favorite and a good contributor for the Leafs. I don't say what I said to tear him down. I just want this franchise to start aiming higher again. The world needs ditch diggers too right... maybe we'll see something like Frattin and Komarov putting up 40 points each and combining for 250 PIM in a few seasons.

  6. You're on to something, Mark. And I get what you're saying. Not that Frattin could not be "more", but ideally, a guy with his skills and approach would be a really important third-line guy for the Leafs who could play higher if needed and not miss a bit, while also killing penalties, etc..

    You are really calling for the Leafs to have a higher "bar". So that, as good as Frattin might be, he'd still be on the Draper, Maltby, McCarthy line, for example, in Detroit- when they were really, really good. (A third line in Detroit, perhaps a second line in a lot of markets...)

    Thanks Mark.

  7. I like Frattin and his style of play a lot. But I agree with some of the other commenters that if the Leafs are a very good team Frattin should probably be a 3rd line player.

    I think Frattin and Kulemin could be 2/3 of an excellent 3rd line. They're physical and sound defensively and chip in some goals here and there.

    The issue is, is McClement centering them good enough, I hope so. Could be a rugged, checking line that Carlyle could use to shutdown the oppositions scoring lines, leaving Grabovski more freedom to worry about scoring. Grabovski, JVR and MacArthur should be a good secondary scoring line.

  8. Don writes that he wopuld hate to see Frattin leave in a trade.

    Put me in that camp too. With Frattin I don't think we fully know what we have yet. He doesn't seem to have any real flaws in his game. We could end up kicking oursevles for trading him. I would much rather see Franson, Liles, Steckel etc traded...Even some 2nd and 3rd round draft picks as the cupboard looks quite full for the next few years.

  9. Komarov (when he returns) could possibly fit in there somewhere, too, Dave, on the third line you propose above, especially if we are thinking of a crashing, agitating group that can also score....

  10. Agreed, DP. For me Frattin is a keeper unless the deal is awfully good....

  11. These are my imaginary lines at the end of this season, which might also be imaginary. As you can see we are to going trade many old guys or dump them for draft picks

    Lupul Bozak Kessel
    JVR Grabo MacArthur
    Kulemin Kadri Frattin
    Brown McClement Komorov

    Komorov is playing the wing very well in the KHL, so he can do it.

    Move guys up or down depending on who's hot and really roll four lines.

  12. Michael,

    I am not sure where Frattin fits in consider that the Leafs tends to and quite often screws up the development of young players while sticking with those beyond hope. What I do see is that Frattin's play reminds me of Jeff Skinner. Not to say he will become Skinner given his age and record so far but the potential as I see it is there.

    What I do anticipate happening is that he replaces MacArthur on the second line since it is likely MacArthur will be traded or walk, pending the CBA. Is he really capable and should he be there? Time will tell but I think Burke and Carlise likes this type of player more than what MacArhur have brought.

  13. Thanks for chiming in on this one, Lukas.

    Frattin can certainly play. Exactly where is the issue. As some have noted above, ideally he may be a really solid third-line winger in a very good Leaf line-up.

    I, too, get concerned with how we develop our young players (Schenn a recent obvious example). So the jury is out, for sure.

  14. I can see Frattin becoming a regular 3rd-liner, occasionally stepping up to fill in at the second. Beyond that? No, I haven't seen even glimpses of that.

    Could he be sacrificed to get a top netminder? Absolutely. Should he? No way, not at this point. Simply because getting a top goalie won't be a guarantee for better GAA.

    Sorry for the quiet time, Michael, I've been out of town for a while. And finding out I can live without the NHL in the process. Here, I'll return because it's actually fun. Has some problems with couple of the podcasts links, but managed to listen to them eventually, and you have a good dynamic with Matteo, just don't let him cut you so much in the future, alright?

  15. Yes, I have noticed your absence, CGLN, but understand, of course.

    Frattin is an interesting player. I'd like to think he has a nice ceiling, and I';d rather he not be just a bargaining chip, but someone has to go, presumably, if Burke makes a serious play for big-time help.

    As for the podcast, thanks for your patience in fighting through link issues. Matteo and I are hopefully developing a nice chemistry- I think I jump in too much! Thanks CGLN.