“Lite power-forward” Matt Frattin had an inauspicious start to his 2013 NHL campaign after getting cut from Maple Leafs out of training camp. This, after finishing the season with the Leafs last year and going on to lead the AHL in points and goals (10 in 13 games) in the playoffs prior to badly injuring his knee in while sliding into an empty net (ironically, in the process of scoring another goal). The coaching staff was less than impressed with his intensity during camp and the addition of JVR on the wing bumped Frattin from the lineup. He went back to the AHL and didn’t have a good start to his season there, either. Whether that was the product of sulking or a lack of Nazem Kadri as his center, it wasn’t working.
As far as hockey players go, Matt Frattin checks the boxes I like to see in an NHL forward. I’ve liked his skillset from the first game he played as a Leaf (last game of the 2010-11 season) when he displayed NHL attributes not normally seen in a rookie. Good acceleration. Good top speed. Skates backwards well for a forward. Finishes his checks (hard, and with purpose). Skates to tough areas of the ice. Strong on his feet. Decent defensively. Big shot. Quick Release.
That’s what I see when I watch him play, but he’s also been a frustrating player to watch for a variety of different reasons.
After Joffrey Lupul broke his arm in the third game of the season against Pittsburgh, Frattin was called up and had an absolutely lights out start to the NHL season on a sheltered line with Nazem Kadri. 7 goals in 10 games had him looking like the player everyone has seen from a potential standpoint while he was tearing it up with the Marlies, where he clearly looked like an NHL player among AHL players.
Kadri started the season red-hot and Frattin was equally as hot, piling up goals and points seemingly at will. After 10 games, it was revealed that he had cartilage build-up on his recently repaired MCL and had to undergo “clean up surgery” on his knee. As it goes with leg injuries and hockey, he came back to the Leafs looking like a different player, having lost some of the acceleration and top speed — as well as confidence — that a player like him really needs to provide secondary scoring at the NHL level. Not being able to keep his legs in shape and essentially being off them for three weeks can lose a player a half-stride here and there. Simply put, knee injuries are tough to bounce right back from.
The issue was, in the week that he had with us, he didn’t demonstrate the things we thought were his strengths. If he’s not taking the body and skating, he’s not an effective player. – Randy Carlyle
His injury and some poor puck luck, combined with wavering intensity and a reluctance to take the body, and voila – Frattin was a healthy scratch. Frattin sat in the press box for three games in early April and again for the final game of the regular season followed by game 1 of the playoffs.
Curious lineup decisions aside, Frattin drew back in for Game #2 against Boston and immediately made an impact while being used as a decoy on the first line to gain Phil Kessel some time away from Zdeno Chara. Making a strong play setting up Lupul for the go-ahead goal, he played a role in the comeback in a series the Leafs were down 1-0 in.
His lower body strength along with his quick release are the two things that standout as Frattin’s biggest attributes. You can see one of the two here with what was seemingly a dead play that he kept alive by pushing off his inside edges, fighting off Boychuk and sending across a great pass to Lupul.
That, combined with more posts than you can count in the series, including one in the overtime of Game 4, shows that when the bit is between his teeth Frattin can be a hard player to contain. His playoff performances are certainly an indication of that.
His inconsistency is something that is a glaring area in need of addressing. You have to wonder if that’s something that will ever correct itself, or if he is going to be a player who will always leave you wanting more. If he were to play to his potential most the time, Frattin would be a top 6 forward for the Leafs.
As his season went, it was certainly and up and down rollercoaster ride for Frattin. Next fall, he’ll look to shake off an injury affected regular season and build off of his strong, if unlucky, playoff performance.
Plays of the Year:
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