Why does a guy with no goals in 16 games keep hold of his roster spot? You might have asked yourself the same question. Sure, Matt Frattin’s shooting percentage isn’t something he’d brag about, but he’s doing a lot of good things on the ice, things that coaches and GMs appreciate.
The first thing is, it’s too early to pinpoint Frattin’s NHL potential, even though he does look like your prototypical 3rd line player. Right now, that’s a good thing. Fact is, if you look at Nazem Kadri, your prototypical skilled prospect, most of the time he’s going to have a tougher time adjusting to the NHL game because of multiple factors.
His previous experience in juniors, where he dominated puck possesion and could beat multiple guys with relative ease, is one factor. The way he has to play to be effective is another. Kadri won’t be an impact player in the NHL by forechecking or playing defense, although like Kessel, those are things he will definitely improve upon. No, Kadri has to play a skilled game, a higher risk, high reward game to be the player we all expect him to be. At the moment (regardless of the possible call up), this style of play is exactly what is costing/cost him a roster spot.
On the other hand, Frattin keeps things simple, creates offense, plays hard on the forecheck, and generates shots, which is exactly what this team needs right now. They might not be going in at the moment, but the fact he’s getting shots off is really encouraging. To me, that’s the biggest thing. When you hear of the struggles of a player like Ovechkin, who has missed the net around 27 times and had 39 blocked shots last time I checked his ratio, you realize how hard getting shots on net is, especially in this league. If he keeps getting them on net, sooner or later, pucks are going to go in.
I understand some people’s tendency to view play from a tangible standpoint. It really is much easier to praise Lupul when you have 9 goals and 11 assists through 19 games backing you up. In the meantime,Â Frattin is -5 and has only one assist in 16 games played. Why on Earth would anyone think he’s playing well? However, if you really look at it, Frattin is very noticeable on the ice, especially given the fact this is his first NHL season. He’s constantly having to battle for a roster spot with Nazem Kadri while at the same time being pushed in and out (much like Kadri) by the ever hungry, ever demanding Leafs Nation. On top of that he’s playing a third line, mostly checking role. So, isn’t him playing a simple game while generating some offense exactly what the coaches want him to do?
Ok, want to talk stats? Fine. Frattin is getting 12:45 minutes of ice time per game (ranks him 18th on the team in that regard) which is 3 minutes and 4 seconds less than what Nikolai Kulemin is averaging at the moment. Kulemin is averaging 21.2 shifts per game, while Frattin is down to 16.5. In those 3 minutes and 5 shifts less, Frattin has exactly 5 (yes, just five) shots less than Nikolai Kulemin who is 6th on the team in shots taken (Frattin is 8th) despite Kulemin spending more time in the top six and with more talented players. Kulemin is -4 and Frattin is -5 so, really, noÂ significantÂ difference there. Frattin also featured in fewer games (3 games).
There is a reason behind the coaching staff’s decision to go with Matt Frattin instead of Nazem Kadri at the start of the season. Sure, the injury hindered Kadri, but at the same time Frattin is playing the kind of game that kept him with the big club, and the kind of game that is still keeping him with the big club. Goals or no goals, that’s by design.Â Of course, the big thing now is injuries, which should also help in cementing his roster spot, at least for the time being.Â The kid is playing hard, Leafs Nation always knew how to reward that, so why should Frattin be the exception?