A main story line throughout Toronto Maple Leafs training camp this
season was whether Nazem Kadri or Matt Frattin would make the opening night roster. It was obvious that there was only one spot available as a third line winger, so the two prospects were seemingly in a dog fight for that position.
With the 21 year old Kadri having a great start to the camp the position seemed his to lose. However a strong finish by the 23 year old Frattin (as well as a knee injury to Kadri) gave the former Hobey Baker finalist a spot on the team. Frattin was the apple in every Leaf fans eye, the anti-Kadri. With both the press and the fanbase raving about Frattin’s hard and accurate shot, as well as his strong two way play the stage was set for a productive rookie campaign. I mean as people claimed Frattin was NHL ready a polished, mature prospect. Some geniuses speculated on Calder possibilities.
Still Looking For The Elusive First
Currently through the first fifteen games of the season the “mature” Frattin has o goals, 1 assist and is a -5 for the Leafs. In three games this season Kadri also has one assist while being an even in the plus/minus category. What stands out to me in regards to Frattin, is the free ride he has received in Toronto. If Kadri had one point through fifteen games the talk radio stations, and the print media would be discussing it relentlessly. The turnovers at the oppositions blue line (Kadri’s main flaw apparently) are a staple of Frattin’s game, and yet there fails to be endless in game replays illustrating the mistakes.
The common theme around town is that Frattin is playing really well, but just can’t get that first one. Having watched every second of every game, I’ll admit to not having seen these great chances. Actually I’m wrong, I have seen two glorious chances from Frattin in the last couple of games. Following Tyler Bozak’s opening goal on Saturday night against the Senators, Frattin whiffed on a wide open net. Should Frattin have capitalized the Leafs would have taken a commanding 2-0 lead on a tired and struggling Sens squad. Instead the Sens stuck around and ultimately won the game by a goal (the final score was inflated by two empty netters). Last night following Phil Kessel’s tying goal, the building was buzzing, the Coyotes were reeling and Frattin was in on a clean break. As Leaf fans have seen this season, quick strike goals have a way of deflating a bench. Frattin could have theoretically won the game for the buds yesterday, instead he heeled the shot and didn’t even hit the net. Two great, game changing chances, desperately needed on a team lacking secondary scoring wasted. Should the lightning rod that is Nazem Kadri have missed those two chances people would be at his door with pitchforks and torches.
Frattin is struggling, he is an older prospect who was completely off the radar until a big final college season. Like most Leaf fans I become infatuated with the possibilities of prospects. I project them into lineups and imagine them becoming productive players. With Frattin though I’ve never been sold. When I see him play I’m eerily reminded of this guy:
Lee Stempniak like Frattin was a strong on his skates winger, who packed a heavy shot. Like Frattin though, Stempniak always left me wanting more. Hopefully the young player proves me wrong and becomes a solid contributor, but should his poor play continue the free ride he’s been enjoying will most certainly end soon.