During the Toronto Marlies’ playoff run that extended into June, Matt Frattin emerged as the premier goal scoring threat for the baby blue and white before a freak knee injury ended his post-season early.
Prior to tearing a ligament in his knee as a result of being taken down in a race to an empty net, Frattin was leading the charge for the upstart Marlies, showing new found leadership abilities to complement his increased offensive production. No doubt, missing the Edmonton native for the Calder Cup Final was a huge blow to the Marlies, as Frattin was clearly the team’s number one offensive threat at the time. The Marlies struggled to produce offense in the final series, eventually being swept at the hands of the Norfolk Admirals.
The question that emerges as Frattin continues his rehab this summer concerns whether or not he can translate his pre-injury production into an improvement at the NHL level this season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
During that unlikely run in the Calder Cup playoffs, Frattin racked up 10 goals and three assists for 13 points in as many games, which was a slight improvement over the 14 goals and four assists in 23 regular season games for the Marlies in 2012-2013. Frattin was a player on the rise, stepping up and leading his team when it needed him the most. He was beginning to show the goal scoring prowess that earned him a Hobey Baker nomination, as the most outstanding college hockey player after the 2010-2011 season.
Assuming he will be ready for training camp (should it begin on time) Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle will be looking for Frattin to build upon his successes last season, both with the Leafs and Marlies.
While with the Leafs during the 2012-2013 season, Frattin was slow to adjust to the NHL game and was used primarily in a third line role; his numbers reflected these facts. In 56 games for the Leafs, the 2007 fourth round pick tallied just eight goals and seven assists, far below his output at the minor league level. However, Frattin was counted on to score with the Marlies, playing in a top six role, which is where he should eventually play in the NHL.
Although he may not start there this season, Frattin’s combination of physicality, speed and quick release should see him find his way into a top-six role with the Maple Leafs within the next year or two.
What’s unlikely in the near future is that he would usurp either of Phil Kessel or Joffrey Lupul’s spots on the top line, which would conceivably leave him playing the right wing on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Mikhail Grabovski.
It’s made obvious by his statistical output is that Matt Frattin is a triggerman. He’s a shooter, and generally shooters need somebody to feed them the puck in positions from which they can score.
Grabovski possesses both the playmaking ability and speed to complement Frattin’s north/south game, while van Riemsdyk can provide size and a separate goal scoring option for the line to help vary the attack. This could be a potentially dangerous line, with size, speed and the ability to finish; a nice complement to the first line.
Of course, this would mean the demotion of Nikolai Kulemin to the third line and with the potential of Clarke MacArthur leaving as a free agent following this season, it would create a hole on the third line that would need to be filled, possibly by a young player.
Regardless of where he begins the season for the Maple Leafs, Frattin has shown he has the potential to become an impact top-six forward in the NHL. With a little experience and success at the NHL level, the young winger could be poised to make the jump sooner than later.
Should Frattin never realize that potential, he’s still a very effective third line player for the Maple Leafs, but this team has enough third line players. They need somebody to surprise them and outplay expectations. They need a couple. Matt Frattin could be one such player.