Monday, November 12, 2012

Where Will Matt Frattin Play?

Matt Frattin Leafs
Matt Frattin is too good for the AHL.

He has 24 goals in 36 career AHL games, which includes 10 he scored in 13 playoff games.

With a disappointing 6-4-0-1 start and a scant 33 goals forward, the Toronto Marlies will be happy to add the winger to their lineup when he returns from injury, which could be as early as Friday.

Frattin was one of the brighter lights on a strong Marlies team last season, which gave Leafs Nation hope that he would soon help the Maple Leafs.

While Frattin has shown an ability to score at the AHL level, he was used primarily in a bottom six role with the big club, minus a few games played alongside Mikhail Grabovski after Randy Carlyle took over. 

Physically, Frattin has the making on a banging, crashing style forward that would be extremely valuable on the third line. And statistically, he should be able to excel in that role immediately. He scored 8 goals in 56 games, which prorates to about 11 over a full season. That's the amount a good third line winger scores.

But after his goal-scoring barrage in the AHL, perhaps his NHL ceiling is higher than that of a third line player.

What's concerning, aside from an inflated 20.6 AHL shooting percentage, is that Frattin broke into the NHL as a 24-year-old and the history of top six players breaking into the league that late does not inspire confidence. In fact, since the lockout, a total of 48 forwards have been rookies in their 24-year-old season and only seven have produced enough in at least one season to be considered top six players.

Those seven players are Rene Bourque, Alex Burrows, Viktor Stalberg, Dustin Penner, Ryane Clowe, David Desharnais, and Mikhail Grabovski.

Here is a look at the points per game those players compiled across different levels of hockey and how old they were when they hit 40 points in a single NHL season (which is what a second line winger will typically produce).

NHL rookie seasonCollegeECHLAHL (incl. playoffs)Age break 40 points
Rene Bourque0.440.64NA0.7227
Alex Burrows0.28NA0.830.5427
Viktor Stalberg0.350.72NA0.8326
Dustin Penner0.550.53NA0.8424
Ryane Clowe0.59NANA0.7426
David Desharnais0.51NA1.561.0125*
Mikhail Grabovski0.38NANA0.8727*
Matt Frattin0.270.77NA0.86?

*Both Desharnais and Grabovski are centres, which is a position that averages 50 points on the second line, so the age listed refers to the age in which they broke 50 points, not 40.

Compared to those other players, Frattin had the worst rookie season, only slightly below Alex Burrows, although his statistics across college and the AHL compare favourably. In fact, only Desharnais scored at a better rate in the AHL.

I should explicitly state that the select group of forwards above represent a best case scenario for Frattin and those are only 15 percent of forwards who were 24-year-old rookies. The vast majority of players who establish themselves as NHLers that late are either bottom six role players or are out of the NHL entirely within a few seasons.

Accordingly, whether Frattin can carve out a spot for himself in the top six long-term is a long shot. He does compare well to other late-blooming forwards who entered the league as 24-year-olds, but the Leafs own a crowded top six as it is and have a variety of non-bottom-six-type prospects (e.g., Nazem Kadri) looking for jobs as well. Even if Frattin has the ability to play in the top six, he might not get the opportunity.

Moreover, the group of forwards above did not first hit the 40-point mark until age 26, on average. So I think Frattin, in his 25-year-old season, ultimately ends up on the third line this year (yes, provided there is an NHL season). He will likely be flanked by Nikolai Kulemin, Toronto’s most defensively responsible winger. The 30 goals Kulemin scored in 2010-11 might be a high-water mark, but he’s still an effective hockey player that should net more than the measly seven he did last season.  Combining these two wingers would make for a very physical third line, one that the Leafs have desperately needed for many years.

Regardless of where he plays in the NHL, Matt Frattin has proved he no longer belongs in the AHL. And with a flash of NHL success already on his resume, he has done more than what most fourth round picks ever do. The question now isn't whether Matt Frattin is an NHLer. It is whether he can make the difficult leap from the checking line to the scoring line.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

3 goals in 2 games back. Not too shabby.

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