Oct. 22nd, 2013
TORONTO- Andrew MacWilliam is only five games into his first season with the Marlies. But the Maple Leafs’ organization already has an impression of what they expect him to be down the road.
“He’s going to be a future Mark Fraser,” said Marlies head coach Steve Spott. “He loves the physicality, shutdown role, killing penalties and blocking shots. He does a lot of dirty work”.
The Calgary, Alta. native is on a shutdown pairing with Korbinian Holzer and they are handling much of Toronto’s defensive-zone responsibilities, including the penalty kill. Spott has already made it clear that he is comfortable with the two on the ice in any situation and will ride them as long as he has them on his roster.
“(Holzer’s) been great, he and Andrew MacWilliam have done a real good job going against other teams top forwards,” said Spott.
Holzer, who’s very familiar with Fraser after spending parts of two seasons paired with him on the Marlies, agrees that MacWilliam shows a skill set similar to his former blue line partner.
“You can definitely say they have a similarity in their game,” said Holzer. “They are both very physical, tough to play against and hard on the body. I think they play a similar style, stay at home. Keep it simple.”
When Fraser was acquired by Toronto in Feb. 2012, he and Holzer quickly found harmony playing together. The two of them eventually became a big part of the Marlies run to the Calder Cup final. Holzer’s game improved alongside Fraser and much of the German’s success came from the durability Fraser gave him.
“I think with the connection I had with Fraser, it was a lot of fun playing with him,” said Holzer. “And it helps to have a (MacWilliam), when you play with that type of player you can find chemistry and it’s been great so far.”
MacWilliam, who is already 23-years-old, is one of three rookie defencemen on the Marlies alongside Stuart Percy and Petter Granberg. Each has taken a separate route to Toronto with MacWilliam’s being the longest at four years since being drafted. But the time he spent playing at the University of North Dakota puts him ahead of his 20-year-old teammates simply because of experience and maturity, which is why Spott named his an assistant captain.
“I think the path he took helped him a lot,” said Holzer “I think he’s different than the junior guys coming up because he’s older, a little bit more mature, knows his body.”
“I have life experience,” added MacWIlliam. “I’m still a rookie in the league and have lots to learn myself but I have some stuff to share.”
Fraser was a 3rd round selection of the New Jersey Devils in 2005 and was traded twice before resurging his career with the Marlies and solidifying a role with Randy Carlyle’s Leafs. MacWilliam is Toronto’s seventh round draft pick from 2008 and has taken his time to get to the AHL level. While Fraser is listed as an inch taller than the rookie at 6-foot-4, MacWilliam weighs in at 230-pounds, 10 pounds more than the veteran.
“(MacWilliam) is a man who plays like a man,” said Spott.
MacWilliam’s next game with the Marlies is Oct. 23rd when Toronto hosts the Rockford IceHogs.