TORONTO– Being demoted to the American Hockey League can be discouraging for a rookie.
But Matt Frattin, after being sent down to the Toronto Marlies last Friday for the second time, isn’t about to hit the panic button on his up and down season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I think you gotta be mentally strong,” said Frattin about the reassignment. “It’s my first year of being a pro. There are some guys that have played five, six years in the minors that maybe never got a sniff of the NHL. Luckily I had the chance and hopefully I can get back up as soon as possible.”
His first stint with the Marlies came back on November 3rd and lasted three games, scoring twice and picking up an assist in the process.
His current time with the Leafs affiliate has him with just one assist in three games, however the University of North Dakota graduate thinks he can fix the scoring slump that transitioned over from the NHL.
“I think I just have to get back to playing my game, get physical and put pucks in the back of the net, said Frattin. “Shoot the puck. You can’t score if you don’t put the puck on the net. Start forcing the goalie to make the save.”
Even with Frattin’s production being minimal thus far, Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins says he isn’t worried about numbers, rather opportunities.
“Goals aren’t always the thing,” said Eakins. “He needs to be generating chances. If there are chances he’s doing his job. If there are no chances then he’s not doing much for us.”
On top of producing chances, like other prospects grooming with the Marlies, Eakins added there are other parts to Frattin’s game they are also working on.
“We need him to be a 200 foot player” said Eakins. “I want him to just drive his legs, play with pace and finish checks when they’re there.”
Looking for more output from the right-winger, Eakins is playing Frattin with centreman Joe Colborne and left-winger Nicolas Deschamps.
While Deschamps is as fresh to the Marlies as Frattin is, Frattin and Colborne are familiar with one another.
Colborne has scored with both the Marlies and the Leafs, including his first career NHL goal, from set-ups off the stick of Frattin.
“Every time we played together we found some chemistry and got pucks in the back of the net so I’m sure we’ll piece it together,” said Frattin about the opportunity to play with “Big Joe.”
Even if he does start scoring more goals and improving his play at both ends of the rink, Frattin knows that his spot with the Leafs has no guarantee and it could take anything to get him back up anytime soon, especially when you also consider the depth on both rosters.
“You never know, injuries are part of the game, maybe that’s the call,” he said. “But, there are other good players down here that have put in their time that could also be called up.”
With the title of being a prospect, Frattin has the luxury of being allowed to learn from a mistake and make it better for the future, just with the Marlies.
With the Leafs battling for a playoff spot, the Edmonton, Alta. native knows how important every play at the NHL level is.
“Every turnover could be an offensive chance for the other team and those are the mistakes you have to limit,” he said about what he learned from his time with the Leafs. “So many good players they make you pay for your mistakes.”
The AHL is a good place for Frattin right now. The Leafs had him playing fourth line minutes before sending him down, mostly even strength, while the Marlies give him a chance for top-line positioning and more time to play with the extra-man advantage.
Plus, some time working with Eakins won’t hurt either.
Frattin will see his next game action this Friday when the Marlies play their third straight road game against the host Rochester Americans.
His game plan, quite simple.
“Keep my head up and play to my potential.”