While many would argue that Joe Colborne has a bigger upside than last year’s Hobey Baker finalist, in terms of the 2011-12 season, I think there’s a better chance that Frattin, the 6’1, 206-lb winger from Edmonton, plays more NHL games than Colborne this season. While it remains to be seen how well Frattin’s success in the NCAA translates into NHL success (see: Tyler Bozak), after a 36-goal, 60-point campaign in his senior year of a tumultuous career at North Dakota, Frattin looks like he’s about as ready as he’ll ever be.
In truth, Frattin may have one of the best shots of making the Leafs out of camp of any Leaf prospect. Unless Nazem Kadri truly impresses and earns a shot on the top line with Tim Connolly and Phil Kessel, that position will be held by Joffrey Lupul, leaving the only available roster slot on the wing opposite Colby Armstrong and Tyler Bozak. It’s no secret Burke likes to have a clear-cut distinction between his scoring lines and his checking lines, and given Frattin’s propensity for playing the body, he would make a better fit on the third line than Kadri and his flashy hands. At the same time, Kadri is probably a more talented offensive player who could benefit by adding to his defensive repertoire through playing with Bozak and Armstrong, so it ultimately depends on who has the better training camp.
Either way, Frattin is a hell of a hockey player, and I can’t wait to see him in the lineup. He’s one of the few guys that I can honestly say I’ve followed all the way through his college career, as college prospects tend to get lost and/or forgotten sometimes while they’re off at school. His off-ice struggles have been well-documented, but I think one of the most impressive things about Frattin was the fact that rather than bolting for the NHL when things got difficult, he stuck it out, both for his teammates and himself, and finished his collegiate career with an incredible season that should have won him the Hobey Baker Award.
With more size, a strong skating stride and an impressive shot, Frattin may be in a better position to succeed than Bozak was when he made the jump to the NHL, but it still may be even more beneficial for a player that may develop into a true power forward, to spend some time in a checking role before being forced into a pressure situation where he’s expected to produce at a high offensive level. If he doesn’t make the Leafs out of camp, he will be expected to be one of the Marlies’ top players. If he makes the team out of camp, he could have the potential to stay clear of the AHL for good, if he doesn’t I’d still expect him to get at least 1 or 2 extended looks over the course of the season.