We've reached a point in the Countdown where background information on the player isn't required at the same level as before. The top 8 should all be pretty familiar to everyone reading these final profiles. The players that are left are all players that have been Maple Leafs at some point this season; they're either still with the club or back with the Marlies trying to push their way back to the big leagues.
So with only players left that have demonstrated that they are NHL calibre players, it's about separating actual ability from potential ability. Who of the players remaining has the highest potential ceiling as a player? Who has the highest chance of reaching their peak potential? Which players are young enough that they have time to cash in on that potential?
With those questions in mind, it may not come as a shock that Frattin occupies the #8 position in our countdown. Coming into this season, Frattin was one of just two players remaining to have never played in the NHL but is the third-oldest of our remaining players. Compared to the remaining forwards on this list Frattin also lacks the potential to be a top-end guy. I don't project Frattin ever being the type of guy that a team can count on as a top-six forward.
He projects more into the type of role he was being used in during his stay with the Maple Leafs; a two-way player who can provide an offensive spark when called upon.
Frattin is blessed with the physical tools to be an effective NHLer. He has the size, strength and skating to play in the NHL. And he certainly has the offensive skills to be successful; quality of competition aside, you don't score 36 goals in 44 games in the NCAA by accident.
What Frattin has struggled with in his first professional season is adjusting to playing against the very best defenders in the world where 9 times out of 10 having the speed to go around the outside of the defender simply isn't enough. Honestly Frattin's first stay with the Maple Leafs reminded me a little bit of Viktor Stalberg. Both players clearly had the physical tools to compete in the NHL (Frattin doesn't have that same top speed to whip past defenders that Stalberg did but Frattin is also more capable of playing the physical game) but just needed to figure out what was necessary to beat NHL defenders.
Shortly after the New Year, the Leafs assigned Frattin to the Toronto Marlies for a second time. His first trip was brief; he scored 3 points in three games and was recalled due to injuries. With the Maple Leaf forwards currently healthy and Frattin being one of the few not subject to waivers, he was a logical candidate for assignment. Being given an opportunity to play on one of the top lines, Frattin has six points in 9 games in his current stint in the AHL.
Watching him, you get the sense that this is a player just trying to put all of his talents together. At the AHL level, the first thing you notice is his speed; in a league populated by guys who have all the tools to be an NHLer except for footspeed, his ability to accelerate away from the other players gives him a real chance to succeed. Right now he's a player who just needs the confidence to know that he can beat goalies at this level; he's a player who can generate scoring opportunities for himself and others, but just can't find the back of the net with consistency at the moment.
The rankings reflected Frattin's position on the Top 25 list; The difference between his rankings (between 6 and 9) and those of #9 Jesse Blacker (between 9 and 12) show that there was a cut-off point, where one tier of players was separated from the rest. Frattin serves as our gatekeeper for the upper tier of Leaf players under the age of 25.
SkinnyFish offers up some thoughts on Frattin's future:
A fourth round pick of the Leafs in 2007, expectations for him should have never been all that high...and then he went bananas and became a Hobey Baker finalist. Suddenly the weight of the world was placed on his shoulders to be a player that frankly he is not, and part of that blame falls on Ron Wilson and Brian Burke. Instead of nipping the crazy expectations placed upon him in the bud, they gave him a spot on the Leafs right out of training camp when he really should have been spending a full season with the Marlies. Is Matt Frattin the 2nd line power forward extraordinaire he was labeled as supposedly being? No. What he is though is a hard-nosed tank of a player who'll have a home on the Leafs' grind line of the future;