We took a bit of an extended break, but from now until the draft we'll be counting down the top 20 prospects in the Dallas Stars organization. We continue today with #12, Matt Fraser
Left Wing / Texas Stars
Hometown: Red Deer, AB
|Kootenay Ice - 2008-2009||63
|Kootenay Ice - 2009-2010||65
|Kootenay Ice - 2010-2011
|Texas Stars - 2011-12
The story goes that Matt Fraser was in a Quiznos the day he heard from his agent about the Dallas Stars [ESPN Dallas]. He did not hear his name called in the NHL Entry Draft after some lackluster seasons in Canadian Junior play and had only just embarked upon a season that would see his numbers, and his stock jump significantly.
The Dallas Stars, in November of 2010 before it was apparent to everyone else how big of a step he was taking, signed him to an entry-level contract. The scouting report at the time read that he was a goal scorer with holes in his game - A reputation he's still trying to shake today.
Goal scoring came as they expected it to. Fraser starred in the WHL playoffs and Memorial Cup. He starred in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. He scored 37 goals in his first season with the Texas Stars, earning an All-Star Game invitation and finishing second in rookie scoring and second in overall goal scoring.
His NHL dream became a reality on January 24th in Dallas against the Ducks when he made his debut, though played just four minutes, recording one shot on goal on a good scoring chance and no points.
Fraser knows that to keep his dream, once seemingly dead, alive moving forward he must develop a well rounded game and do so quickly.
"The guys who are so good at this level can do so many things well," Fraser told media in January during his Dallas call-up. "It's usually the small things like attention to detail in the defensive zone. Being a young guy that's been thrown into it, that's something I try to improve on everyday, and so far I feel I've gotten better at it."
"I think he's learned about the pace of the game," Texas Stars GM Scott White told ESPN after the season. "I think he's learned about the defensive detail of the game that's going to make him a legitimate two-way player in the NHL."
Whether or not he'll get that chance remains to be seen. He just turned 22 years old. He has the size, and he has an NHL shot. One doesn't score 37 goals in the AHL on accident. Brandon and I had a chance to watch him in Austin last season and his release is something else if he's given the puck in the right spot.
The question is that defensive side of the game that he, Scott White, and everyone else speaks of when his name is mentioned - And the question is what the needs of the Stars will be when training camp opens in September (or whenever).
The obvious mark against him in this regard is defensive play. That was a problem for the entire Stars squad this season. The rookie did make huge strides in the back half of the season. At the end of December, he was at minus-11 but finished the season at minus-13 and even had a plus-6 month of March.
If the free agent class is as thin and unfruitful as we've detailed it to be here in this space, the Stars could enter training camp with a real need for offense, or at least an open competition for spots. Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, Tomas Vincour, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith - They could all be auditioning for prime offensive minutes if the roster remains largely unchanged in this area, and Fraser could get his chance to show that he can take the next step, less then two years after he was undrafted and in the WHL.
If he continues his development curb, at the very least he should be at or near the top of the list for call-ups this coming season, depending on the nature of Glen Gulutzan's need and the injuries that occur. Either way Fraser will find himself with opportunity in the coming months. If he grasps it and impresses, it will continue a pretty cool story of a guy who seemingly came out of nowhere last year.