He was selected by the Red Deer Rebels in the ninth round of the 2005 WHL bantam draft, and despite being traded to the Kootenay Ice as a 17-year-old and developing into an effective power forward with a scoring touch, he was overlooked in the NHL entry draft.
No matter. Red Deer minor hockey product Matt Fraser signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Stars in 2010 and scored his first NHL goal Monday in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators.
Fraser knew when he was promoted from the Texas Stars — the AHL affiliate of Dallas — that he might not even get into a game with the big club, but was determined to show the NHL Stars coaching staff that he had become a defensively-responsible player.
“I know the knock of me last year was my defensive game and I really feel like that was one of the reasons I wasn’t invited to camp,” Fraser told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. “That’s one of the things I have worked on improving.
“I think I’ve almost gotten to the point where I am more aware of what’s going on in the defensive zone to the point where I don’t cheat so much offensively. I think that makes me more reliable on the ice, and that’s a credit to our coaches. But when it comes down to that, only I can control that and only I can make a difference.”
Fraser, who has already proven himself as an AHL scorer — he leads the Texas Stars with 24 goals and 35 points — and represented the Western Conference in the recent AHL all-star game, was sent back to the minor league squad Thursday.
Still, he got into his second-ever NHL regular-season game — he played one game, versus Anaheim, last year — while skating on Dallas’ second line.
“When you look at Matt he’s not your typical fourth-line player, the chip-it-in guy,” said Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan. “He’s got a skill set, he’s scored a lot goals at the minor league level, and when you bring these kids up you want to put them in a position that suits them and gives them a chance to show off their skill set.”
It’s safe to suggest that Fraser will get another call from Dallas this season.
l Led by captain and Red Deer native Justin Feser, the Tri-City Americans extended their winning streak to six games Tuesday by knocking off the visiting Portland Winterhawks 4-2.
Feser scored the Americans’ first goal — and the first of four unanswered — on a night he also stepped into the WHL history books by appearing in his 311th consecutive WHL game and tying the record set by Dwayne Newman, who played with the Victoria Cougars and Brandon Wheat Kings in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“It feels good,” Feser, who will set the new mark of 312 tonight when the Americans host the Seattle Thunderbirds, told Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald. “I don’t know how to describe this one. It’s not something I would picture myself accomplishing or look to do in my career. I’m thankful for the opportunity the organization has given me. I’ve just tried to make the most of it.”
l The Brandon Wheat Kings’ impressive 12-year streak of qualifying for the WHL playoffs was snapped Wednesday when rookie defenceman Brycen Martin scored in overtime to give the visiting Swift Current Broncos a 3-2 win.
The Wheat Kings were mathematically eliminated from the post-season race with the result, which was partially determined when the Broncos got first-period goals from Richard Nedomlel and Ryon Moser.
“I’m disappointed in the way we started in the first period,” Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk told Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun. “I thought that if we would have started the way we did in the second period, it would have been a different story.”
Eetu Laurikainen made 20 saves as the Broncos improved to 30-27-3-4 and maintained their hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference.