It’s not clear if Matt Fraser will get into a game right off the bat after being called up from the Texas Stars earlier this week, but there’s no doubt he deserves some consideration.
“Who has scored more goals in the American League over the past two years?” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said after Tuesday’s practice in McKinney.
Fraser has scored 61 goals in 124 games over the last two seasons for the Texas Stars. He ranked second in the AHL last season with 37 goals in 73 games, and he’s tied for fourth in the league with 24 in 51 games this season. Over the past two seasons, no one has scored more goals in the AHL than Fraser.
“He certainly earned his chance to get a try up here,” said Gulutzan. “Whether we get him in or not, we’ll make those decisions when they come. Certainly he is deserving of being here and he is a quality individual. We’re having success with young guys, and at some point he is going to get a chance.”
And that’s all Fraser is looking for – an opportunity.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Fraser, who has helped lead the Texas Stars to a league-high 68 points. “Things are going well for our team, and I am excited to be here and looking for the opportunity.”
When the opportunity comes, Fraser will have to fit into the Dallas lineup. It may not be that top six, big minute role he plays in Texas. And the goals may not come at the same pace they come in the AHL. He just need to look at the experiences of his former Texas and current Dallas teammate Reilly Smith, who went 15 NHL games (3 last season, 12 this season) before finding the back of the net.
“Obviously, there is a huge difference in the leagues. I’ve had some success down there, but it’s from the guys I have been playing with. You just can’t point the finger at me,” said Fraser. “For the guys up here, like Smitty, you talk to him a little bit and you know how much offensive awareness that guy has and you know he probably hasn’t found the back of the net as much as he has wanted, but he is starting to now. You’ve got to put yourself in a position to put the puck in the back of the net.”
Fraser’s worked hard on another part of his game this season, and that’s helping his team keep pucks out of its net. He admitted his defensive game was a weakness, and may have been a reason it took him a while to get a look at the NHL level this season.
“I know the knock on me last year was my defensive game, and I really feel like that was one of the reasons I wasn’t invited to camp. That’s one of the things I have worked on improving,” Fraser said. “I think I‘ve almost gotten to the point where I am more aware of what’s going on in defensive zone to the point where I don’t cheat so much offensively. I think that makes me a little more reliable on the ice, and that’s a credit to our coaches. But when it comes down to it, only I can control that and only I can make a difference.”
Gulutzan on Wandell assignment
Stars center Tom Wandell was sent to the Texas Stars on a conditioning assignment Monday. He’s been a healthy scratch the last nine games, and Stars coach Glen Gulutzan thinks the time in Cedar Park will be good for Wandell.
“I think it’s a great chance for Tommy to play some games and get some mojo in his game, because he’s worked his tail off here,” Gulutzan said. “We’ve liked what he has done the past two weeks. He hasn’t gotten in, he hasn’t complained an ounce. He’s worked his tail off in practice and off the ice. He’s been a great pro and he’s looked really good. I think some of that is going to translate in the American League, and when it does, you’ll get a more confident player when he comes back.”
Although Wandell has been assigned to Texas, he officially remains on the Dallas roster. The conditioning assignment is for up to two weeks, but he can be recalled before then.