April 9, 2011
Leaf rookies get feet wetFrattin, Colborne make debuts in season finale
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Matt Frattin was described by one hockey man familiar with his play at the University of North Dakota as a poor man’s Phil Kessel.
Not to get carried away about one game after a crazy 24 hours for the young prospect, but you could see right away where that opinion comes from.
Frattin, a winger and Joe Colborne, a centre, were given the treat of making their NHL debuts in Game 82 Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre and to varying degrees they didn’t look out of place in a 4-1 loss to the Canadiens.
Both are likely to start next season with the Marlies, but at the least will add some competition to training camp.
As much as it was a rush for the players, in a meaningless game to end the season, it was a clever move by GM Brian Burke to offer the fans a sneak peak at the future.
Frattin, in particular looked every bit the offensive player, as billed. Again, it may be a while before they get to show it on a regular basis, but Frattin, who led the NCAA with 36 goals this season, seemed to have instant familiarity with linemates Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak.
“He’s a dog on the bone with the puck,” said coach Ron Wilson, who was clearly impressed with the debut. “Without ever having a practice, there seemed to be some chemistry with (Bozak and Kadri).”
It may take some more time for Colborne, especially given he needs to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame and get stronger. Playing on a high-octane line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, the former Bruins first-round pick looked nervous early but got an assist in the first period.
“Joe needs to get stronger, but he’s got a bright future I’m pretty positive,” Wilson said of the Bruins’ former first-round pick.
Give both some time with the Marlies and the coaching of Dallas Eakins and who knows how long it will be before they get their chance.
“It was definitely good impressions for us to have before the summer,” said Frattin, who had five shots on net, second only to Dion Phaneuf’s six for the Leafs. “I’m going to work hard in the off-season and come back flying.”
Kessel justifiably gets some heat for long scoring droughts but he finished the season on a nice run. His 32nd goal on Saturday extended his points streak to 10 games, the longest by a Leaf since Mats Sundin went 11 games in 2005-06. ... Wonder how Colborne will describe that assist on Kessel’s goal, which was essentially a short dumpoff leading to Kessel blowing by four Habs. “I’m going to be telling everyone how I went end to end then back door,” Colborne said with a laugh ... Have yet to see a bad goal faze James Reimer. Clearly the rookie should have had the first Habs shot to beat him but got stronger as the game went on ... Habs goalie Carey Price is on his game but you have to wonder if his sloppiness handling the puck will come back to bite him ... The Leafs had a dreadful night defensively with a seemingly never-ending series of odd-man rushes so that the 4-1 final was almost flattering ... Phaneuf acknowledged the Leafs lost much of their fight over the last two games: “We definitely had a letdown the last couple of games after that push,” Phaneuf said.
A word about the crazy travel day for Frattin, who had intended to be playing in the Frozen Four final Saturday night until his Fighting Sioux were eliminated by Michigan in a semifinal on Thursday at Saint Paul, Minn.
Because he didn’t have his Canadian passport, Frattin had to return to Grand Forks, N.D., with his teammates on Friday night, arriving at 2 a.m. He was at the airport at 5:30 a.m., caught a connecting flight back in Minny and finally arrived in Toronto around 1:30 p.m.
With his parents making the trip from Alberta and in the Air Canada Centre crowd, Frattin had to be exhausted yet still made an impact.
“The last three days were exhausting,” Frattin said. “But the adrenaline definitely took over.”
THE REST OF THE STORY
Phaneuf when asked about playing for Team Canada at the world championship later this month: “I’m going to think about it whenever I hear from them. I’ll see how my body is feeling but it would definitely be an honur to go.” ... Reimer is even more keen at the prospect: “I sure hope so,” about the possibility of being invited ... Freddie Sjostrom was one of the scratches to make room for the kids. As a UFA this summer, that may be his last night as a Leaf ... With Frattin in the lineup, the Leafs ended the season with six players that were drafted by the team. The others: Carl Gunnarsson, Nazem Kadri, Nik Kulemin, James Reimer and Luke Schenn ... A couple other prospects played their first games as a pro for the organization earlier on Saturday. Former Erie Otter Greg McKegg and Andrew Crescenzi of the Kitchener Rangers each suited up for the AHL Marlies in their 6-5 win over Rochester with Crescenzi earning an assist.