In his fourth full NHL season, Colin Fraser may have finally found his place in the league.
After being selected 69th overall by Philadelphia at the 2003 draft, he was already traded to Chicago before finishing his junior hockey career with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. And although the Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup in 2010, Fraser didn’t get into any playoff games after the first round that season. Then, soon after the parade down Michigan Avenue he found himself on the move again – this time to Edmonton.
“It’s kinda weird how it goes,” said Fraser. “I had a tough season last season. I didn’t feel like I played as well as I could have. (When I was) traded…I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know what was going to happen, especially with the amount of forwards we had here already. I knew it was going to be tough. But, once I got healthy, the Kings gave me a chance to play – which, obviously, is a good thing.”
Life is looking up now. He’s gone from not being sure he would be in the NHL this season to being nominated for the Masterton Trophy – awarded annually to a player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Given what he went though last summer, he’s certainly a worthy candidate. Thrust into a situation he never asked for, Fraser was the ‘other’ injured guy the Oilers sent to Los Angeles after the first one they offered in exchange for Ryan Smyth was rejected by the league. However, it was later revealed that Fraser was damaged goods too, resulting in a mini-war of words between management from the Kings and Oilers.
That’s all behind him now though. He’s been the anchor of the Kings fourth line and is on pace to double his career-high in hits. Yet, he claims he’s not even the guy doing the heavy lifting on a line that includes wingers Kyle Clifford and rookie Jordan Nolan.
“I think right from the first game (Nolan’s) been awesome,” Fraser remarked. “He’s really easy to play with. He’s a big, strong guy. He holds onto pucks down low. It’s hard to take the puck off of him because he’s so big and strong. He’s the first guy in on the forecheck and he’s physical. He’s just like Cliffy really. They’re very similar players, in my opinion. They’re both easy to play with because they do all the dirty work down low. I just stay high and they do all the tough stuff.”
After a little chuckle, he tried to clarify – “I’ll take care of the d-zone, then they can take care of the corners down low and do all the hard stuff. I’ll just reap the benefits from their hard work.”
Whatever the strategy, it seems to be working, as Kings coach Darryl Sutter has often praised their efforts in his post-game press conferences and recently he’s even given them some power-play time.
“Darryl likes to roll four lines,” Fraser explained. “If the third and fourth line is going, he kinda just lets us run with it. If we’re playing well, we get to play a lot. If we’re not rolling, we don’t play as much – which I think is very fair. He’s a fair coach really…Everybody wants to score goals, obviously. But, I think we’ve been doing the little things to deserve the ice time.”
One of those little things he’s tried to help his young wingers with is keeping the lines of communication open.
“I think we know what we expect from each other and what we want to do. We talk before every game about the things we want to do, where each of us should be and shouldn’t be. Our role is pretty simple – to be physical, to provide energy and to play in the o-zone as much as we can. We don’t try to complicate it and just keep it simple.”
Perhaps that’s why Sutter has been so impressed with them. He often remarks about the importance of keeping the game of hockey simple. It’s a message that appears to be getting through to Fraser and maybe has even helped him throughout the season.
“I just try to work hard, play my best and hope for the best,” he said. “It’s all worked out well. It was a tough thing to go through. But, at the same time, I’m think I’m way better off now.”
Yes he is – because of his own hard work.