Photo courtesy of chicagoblackhawks.com
Chicago, Ill.- Colin Fraser should have been frustrated in the postseason for the Chicago Blackhawks. After playing in 81 of 82 regular season games during his first full campaign in the National Hockey League, the former IceHogs’ center appeared in just one playoff contest entering Game Five of the Western Conference Finals.
Arguably one of the Unsung Heroes for the Blackhawks in 2008-09 and all of sudden he couldn’t crack the lineup in the playoffs.
“Obviously everyone wants to play,” said Fraser during the Vancouver series. “We have a lot depth and a lot of good players. I’ll get my chance sooner or later and play well when I get it.”
That chance did come in Game Five against the Detroit Wings in the Western Conference Finals. And play well Fraser did!
In a do or die game, Fraser was a stand out for Chicago in that Game Five. Unfortunately the Hawks came up a goal short in a 2-1 overtime loss ending their season. In his first game in over a month, Fraser was denied on three solid scoring chances by Chris Osgood and provided a physical presence and a spark for Chicago after the team was blown out in Game Four 6-1 at the United Center.
The fact that Fraser could have felt slighted about not being able to suit up and play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was pretty telling how far the Sicamous, British Columbia native had come in a season. One season ago Fraser and the IceHogs were knocked out of the West Division Finals in the Calder Cup Playoffs and now he was competing for hockey’s top prize.
“Everybody wants to make the NHL of course,” said Fraser. “Heading into this past camp, I didn’t know what was going to happen. (Chicago) had a couple of spots open but obviously there was a lot of guys battling for those spots. I was fortunate enough to make it out of camp and stick around.”
After playing in just six NHL games during his first four professional seasons, Fraser not only made the Blackhawks, but he never returned to the minors. In his 81 games, Fraser racked up 6g-11a-17pts with a plus/minus rating of +3 while centering Chicago’s fourth line.
Fraser had to play 220 career American Hockey League games, including 75 with Rockford, before finally getting a legitimate opportunity in the NHL. Prior to 2008-09, he played six NHL games including five in 2007-08.
“My work’s not done,” said Fraser. “You got to keep playing well to stick around for a long time.
“I think every team is like that really. The depth (here) is unbelievable. There is a lot of good players in Rockford. You’re kind of fighting for your life all the time to stick around and stay up here and stay on top. Your work never ends. You have to do your work over the summer and the same thing for next camp.”
Prior to this past season, Fraser was one of those players trying to bump someone out of a job in Chicago. Fraser spent his fourth AHL season with Rockford is ’07-08 and he put up career numbers with 17 goals and 41 points.
Fraser established himself as a hard working second or third line center at the AHL level who killed penalties. He was also named Rockford’s “Unsung Hero” for 2007-08.
The center believes that his journey through Chicago’s farm system has benefited him even though it took him four seasons to reach his goal which is a full time player in the NHL.
“I played in Norfolk before Rockford and even with some of the older guys here, (Brent) Seabrook and Ducan Keith, (Troy) Brouwer, lots of guys,” said Fraser. “It makes it easier coming in when you know a lot of guys that you’ve played with before and you already have the friendships. You’re not a stranger coming in. It goes to show the good players that have come through Norfolk and Rockford and the treat that the fans get to see future NHLers.”
Just like at the end of last season, Fraser’s contract situation is up in the air as he is a restricted free agent once again this summer.