|Andrew Fritsch, RW, Owen Sound Attack|
Draft Eligible Fritsch Enjoys Breakout Season with Attack
By: JEFF BLAY
Article Courtesy TrueHockey.com
Article Courtesy TrueHockey.com
OWEN SOUND - Owen Sound Attack forward Andrew Fritsch grew up in a family that wasn’t too experienced as far as hockey goes, but that didn’t stop the now 17-year-old right-winger from paving his own path into the sport.
“No one in my family really played hockey,” explained the Brantford, Ont. native. “We watched it a lot, and that got me right into the mini-sticks, and that’s when I knew I wanted to play so my parents signed me up for house league and I eventually worked my way up to triple A.
“On of my coaches, Greg Mann, helped me out a lot with my game and development in Brantford; he coached me for most of my life and helped get me started in my hockey career.”
An impressive tenure with the triple A Brantford 99ers caught the eye of former Niagara IceDogs general manager, Dave Brown, who drafted the ’93-born player in the third round (57th overall) of the 2009 OHL Priority Selection.
Now playing with the Owen Sound, Fritsch has earned himself the 96th spot among North American skaters in the 2011 NHL Central Scouting Midterm rankings.
“It felt really good to get recognized in the rankings,” he said. “When the first one came out with the top 20 I thought I could maybe sneak in there, but that obviously didn’t happen so I used that as motivation to step up my game and hopefully get ranked, so it’s good to know my hard work has paid off.”
Fritsch’s OHL career began with the IceDogs in 2009-10, where he played 62 games in his rookie season, posting 11 goals, 7 assists, 18 points and 13 penalty minutes. Although his ice time was limited to that of a third or fourth line player, Fritsch showed great potential as a solid two-way player with a knack for pure goal scoring.
After a successful start in the OHL, Fritsch dedicated his 2010 summer to putting on some size and improving his skating. Coming into the league, Fritsch was listed at 5.11’’, 165 pounds, and when he entered the IceDogs training camp as a sophomore in 2010, he was a solid 6.00’’, 187 pounds – a significant gain that reflects his work ethic and drive to improve has a player.
“Obviously gaining more size is something that helps any player improve, especially when you come closer to getting to the next level,” he explained. “But I also want to continue working on my first couple strides and gain some foot speed, while also working on the battles in the corners.”
Fritsch started the 2010-11 season playing two games with the IceDogs where he notched one goal, before being traded to the Owen Sound Attack for veteran forward Jason Wilson, who is a draft pick of the New York Rangers.
“I didn’t really want to leave Niagara when I found out I was being traded,” Fritsch commented. “But that’s just a part of hockey, and now I know it’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me for my career.
“I still miss the city and everyone back in Niagara, but hockey wise I’m very happy about the opportunity I have with Owen Sound.”
Upon his arrival in Owen Sound, Fritsch worked his way on to the first line where he now plays with two NHL draft picks, Joey Hishon (Colorado) and team captain Garrett Wilson (Florida).
“Getting an opportunity to play on a line with Hishon and Wilson has really helped me improve and I’ve learned a lot from them,” Fritsch said. “I don’t think I would have had that kind of opportunity in Niagara, so I think the trade worked out best for everyone.”
In 55 games with the Attack, Fritsch has posted 26 goals, 32 assists and 58 points (27 goals, 59 points including his goal in Niagara). To go along with the impressive point totals that place him third on team scoring, Fritsch has converted 10 power play goals while maintaining a +17 rating.
“One of my goals from the start was to get 20 goals this season, and I’ve accomplished that, so for the rest of the season I want to focus on my defensive game and keeping my plus/minus up,” he offered.
Known to his coaches and teammates and a pure finisher, Fritsch’s shoot-first mentality often pays off for him, but like the NHL greats he looks up to, having the ability to make a play is something he would like to continue modeling into his game.
“[Sidney] Crosby is my favourite player because he’s a great all-around guy, but I also like the way [Jarome] Iginla plays and how he gets a lot of shots on net,” he explained. “Getting pucks to the net and producing offense is something the coaches expect of me playing on the first line, and the more shots you get, the more chances you’re going to create.”
Although his family doesn’t have a major background in hockey, Fritsch recognizes that his battle to the big leagues wouldn’t be possible without them.
“I owe a lot to my parents for driving me to hockey and what not, and my grandparents for helping me out with equipment when I was younger,’ Fritsch said. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without their support.”
Although Fritsch is ranked to go in the later rounds, whichever team decides to go with him may find they have selected an underrated hidden gem with a promising future.