OK, I'll admit it...I'm a homer. Big time when it comes to the local NHL franchise, and moreso with our Ohio born draftee, Danny Fritsche.
Two years ago, Danny was a big surprise coming out of camp and made the big club. He stuck around until it was time to join the US Junior team, which he helped win a gold medal in Finland. After returning, he went back to juniors, no point in hanging around Columbus since the Jackets had just made the coaching change, and the season was in "Salvage Some Pride" mode by mid-January.
Last season, he had another shoulder issue, but apparently unrelated to those before. He stared out in Sarnia, but was traded to the London Knights not long after he returned from his second stint with the US Junior team. While with London, he got valuable seasoning without worrying why he wasn't in the NHL. He won a Memorial Cup, and in the process was key in shutting down this Crosby guy (you may have heard of him) in the final, where he had a goal and two assists.
So, fast forward to this season, and it looks like Danny will be ready for Prime Time. He did a fine job in the rookie tournament in Traverse City, but came out of the tournament with a couple nagging injuries. Those kept him out of the first week of training camp, but he was finally cleared to skate last week. Just in time for a trip to Pittsburgh to make his case to stay in the NHL again.
OK, he's got another shot, this time in Detroit.
The flu ripped through the team, so the squads sent to both games were pretty thin. Nothing against Fritsche, but those were two tough games to make your preseason debut.
Finally, no more flu, a few more vets, and a home game in Columbus. David Vyborny gets out of the box about 6 minutes into the game, gets the puck, flips it over the defense and Fritsche is gone...red light is on a few moments later, and it's 1-0 good guys. The impressive thing about it, he pulled away from the defenseman as he got deeper in the zone. The kid has always played a no bull s**t type game, taking it at guys rather than around him, so the speed never really came into play or got noticed. It got noticed last night.
Later in the game he was out on a power play, and was the only guy on the weak side. He worked to the open space (hopefully Zherdev was paying attention at the time) and got a nice pass and a good shot off. Didn't score on that one (did later, didn't get to see it, though), but showed his just all around hockey sense. His play with the puck is great, but his play away from the puck was noteworthy. No floating at the blue line, no watching the point man, his feet never stopped moving and he got himself into open ice to receive a pass.
So, we finally get to see Danny on the ice in Columbus, and it appears he's grown up nicely while he was gone. I can't see how he won't make the team, and I can see him moving up the depth chart pretty quickly if he keeps playing like he did on Friday.