This is obviously a hell of a lot easier to say in light of his performance Friday night, but I’m officially jumping on the the Frank Vatrano hype train and have no plans ducking off. Since making his NHL debut on November 7th in Montreal, the kid’s literally done everything asked of him and in my opinion has exceeded expectations in terms of productivity and overall effectiveness.
The first thing people notice when watching Frank Vatrano is his willingness to shoot from anywhere (ranks 7th on the team in 5 on 5 shots despite playing only 18 games). Go back and watch any of his games with both Boston and Providence and pay attention to his zone entries. In almost every clean entry he’ll immediately look to float to the soft area (both high and low) for a quick one timer. Check out both goals against Detroit for a great example of this. Adding to his in zone effectiveness is an exceptionally quick release and an ability to hit the net with a dangerous shot from any angle, forcing opposing goalies and defensemen to respect his movement. Obviously his play will become more nuanced as his career progresses, with the opportunity to get more minutes with higher caliber linemates, allowing him to be more selective with his shots. For the time being, he’s making the most out of every shift with a shoot first ask questions later mentality similar to that of the original gunslinger Brett Farve. We can only hope that Franky V. is slightly more adept with a cameraphone…
In addition to his offensive numbers Vatrano has also impressed with his defensive responsibility and workrate. For me, this has been the most impressive aspect of his game to date. Having seen young goalscorers crumble under the defensive expectations of Claude and his staff, I for one was skeptical when the call was made. Sure he scored 10 in 10 with Providence, but I had my questions surrounding his ability to fit into a tough two way system on a short leash. That said, through his first 18 games with the big club he’s earned Claude’s and (more importantly) my trust with his positional responsibility and situational poise. Unlike most young players who tend to get caught running around in their own zone, often drawn out of position chasing the puck, Vatrano seems to slow down and simplify his play in the d-zone. As a result, he is able to mitigate some of the defensive mistakes that have plagued the Bruins 3rd and 4th lines this season and focus on his specific responsibilities and winning those battles which he has done quite well. On top of that his work rate and positional discipline in transition has been exceptional, rarely taking the wrong lane on the backcheck.
While it may still be too early to tell how Frank Vatrano will pan out long term, his play to date is a perfect embodiment of everything positive about this team. He’s scrappy at times yet phenomenally poised at others. He seems to play with a chip on his shoulder and a genuine sense of pride and excitement to represent the team he supported growing up. It’s these very characteristic that lead me to believe we’ll see Frank Vatrano become a major contributor for this team for years to come.
As always get in touch with us on Twitter @bruinsextra or reach me directly @mccarey18