So what's the mindset of a goalie prospect just drafted by the one team that certainly won't be mired in any controversy between the pipes for the foreseeable future?
Quite simply, he meticulously checks off the challenges presented him each day until finally earning his shot. That's the scenario painted for Minnesota-born goalie Jeff Frazee. Sure, he'll never forget the moment he was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the second round (No. 38) of the 2005 Entry Draft. At the same time, he understands his place within the organization while working toward a roster spot as the possible backup to future Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur.
"The thing is, I don't look to the future, but just want to focus on right now," Frazee said. "I want to keep getting better every day. That's my focus and I'll take it from there."
Let's face it, Brodeur has started at least 70 games in 10 of the last 11 seasons -- he made 67 appearances in 1996-97 -- and just seems to get better with age. He's taken the club to the playoffs in all but one season (1995-96) during his 15-year career, holds more than 30 franchise records and has raised three Stanley Cups. So long as he can skate, he is assured to be the starter.
"When I first got drafted, I was just happy to be drafted," Frazee told NHL.com. "It was always a dream of mine growing up. Marty is a great goalie and a guy I have always admired. He's going to be in the Hall of Fame one day. I just have to do what I can to improve every day. I'm just going to take hockey as far as I possibly can. I love the game, the atmosphere, the people and being competitive on this level."
Frazee, 21, was one of two goalie prospects for the Devils participating in the team's conditioning camp at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., in July.
"We tell all our young goalies one thing and that's to just play well," said Dave Conti, the Devils' director of scouting. "Clearly, the blue-chip stock of hockey players has been Martin Brodeur. He's a player you can count on every season, and how could you not appreciate the fact he gets better and better? But the fact is we still need to have more than one goalie and Jeff is a very gifted and talented young man. The thing is, when given an opportunity, you're always at square one and he's done a nice job showcasing his ability. His work ethic is impeccable."
Frazee is expected to open the 2008-09 season with the Lowell Devils of the American Hockey League. There, he'll likely split time with New Jersey's other prospect, 26-year-old Dave Caruso, and 31-year-old veteran Scott Clemmensen, who was signed to a one-year contract with the Devils in July and could serve as a mentor to Frazee.
Frazee, who spent three seasons at the University of Minnesota where he posted a 26-13-3 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and .901 save percentage, played the 2004-05 season with the Under-18 National Team Developmental Program. In 32 appearances last season, he was 22-7 with five shutouts while establishing single-season records with a 2.29 GAA and .927 save percentage. He also backstopped the U.S. National team to gold medal-winning performances at the Five Nations Tournament, the Four Nations Tournament and the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World U-18 Championship.
"The thing is, when given an opportunity, you're always at square one and he's done a nice job showcasing his ability. His work ethic is impeccable."
-- Dave Conti, Devils scouting director
In 2007, he went 4-1 with a 1.72 GAA and .939 save percentage in a bronze-medal winning effort for Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden. His 1.72 GAA, in fact, was third best in the tournament behind Canada's Carey Price (1.14) and Russia's Semen Varlamov (1.51). As a member of the NTDP for two seasons, Frazee also traveled to competitions in Canada, the Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia and Belarus.
"Playing for the National Team was quite an honor, and I was very privileged to get that opportunity and made the best of it," Frazee said. "You're seeing a lot of action because you're the underdog more times than not. At the University of Minnesota, I probably didn't do some of the things I should have done, and didn't have the success I wanted there, but I got time to grow and learned some valuable lessons.
"It's different for kids in the United States as compared to those in Canada. In Canada, players are competing in major-juniors, where you're seeing 70 to 80 games a year. Players from the U.S. in college are seeing 40 games and in high school, 30 games. I was lucky to play with the NTDP and see 60 games. But really, the biggest challenge is staying mentally ready for a full season and just getting used to the long seasons on a professional level."
At the end of the 2007-08 season, Frazee joined Lowell and actually earned a start in a 4-1 defeat to the Worcester Sharks on April 12, stopping 22 shots.
As a freshman and sophomore in high school, Frazee played for Minnesota prep power Academy of Holy Angels. He went 6-0 as a freshman en route to a Minnesota state title, and finished 16-1-1 as a sophomore, with a miniscule 0.98 GAA.
It was at Holy Angels Academy where Frazee first made a name for himself.
"My high school team played against Shattuck-St. Mary's (Minn.) when they had Sidney Crosby (in 2002-03) and, well, I don't mind bragging about this a bit, but he did have a couple of breakaways on me and didn't score that game," Frazee said with a smirk. "On his second breakaway, he had put his arms up thinking he had scored, but it hit my glove and sat on my goalie pad. We lost the game, 4-3, but I suppose that's my claim to fame right now."
Frazee is now hopeful he'll one day have an opportunity to stake a new claim as a full-time professional.
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.