Tanner Fritz has taken a long road to the NHL, but all the hard work and effort will be worth it when he skates out onto the ice at Barclays Center on Tuesday night.
"I'm very excited, I've worked very hard to get to this position," Fritz said.
Fritz went undrafted after four years at Ohio State University and as recently was two years ago was playing for Missouri in the ECHL. The Grand Prairie, AB, native never gave up on his NHL dream, working his way onto the Islanders radar.
"A couple years ago I don't think I would've seen myself in this position but I kept working hard, working at my game, trying to get better each day," Fritz said. "I'm thankful I've gotten a couple good opportunities and I've taken advantage of those."
He turned a solid 2015-16 season in Missouri (10-23-33) into a PTO with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and eventually signed an AHL deal. After finishing fourth on the Sound Tigers in points (19-23-42) in 2016-17, he signed a two-way deal with the Islanders and is having a career year this season in Bridgeport, with 35 points (10G, 25A) in 29 games.
At the time of his recall, Fritz was tied for fourth in the AHL in scoring. He credits Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson with giving him the opportunity to reach his potential.
Video: Tanner Fritz Highlights
"Thommer really believes in me there, he's putting me in good situations to be successful," Fritz said. "The guys I'm playing with there, I give a lot of credit to them for helping me get here, so a lot of thanks to them."
Fritz was on a three-game point streak in the AHL before his call-up and Islanders Head Coach Doug Weight said he sees a lot of confidence in a player who is really hitting his stride at the moment. He'll skate alongside Brock Nelson and Shane Prince as Weight looks to inject some energy and offense into his third line.
"He's earned his trip up here," Weight said. "We need some swagger, we want him to bring his energy and bring his confidence. We've talked about the lack of confidence going through our third line and we need some guys to step up and hopefully Tanner can help us get some energy in that position."
Fritz's dad and brother caught a red-eye from Alberta to be at Tanner's debut and his fiancé will be there as well. He's excited to be able to share the moment with them.
"[Thompson] told me I was going up and I just had a weird jitter feeling in my stomach that I haven't had since I was a young kid," Fritz said. "It's an exciting time for me, but also my family."