CAMBRIDGE, MA - Player and head coach, reunited again.
The Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger on their eighth trade since October 21, today. This transaction sent Cameron Abney, who was playing in the ECHL with Bakersfield, and Teemu Hartikainen, a prospect in the KHL, to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for big defenceman Mark Fraser.
Fraser was floored by the news, but loves the potential for individual success with his new employer.
“It was a little surprising and shocking and definitely excitement,” he said. “I was very fortunate to play in a market like Toronto and a Canadian market. I’m just happy that I get to stay in Canada and play for another organization that has incredibly passionate fans. Obviously it’s a team with a coach that I’ve played with before and have had success with and those few (former) teammates as well.”
Fraser played for Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL from the 2011 to 2013 seasons.
Being reunited with his former bench boss was of great comfort to the Oilers newest defenceman.
“I am very excited. I think that was definitely one of the most positive parts for me is that I’ll get to play for a coach who I’ve shared a lot of great experiences with just only a couple of years ago. I often credit Dallas a lot, he was very instrumental in turning me around at a low point in my career when the Toronto Marlies acquired me and Dallas, almost single-handedly, re-instilled the confidence back in me. He helped me play the way I thought I could play and get back to where I’ve (been).”
Fraser continues to credit Eakins for helping in his development.
“A lot of it for me was he just put the confidence back in my game that was lacking when I arrived. He completely believed in me and the biggest thing was it’s pretty good to have superiors who believe in you and are willing to give you the opportunity to succeed. I often describe Dallas as a player’s coach, but a stern coach because he demands the best out of everyone. His style may be criticized but I compliment it because his intentions are to try to make the young men around him better young men, on and off the ice. Better people, better husbands and fathers and better teammates and players as well.
Fraser fights Shawn Thornton during the playoffs last season (Photo by Getty Images)
“A lot of that, he observed in his career. He had a 16-year career and I think 14 different contracts. Talk about a player who understood that everything he had to earn, he had to scratch claw for it. I think I was at a point very similar in my career. He was able to recognize that I was willing to put in the work to succeed… He rewarded me.”
For Fraser, moving to Edmonton means opportunity. It is something he hasn’t had a lot of this season, playing just 19 games for the Maple Leafs. He hopes to shift right into the lineup for the Oilers.
“For the most part, I had a lot of success last year with the Maple Leafs,” he said. “Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case this year. Basically, I’m at the point where I’m just looking for an opportunity just to play. I’m feeling confident and I think, and the Edmonton Oilers staff is as well, that I have something that perhaps may be missing. There’s a lot of fantastic, great tools on that team right now and hopefully I’ll be able to get a chance to just showcase what I can do and just help them to play in that physical defensive role and have the opportunity to bring some leadership as well.”
On the other side of the spectrum, the Oilers are hoping Fraser adds something to the roster that was missing on the backend; meanness.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of moving pieces going forward,” Eakins said. “When his name came up, it was certainly an element on our backend that we don’t have. Mark is a very kind hearted guy off the ice, but when he steps on the ice he is mean. I thought, not only I but our organization, that on our backend we wanted to add a little bit more of a growl back there and Mark will be able to do that. He understands where he’s at, he’s going to have to come in here, audition through the end of the year and see where this goes.”
Fraser added, “I’m just your typical physical, stay-at-home defenceman. I guess most of my success comes from my size and just my aggression and my physicality as well. I’ll bring that to the table… The defensive side of my game is probably the best. I’m just a physical player who likes to make things difficult for his opponents. Given the opportunity, I’m more than willing to stick up for my opponents.”
Fraser is 27 and stands at 6-4 and 220 pounds. He hopes to bring the mean for the Oilers and help contribute to what the team is building for the future.