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Initial NHL Stint Short Yet Sweet For Fraser

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Matt Fraser’s first stint with the Dallas Stars was a short one, but the 21-year-old forward made his NHL debut in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Anaheim, skating on the fourth line and seeing 3:57 of ice time and finishing with one shot.

The Red Deer, Alberta native has now returned to the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. Prior to being recalled from the AHL on Sunday, he had 35 points (21-14-35) in 40 games for the Stars’ top minor-league affiliate.

But as he heads back to Cedar Park, he does so with great memories of his short initial stint in the league. “It was a tight game,” Fraser said after the win over the Ducks. “They were pushing for a goal there. I was happy with how it went. I was obviously pretty excited, a little nervous.”

The rookie winger appeared incredibly poised after Tuesday’s morning skate, but he admits as he was making his way to American Airlines Center, the magnitude of what was about to happen finally dawned on him.

“Probably driving to the rink (was when it hit me). I was up in Frisco, so driving here (to the arena) I had a little bit of time to think about it,” Fraser said. “You dream of playing in the NHL. To get your first game out of the way, it was definitely exciting.”

He does admit that during warm-ups he was a bit star struck at seeing several of the big names who lace ‘em up for Anaheim.

“I think it might have been in warm-up when I looked over and saw Teemu Selanne flying around, (Saku) Koivu was out there, (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry. You see all those big-name players near you after you used to watch them on TV and now you’re on the same ice as them,” Fraser said.

As if making his debut wasn’t enough, he also got to share the experience with his parents, who caught an early morning flight on Tuesday from Canada in time to see their son skate against Anaheim in the Stars’ final game before the NHL All-Star break.

“Yeah, obviously it’s special. Just as much as this is my dream, it was theirs as well. They’ve given up a lot of their time and it was exciting to have them here,” Fraser said. “My sister wasn’t able to make it and I’ve got to thank her as well. She’s given up a lot of her time and sacrificed a lot of her recreational time for mine.”

Like every rookie, there were definitely some aspects of skating in an NHL game that were eye-opening. And even though this young talent didn’t log a ton of ice time in his debut, he still remembers noticing one pretty big difference compared to the AHL almost right away.

“To see how good they (NHL players) are and how well they play and how consistent they are is definitely an eye opener. Obviously the guys are bigger and faster up here than anything I’ve ever been accustomed to,” Fraser said. “Just the whole experience was pretty eye opening.”

Fellow winger Tomas Vincour was a teammate of his earlier this year in the AHL and also skated with him on the Stars’ fourth line on Tuesday and it’s safe to say he’s a big fan of what his young teammate can do.

“He’s a good player. He’s a good skater and he can score a goal,” Vincour said. “I’m really happy for him that he got his first NHL game and happy to be on the same line.”

Vincour was just one familiar face from his time in the Cedar Park who is now in Dallas. Fraser admits it was nice to see guys like Richard Bachman and Philip Larsen already with the Stars to help make his transition to the league a bit easier.

“Yeah, it was definitely nice,” he said. “Yesterday (Monday) at practice, I was sitting beside Bachs. It kind of calmed the nerves a little bit and it allowed me to kind of relax a little bit on the ice.”

Now Fraser heads back to the AHL with a nice boost of confidence from his first taste of life in the NHL, something he will likely carry forward into the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic, which will be held in a few days in Atlantic City, New Jersey.   

“To have Dallas show that confidence that they think I can play here or give me a taste of what it is, it’s definitely exciting. Hockey’s such a funny thing with confidence,” he said. “It can be such a fickle thing. It’s definitely going to help me on those days when hockey becomes a job. Thinking back on my first day in the NHL will be exciting.”

So, does he feel like he’ll be back in the NHL at some point this season?

“I really hope so,” Fraser said. “There’s a lot of good players in the Dallas system and I’m going to do everything I can to be back here.”

But as he heads back to the Texas Stars, where he will now be one of 10 members of that club’s roster with some NHL experience to their credit, a group which he considers it an honor to be part of.

“There’s not very many people that can say they played one game in the NHL. Yeah, it’s only one game but it’s a game you’ll never forget,” Fraser said. “To hopefully be on that list of call-ups is certainly something that I want to push for. It’s something that I’m working on every day to get better so they can trust me when I’m up here.”

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