Colin Fraser is determined to keep the puck in the corner.
Colin Fraser, at twenty-six years old, has now played 229 games (or 2,346 minutes) of NHL hockey, most of which has come in the last three seasons. He's in the prime of his career and has had an opportunity to show his stuff on the biggest stage in the game. In other words, we should have a pretty good idea of what Colin Fraser brings to a hockey team. And in general, what the man brings is a whole lot of nothing... at both ends of the ice.
Fraser had his worst offensive season in 2010-11, scoring just five points in his sixty-seven games, which is twelve fewer than his previous low. But with an EV +/- rating of -4, it's not like the other guys were scoring a whole lot either. Bruce called Fraser a "low-event player", a claim that I always find somewhat dubious, but after looking into a bit, it seems that Fraser's "low-event" play might just be sustainable. In Derek's March scoring chances update, no player had fewer total scoring chances per sixty minutes (both for and against) than Fraser. So I looked at his on-ice shot rates (per sixty minutes) during his three full seasons in the NHL and compared him to his teammates:
There would seem to be a pretty consistent pattern: when Colin Fraser is on the ice, less is happening. Now, this could be for any number of reasons. Maybe Fraser takes a higher percentage of neutral zone draws than his teammates. Or maybe he's taking on inferior competition. Or maybe he has a disproportionate amount of ice time at the end of blowouts when both teams are just running out the clock. But if it's a skill, then it's a really interesting talent.
This result mixes well with my impression of Fraser's strengths. Fraser's not an intimidating player, but he does have an excellent stick, and is also quite adept at blocking shots, both skills that would suppress shot rates. He also isn't particularly aggressive offensively, preferring the dump-and-chase to making a move one-on-one nine times out of ten, which would again suppress shots while he's on the ice. This careful positional game may well have value in a fourth line role, which is exactly where the Oilers have this player slotted for at least one more year. If he can work hard to improve on the PK and bounce back in the dot, he may well be able to fill that fourth line center role rather well.
Projection: Fifty to sixty games on the Oilers' fourth line, fifteen points or less, a single-digit minus, and one of the lowest on-ice shot rates on the team.