#4 - Frank Vatrano - F
Where did he come from? Undrafted free agent, 2015
Has he played in the NHL? Yes - 89 NHL games, 19 goals, 11 assists
“Shoot your shot” may be a pretty funny Twitter meme, but for Frank Vatrano, it’s more like a religion.
Frankie V has never seen a shot he didn’t like. From his first game in the NHL, he was firing the puck with a willingness not usually seen in younger players.
Vatrano was a diamond-in-the-rough signing for the Bruins, as the kid who grew up playing hockey in the Bruins’ backyard went undrafted, in spite of decent success as a youngster and a good career at UMass Amherst.
When he was signed in March of 2015, the Bruins probably weren’t expecting him to make an immediate impact. However, he reported to the P-Bruins and promptly scored 10 goals in 10 games. His NHL debut came the following November, when he scored his memorable first career goal in Montreal:
Vatrano has been a scoring machine since joining the Bruins organization. His 19 NHL goals are impressive for a young player, but it’s his production in the AHL that has Bruins fans and brass excited about his future: he’s scored 48 goals in 48 AHL games, along with adding 21 assists.
Vatrano got off to a rough start to this past season, missing significant time due to a foot injury. He looked a bit off for parts of the year, undoubtedly due to rust and lingering effects from that injury.
As for why he’s so high on this list, it’s mainly because he seems like he just has a knack for putting the puck in the net. His speed is an underrated asset, and his shot is world-class.
Vatrano gets a lot of zip behind the puck for a smaller guy, often surprising goalies with the amount of steam he gets on his shots.
It’s possible that Vatrano surprised goalies in his first few NHL stints, and that the scouting reports will catch up; however, his shot is good enough that he should be able to keep putting the puck in the net.
What does the future hold for Frank Vatrano?
He should be starting the season in the NHL, barring an injury or truly terrible training camp.
However, his spot in the lineup may not be as automatic as it seemed before last season. He’s one of a number of young wings who will be looking for playing time, and Bruce Cassidy would be wise to use that playing time as a motivational tool to get the most out of his guys.
Vatrano benefits from being a left wing, when many of the guys chasing his spot are on the right. However, with guys like Jake DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Anders Bjork nipping at his heels, Vatrano would be wise to get off to a hot start to ensure that his place in the lineup remains secure.
If he ends up playing a few games in the AHL, it won’t be a big deal. His future is with the big club, and Bruins fans are looking forward to seeing him translate those eye-popping AHL numbers into more NHL success.