Tanner Fritz is working to find his place in the National Hockey League. The Grande Prairie-born hockey player was both reassigned and recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Monday, after 16 games with the New York Islanders.
Fritz notched his first goal last week, and has seen more time on ice since he returned from injury mid-February. Speaking after scoring, he said he’s feeling more assured.
“I started off a little bit slow and almost hesitant when I was playing, but now I play with a little bit more confidence; just being a bit more aggressive when things are coming my way and controlling the puck a bit more. I guess I’m getting a bit more comfortable and finding my way.”
Playing on a line with fellow forwards Andrew Ladd and Brock Nelson has also helped, as Fritz sees the work they put in to establish their careers. He also nods to captain John Tavares and other veterans for their professionalism and approach to every day life in the league.
“Every day they’re coming in to get better, work on their game, and I think that’s what makes them such elite players and that’s why they’re in the NHL. Once you get here it’s even harder to stay here because people want to take your job, but you’ve got to put in the work once you get up here even more.”
With less than 20 games left in the regular season, the Islanders are four points back of the second wild card spot in the eastern division. Fritz says he hopes to be part of the team’s fight to make it to the post-season, with his friend and fellow Grande Prairie Storm alumni Carter Rowney’s 2017 cup win fresh in his mind.
“Seeing that and being able to be there for his Stanley Cup party was an unreal experience. I can imagine actually doing it myself, but to get your team in that situation would be an unbelievable experience and hopefully I can be a part of that.”
If he stays in the lineup, Saturday could be the first time the two meet in the National Hockey League. New York will play Rowney’s Pittsburgh Penguins on the road. The Pens are currently in playoff position.
Depending on when his season is over, Fritz will be heading home to Grande Prairie right away to help with some hockey skills camps with TAGS gym in Clairmont. He hopes his journey will let younger players know they can follow in his footsteps.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from; if you want to achieve your goal, if you want to put in the work, put in the time, the opportunities will come and people will notice you.”
Fritz credits his family and former coaches for getting him to this point, and says he hopes to stay in the league to start his own career.