by Todd Crocker | AHL On The Beat Archive
Ability is only part of the equation when it comes to successful hockey players. Winkler, Manitoba’s Byron Froese knows this all too well. The Toronto Marlies face-off man is about resiliency. When he was cut from his minor midget team, he took that setback and reshaped it into an opportunity. Changing, adapting, searching for what might be the right equation. He knew he would have the ability if he could just keep working on it at the highest level possible.
“I was last cut and usually if you’re not making that you’re not going anywhere. But then I had a good year in high school hockey and so I tried out in Everett and had a really good camp," he said. "But I didn’t a get chance to play in junior so I went back to major midget and had a really good year there. I got to improve a lot. And from that I got to sign with Everrett. I didn’t know where that would take me.”
Froese’s path has been anything but usual as he grows into a consistent scorer in the best development league in the world.
Last season he found himself with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL and working with Ben Simon
who would eventualy coach the team to the Kelly Cup Finals. His work ethic impressed Simon, now the Marlies’ assistant coach, and his play earned him a tryout with the San Antonio Rampage
but he ended up bouncing back to Cincinnati after the Rampage couldn’t find a spot for him in the lineup. He wasn’t in Cincinnati long.
“I think in any business you need someone to push for you, someone to believe in what you can do,” Froese said of Simon, who knew Froese was up to the task of the AHL.
“Byron is a guy who coachable in every respect. He listens, he adapts, he is always working on making his game better," Simon said. "Not everyone has all the tools the second they get out of junior. He’s been a great addition to the success of this team.”
Simon, who rarely overstates a player, is happy to see Froese do well. Not just for the Marlies, but for the reward of what effort brings.
As the early part of the Marlies’ season was taking shape, the losses were finding their way to the results column more than the wins. Froese was added to the lineup on a loan but quickly made an impact. When playing with good players, Froese was finishing good passing plays. Often playmakers are afforded many accolades, but the talent of finishing a play is just as valuable. This was especially true on a team that was scoring less than two goals a game.
“You gotta be ready to show up and do whatever it is they ask you do to the best of your ability," Froese said, "and you have to make sure you keep working at it.”
Froese recently was awarded a full AHL contract for next season with the Marlies and has worked himself into a legitimate prospect role. His continued commitment to consistent play and growing his game also pays dividends for younger teammates who have been drafted. It shows them that even setbacks can be motivating. Being resilient enough to go from being cut at 15 years old to an AHL contract means no one should count Froese out of the NHL equation.