Rookie Chanse Fitzpatrick has 17 points in (eight goals and nine assists) in 21 games with the Columbia Inferno of the ECHL. The 6’1 220-pound rugged right winger wouldn’t be complete without his 68 penalty minutes as well. Last season with Sudbury of the OHL, he had 20 points in 59 games, with 71 penalty minutes.
Being new to the league, the 20-year-old doesn’t appreciate the difficulty of what he’s already accomplished. Not only has he more than doubled his scoring clip from junior, remarkable in itself, but he’s a fixture on the ECHL rookie scoring list, which as usual is dominated by 23 and 24-year-olds out of college. He’s one of only two 20-year-olds on the rookie scoring list, along with Thrashers prospect Brad Schell (Gwinnett). Fitzpatrick is currently tied for 12th, while Schell is tied for ninth.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Fitzpatrick, who is under contract with the AHL Manitoba Moose, after the Inferno’s 3-1 loss to the Gwinnett Gladiators Friday night.
HF: Despite being a rookie in the league, you’re almost at your point total from last year in juniors in only 20 games, how is it that you’re doing so well?
CF: I don’t know, I think that I have more confidence this year than I did last year and my role has changed just a little bit from last year, but I find that with this team, coming into pro I wanted to have a fresh start, and show that I could play better than I did in junior.
HF: The goal you scored tonight (tipped in off a shot from the point), is that typical of how you’ve been scoring?
CF: I like to get in front of the net, that’s kind of the player I am, picking up the loose change. But I’ll take them any way I can at this point, I want to keep going and contribute as I can.
HF: Have you surprised even yourself with how well you’ve done scoring-wise?
CF: I thought that I could always do it, it’s just the fact that I was given the opportunity to play that kind of role. It’s just that (coach) Scott White has given me the opportunity to play both roles, and I think that if I keep going the way I’m going, I’m going to be OK.
HF: The guys you played with tonight, have they been your usual linemates?
CF: My usual linemates are D’Arcy McConvey and Brad Ralph. Brad Ralph got hurt last night. I usually play with those guys and they help me so much. Ralphy played a game in the NHL, he’s been with me the whole time through Manitoba and here. And you’ve got D’Arcy who is a rookie too, he’s playing just as well as I am. Things are working out pretty well.
HF: I didn’t notice you out on special teams tonight, do you normally play them?
CF: Well, we didn’t have very many special teams tonight, we only had a one or two power plays, I was on for one. Usually I play all the power plays.
HF: How does the pro game fit you? Is it maybe a better fit?
CF: I just think that pro hockey is a lot different from junior. You’re playing with men now and you’ve got to excel more than you did in junior. With me coming in as my first pro year, I thought ‘I’ve got to come in here and just go every night’ and show that I can play pro. It’s a more physical game and there’s bigger guys, so I think I fit well.
HF: You said that Coach White gives you a good opportunity, what does he say he wants to see from you?
CF: He wants me to contribute any way I can and be a north/south winger. Finish all my checks and get on the board as much as I can. Keep things simple, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
HF: Would you describe yourself any differently now as a player than you did?
CF: The thing is that in my first couple years of juniors, in Sarnia, I didn’t really have the opportunity to show other parts of my game. Then I got traded to Sudbury and Mike Foligno, the coach at Sudbury, kind of opened up more parts of my game. He knew that I could play different roles and he showed me more how to play those games that I lost the previous years. I kind of brought it all together this year, starting pro, and I just want to make it as far as I can.
HF: So you always knew you had it in you then.
CF: I always knew I could contribute more than what I was doing in junior. It’s just that I wasn’t given the opportunity my first couple years.
HF: What’s the best line someone has ever given you to start a fight?
CF: No one has ever said anything funny to me, just ‘you wanna go’, that’s it.
HF: Are you a self-taught fighter or is there someone who showed you the ropes?
CF: I had a guy my second year, Greg Walters, who was the assistant coach at Sarnia. He played for years pro in the A, and he kind of went through the ropes with me a little bit. But the majority was just because I was in it and had my ups and downs and kind of learned from it.
HF: Who did you think was the toughest guy to fight in the OHL last year?
CF: Last year probably the toughest guy I ever fought was Colt King. He plays in Augusta (ECHL) now. He was probably one of the toughest guys.
HF: Who has been the toughest you’ve met so far this year?
CF: I’d probably say…Eric Boulton on our team (laughing). The toughest guy I’ve fought this year was probably Eric Naud (Pee Dee) or (Steve) Spencer off of South Carolina.
HF: How did Manitoba camp go for you?
CF: I went real well. I came in there, I was in good shape, I just kind of went as hard as I could. Just show them what I could do. I ended up signing a contract with Manitoba and was the last one to be cut. But this year it’s tough to play there, with the NHL lockout, but I’ve just got to keep focused and hopefully get back up there.
HF: What do you feel like you need to work on in order to stick in the AHL?
CF: I think for the most part I’ve got to try to keep my game going, be more consistent. Try to keep things simple, think more on the ice, be a north/south winger and hopefully I’ll get there soon.
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