St. John's IceCaps dependable defenceman Kris Fredheim playing plenty of quality minutes
Zach Redmond is, for all intents and purposes, a National Hockey League player now. Ben Chiarot and Julian Melchiori are considered future NHL defencemen. Brenden Kichton made his mark in the American league from the get-go, winning a spot on the league’s all-rookie team this season.
And yet there’s an argument to be made that none have had a bigger presence on the St. John’s IceCaps blueline this season than Kris Fredheim.
Yup, that Kris Fredheim, the chap with the paltry goal and four assists through 46 games.
Unspectacular numbers, indeed, but doesn’t that aptly portray the 27-year-old Campbell River, B.C. product’s game this year?
“He does everything well,” said St. John’s coach Keith McCambridge, a similar-type defenceman throughout his 11-year pro career. “It’s not from one extreme to the other. It’s not where he’s huge on the physical side of things or the offensive side of things. He’s just a good, solid two-way defenceman.
“He’s got great balance on his skates. Puck mover? Good. Does he close the gaps? Yes. Does he provide veteran leadership? Real strong there. He does everything well, which is why he’s a key player for us.”
As the playoff-bound IceCaps close out their regular season tonight against the Portland Pirates, McCambridge will be faced with some tough lineup decisions when the post season kicks off this week, especially on defence.
Currently, of the nine rearguards on the IceCaps’ roster, eight are healthy. And while Julian Melchiori was wearing a red non-contact jersey at practice this week, he was still on the ice.
How valuable has Fredheim been to the IceCaps this season? Just before the injury which sidelined him for 22 games for February and most of March, he had been leading all St. John’s defencemen with 23-plus minutes of icetime per night, sometimes up around the 25-minute mark.
He’s back to logging heavy minutes in the nine games since his return to the lineup, and an example of his reliability and dependability can be found no further than Josh Morrissey, the 18-year-old prospect who just completed his junior season with the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders. Morrissey has been partnered with Fredheim in the six games in which the Winnipeg Jets’ first round draft pick has appeared.
“He has veteran experience, and he’s a safe puck-mover,” McCambridge said of Fredheim. “When we looked to bring him in, all we wanted him to do was move pucks up to the forwards, which he does really well.
“He provides leadership to our young back end, and he’s versatile. The penalty kill would be at the top of the list on his résumé, but he’s reliable enough and a smart enough defenceman to be able to execute in a power play situation.
“He plays in all key moments of the game.”
Toiling for the Notre Dame Hounds junior A team in 2005, the lanky defender showed enough to convince the Vancouver Canucks to take a flyer on him in the 2005 draft, selecting Fredheim 185th overall.
Fredheim played another season at Notre Dame and rather than turn pro, headed off to the NCAA, and four years at Colorado College.
After closing out his collegiate career, Fredheim joined the hometown (relatively speaking) Victoria Salmon Kings — who were coached by current IceCaps assistant Mark Morrison — for five playoff games.
That summer, the Minnesota Wild signed Fredheim to a free agent contract and for the next three seasons, he played with the American league’s Houston Aeros.
He even managed to get in three NHL games with the Wild, getting his name on one NHL scoresheet with a minor penalty.
“I was really only brought in to be a sixth or seventh defenceman,” he said. “I credit it to luck because guys were getting hurt in Minnesota and guys were getting called up from Houston, which gave me an opportunity to play.
“It’s all about confidence, and the more ice you get, the more confidence you get.”
Last summer, Fredheim found himself a free agent again, but NHL clubs weren’t exactly beating down his door.
Along came the IceCaps, offering a one-year AHL deal. Fredheim was familiar with the city a little, having spent a week here in 2004 with Team Pacific in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
“I talked to my agent and I think within an hour, Keith called — I’d never met him before — and it sure sounded like an organization I’d have fun playing for,” he said.
So far, it’s been a barrel of laughs. Fredheim’s playing a ton, and the IceCaps are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and the league.
“I think it’s proven to be a good decision (to come to St. John’s),” he said.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort