After a sudden onslaught of injuries, the Columbus Blue Jackets found themselves looking to the American Hockey League to fill out a playable NHL roster for their recent five-game road trip.
Surprisingly, overlooking players with some NHL experience—most notably, Liam Foudy and Kevin Stenlund—the Jackets opted to take a look at diminutive winger Trey Fix-Wolansky with the big club. In his brief cup of coffee with the team, “TFW” did not disappoint.
Trey Fix-Wolansky Outplaying His Draft Position
Originally selected in the seventh round—pick No. 204 overall, and for those of you keeping track, only 13 names were called after his at the 2019 NHL Draft—Fix-Wolansky has struggled to remain healthy in his three seasons since turning pro. Though limited to just 75 AHL games over the past three years, Trey has posted a respectable 26 goals and 54 points, while adding an eye-opening 55 minutes in penalties.
It’s eye-opening mainly because he’s only listed at 5’7″, 179 pounds. This follows up a 206-game Western Hockey League career, where he posted 93 goals, 245 points and 202 penalty minutes.
When you watch Fix-Wolansky play, it’s easy to see why he’s been able to stick around despite being an undersized, late-round pick. He plays a dogged style, working his way into the difficult, highly-trafficked areas of the ice, where he uses his small, stocky figure to win puck battles.
Not only will he put his opponents into the glass, but he also has good hands and vision and can score when he gets the opportunity. He’s the kind of player that teams love to have, but absolutely hate playing against. He doesn’t have typically “little guy” speed, but he gets to where he needs to be and uses his above-average hockey sense to know where the play is headed.
Fix-Wolansky Makes the Most Out of His Cup of Coffee
All of this became evident quickly in his NHL debut, a road start against the Washington Capitals. Though he skated just over five minutes, Fix-Wolansky was credited with a hit, two shots and scored his first NHL goal early in the third period.
Just two nights later in Buffalo, he earned an additional three minutes of ice time (8:13) and added his first assist to the stat column. On the road in Calgary a few nights later? Though the team was on the wrong end of a lopsided loss, TFW played almost 10 minutes and had a notable confrontation with known NHL pest Matthew Tkachuk at the final buzzer, further accenting what he can bring to the big club when called upon.
Through five NHL games, Fix-Wolansky was returned to the Cleveland Monsters (AHL); after skating an average of 6:39 per game, posting one goal, two points, four shots, and five hits.
Blue Jackets Found Tremendous Value in Fix-Wolansky
Now, these numbers may not jump out at you immediately but consider the facts. Fix-Wolansky was a seventh-round pick in what may prove to be one of the weaker drafts we saw in the 2010s. He’s listed at 5’7″, which makes him one of the smallest players to skate in the NHL this season. And, he’s barely played one full season of professional hockey due to injury and the COVID pandemic.
Only eight players taken after round four of the 2019 Draft have skated in the NHL thus far (one of them being former CBJ prospect Veini Vehvalainen, playing 11 minutes in relief). Only one other seventh-rounder has debuted (Josiah Slavin, #193, CHI, has 14 games under his belt). It’s rare to come away with actual NHL players in the seventh round, but it looks like the Blue Jackets may have done just that.
While his upside can be debated, I look at Trey Fix-Wolansky and see a potential third or fourth line winger, who can play up and down the lineup as needed. He has the skill and hands to play with other skilled players, though he won’t wow you in the way that, say, Kent Johnson will.
But, he brings energy every shift, works hard and sets a strong example, whether it’s by throwing a hit, blocking a shot, or finding the back of the net. He compares his game to that of Brad Marchand, and while I don’t think he has the same level of skill, I do think he can be that kind of under the skin-type pest, that will chip in some secondary offense, and make the Blue Jackets a harder team to play against.
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