The Curious Case of Martin Frk: One of the best non-NHL players

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than the Los Angeles Kings this season. They are being hurt by insults. But they refused to call the player with the hardest hit ever recorded in North American professional hockey history at 109.2 mph.

His name is Martin Frk, and he just became the defending AHL player of the month figure skating for the Ontario Reign. Frk picked up 14 points from eight games in November and are currently third in the AHL standings, with 22 points from 17 games.

Frk is 28 years old, has NHL experience and is playing on a one-way NHL contract at the league minimum. Over the weekend, the kings summoned TJ Tynan.

In the curious case of Martin Frk, you have to ask: What the Frk?

He’s one of the best players out there right now outside of the NHL. Frk can shoot puck harder than anyone on planet Earth. He is a proven goalscorer in the minor league. And he accomplished it at the NHL level when combined with a highly skilled centre.

But there are a few things that are working against him.

At 28, Frk is no longer a prospect. He was also outside the organization that drafted him (Detroit) and no one in the leadership office cared about his success. And now he has been considered a minor league player.

Once you have the label, it is very difficult to shake it.

I know because I lived it.

I am seen as a quality AHL goalkeeper. But no matter how well I played in that league, the teams weren’t exactly lining up to give me a starting spot in the NHL other than the occasional call-up due to injury.

I am proud of my profession. But it’s annoying to be stuck in a bunch of teenagers.

And that is the predicament Frk is currently facing. In my eyes, this is an NHL player. He has a skill that teams all crave. He can put the ball in the net. And he’s not expensive.

It’s not like he has no credentials. In 118 NHL games played between the Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings, Frk had 39 points. He’s in his ninth year of playing professional hockey after spending his junior career with the Halifax Mooseheads – where he won the Memorial Cup in 2013.

You might recognize some names from that team. Nathan MacKinnon. Jonathan Drouin. MacKenzie Weegar. Zach Fucale. Frk finished second when scoring for the Mooseheads in both the regular season and the knockout stages that championship season.

Selected in the second round of the Red Wings (49th overall) in 2012, Frk rose between the AHL and ECHL in his first two professional seasons. But the following year – 2015-16 – Frk found his stride. He played all season at the AHL, scoring 27 goals in 67 games.

The 2016-17 season saw much of the same coming from his hometown of Pelhrimov, Czech Republic. He made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes after being asked for an exemption at the start of the season.

After returning to the AHL, Frk again netted 27 times for Grand Rapids Griffins. He scored five more in the Calder Cup playoffs en route to the AHL championship.

The clip above is Frk’s biggest goal: the winning goal against Syracuse Crunch in the final game of the season.

Did you happen to catch anyone snooping on the Tampa Bay Lightning AHL branch?

Yes. Me.

It was hard for me to watch the clip. It was a simple screen and I could have found the footage. But even if I did, it was a laser. Frk hit the top corner of the cage with a hammer while standing still. He released it so quickly that I couldn’t find the visual window and it was in the grid before I could even move.

More than four years later, it still stings. But then I remember thinking: this Frk guy is special. He has an absolute rocket.

He hit the ball in all the long sequences. Once high and hard. Snapshot down the wing. He let it go from everywhere. And it’s very heavy. It felt like the puck was trying to go through my body. One of his hits hit my thigh and left a golf-ball constriction under my skin for three weeks.

As a goalkeeper, you don’t forget that.

People often ask me who has the hardest shot I’ve ever faced. That is an interesting question. I fought Shea Weber. Zdeno Chara. Alexander Ovechkin. All the usual suspects. But my answer after 2017 is Martin Frk. No doubt, no doubt, clear: Martin Frk.

No one knows better than Matt Ford, his Grand Rapid Griffins teammate. The former captain – who announced his retirement from professional hockey this fall after a 12-year career – has seen firsthand what Frk has been and is capable of.

“Our goalkeepers wouldn’t stand up to his shots in real life,” said Ford Face every day. “He uses like a 70 flex club. That thing would bend like a bow when he bent over it. If he ever hit anyone with that rocket of his – goalkeeper, teammate, [opposing] team – he will actually come and apologize. He was feeling really bad.”

It wasn’t just Frk’s shot that caught Ford’s attention.

“For most of my career, I was one of the first to get to the rink. For the 10 a.m. workout, he usually finishes the first workout by the time I get there at 7:45 a.m.,” explains Ford. “Great guy. Hard worker. He’s a machine in the gym and he can get around the ice well enough to play in any lane.”

I’m not surprised that Frk played the entire 2017-18 season for the Red Wings. He scored 11 goals in 68 games, 5 of them in power play. What’s more impressive is that he scored 25 points that year playing just over 10 minutes a night.

Scoring 20 or more points next season seems realistic.

And then Frk scored one goal in 30 games in the 2018-19 season and ended the year in the AHL. For whatever reason, it doesn’t work in Motor City.

So on July 1, 2019, Frk signed as a freelance agent with the Kings organization.

He spent most of that brief season in the AHL with Ontario, scoring 23 goals in 37 games and was an All-Star – where he set the AHL record for most goalscoring goals.

Do you recognize the voice commenting color?

Yes. Me.

Frk was the last player to shoot and I knew he was the one to beat. Sure enough, his second shot was an absolute rocket at 109.2 mph. Every ice player swarmed in front of Reign to congratulate him on his new record. Nothing gets people to their feet like the hardest shooting contest. And Frk is the new king.

His standout play for Ontario in the early part of the season resulted in a 17-game run against the Kings. Frk scored six times and got a total of eight points. But last year, he was only fit for one game against Los Angeles.

Now he’s stuck in the underage group, taking points for AHL Ontario. But many of Frk’s former teammates believe he can still become an NHL goalscorer. Just ask Ford.

“I think he’s made himself a more complete player over the years, ups and downs between the AHL and the NHL,” said Ford. “He offers a shooting threat that no one else in the world can literally deliver.” The Curious Case of Martin Frk: One of the best non-NHL players

Britta Zeltmann

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