"Like shooting Fisch in a barrel."
The phrase has been used more and more frequently this season to describe the scoring touch Arizona Coyotes’ rookie forward Christian Fischer has displayed with the Tucson Roadrunners in the American Hockey League so far.
With 14 points in seven straight games, Fischer has found another gear even despite a strong start to his first professional season in the AHL. He's gone from a developing youngster to the go-to offensive powerhouse the Roadrunners needed to stay atop the Pacific Division standings.
He seems almost unstoppable.
“I think it’s always nice to have the confidence that comes with seeing the points on the board,” Fischer told FFH, following his seven-game point streak. “But it’s definitely not the focus. I think coming through the minors, it's more about developing your pro game and your 200ft game. But it’s nice to see the points go up.”
The points - not to mention his work on his 200ft game - have certainly paid off.
Tonight, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Fischer will make his NHL debut. Oh, and Thursday, before his call-up to the big leagues, he was named to the AHL All-Star roster.
These two shining achievements have been added to an already long list accumulated this season.
But how did Fischer get to this point? What has made him so successful, to the point of earning an NHL call-up?
The answer is a mixture of chemistry, hard work and talent. Though the beginning of the season saw Fischer score a comparatively measly seven points in 11 games, not much has changed for the power forward other than some new linemates.
For a while, Fischer played with Tyler Gaudet and Michael Bunting. Then, he moved after about ten games to play with Chris Mueller and Laurent Dauphin, when Dauphin was not up with the Coyotes.
That line has produced results, and Fischer knows it.
“I think that obviously playing with two talented linemates like Mueller and Dauphin helps my game,” said Fischer. “We’ve been getting some good chemistry going, and not only myself, but both of them, have been doing really well production wise. All three of us also play on the power-play, so that’s been clicking as of late. Chris (Mueller) is a really good puck-mover, I think he prides himself on making plays. He’s not really a shooter but a passer so it’s great with myself being a shooter, and it works out perfectly.”
It would be wrong however, to fully credit the change in lines as the reason for Fischer’s recent success. The change is merely what helped reveal the potential that he knew he had all along.
Since Fischer joined the then Portland Pirates at the end of the 2015-16 season following a quick playoff exit for the Windsor Spitfires, he feels that it is not his game that has changed - but just the level at which he is playing.
“I think that I had a really successful year last year, production wise, but I think this year my game is more suited for the pro-game,” said Fischer when asked what it’s been like transitioning to the AHL. “It’s always a transition to play against NHL players, 35-year-old men. It’s tough, but I think that’s my game. I’m in front of the net, I’m a big body, I work it down low. I was excited to come to the pro-game for sure. I think my game, as you can see as of late, is starting to take off, and I think that’s just the way that I envisioned it all along. Once I made it to the level of this pro game, that this is my type of game and that’s how I’m going to succeed.”
While Fischer plays the aggressive, offensively-driven game of a prototypical power forward, it's his ability to play all areas of the ice that has allowed him to have such an impact recently. Fischer plays on both the top power play unit, with his normal linemates as well as defensemen Jamie McBain and Kyle Wood, and the top penalty kill unit whilst a man down.
“I play a power forward game, and a full 200ft game; so I take pride in working on the PK, I take pride in getting the puck out and stuff like that. It’s not all about offense. It’s nice to have the confidence when you have the puck, knowing you could score a goal, but like I said it’s all about developing your game.”
Fischer is also a big team player; for a guy looking to have a long NHL career, that's something that will help him be successful at whatever level he plays at.
“I’m always going to find any way possible to help the team win. If it’s goal scoring, then it’s scoring, if it’s blocking a shot then it’s stuff like that. You just have to find your way.”
Fischer really found his way in the AHL. He is spatially aware on the ice. He prides himself on his ability to process the game in all aspects. Fischer doesn’t wait for moments on the ice to attack, he creates them. He’s patient when he needs to be, and he’s not afraid of battling along the board for the pucks. No matter what, Fischer does what it takes to win.
The AHL has a constant ebb and flow feel to it. The roster is fluid: someone is here one day and gone the next. That’s how it works. The potential of a call up is always there, and nothing in the game is guaranteed. Fischer knows that - but he let the thought of following in Brendan Perlini’s footsteps help motivate him.
“I think that obviously it’s always your goal to get called up,” said Fischer.” My goal for myself is always going to be an NHL player. I came into training camp and almost made it there. I think that’s the goal: to be with that team. That doesn’t mean when you’re down here that you’re thinking about that every day. You come down here to work on your game. Obviously something wasn’t needed enough and that’s why you didn’t make the team. You just have to work on that part of your game and then the rest will all fall into place. Everyone wants to go up but you can’t have that in your mind when you’re playing games. You have to just play your game, trust in the system and there’s always a process to everything. I’m happy. I needed this time down here and I think it’s going well so far.”
The time for Fischer in the AHL has clearly paid off. He’s worked on what he needed to, and the Coyotes are giving him a chance. It’s safe to say that Fischer will do whatever it takes to make the most of this chance.
Maybe he’s what the Coyotes need in a time when their season seems dismal. It could be just a timing thing.
What's clear, though is that Fischer is more than a fresh face to change things up. He's a talented player who works hard, and strives to do whatever possible to make the team successful. He’s a 200ft player who makes an impact.
If you look at it, not much has changed for Fischer in the past few months. In the end, the timing is just finally right.