Alumni of the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program continue to make their presence felt in the NHL, and Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Fischer is just the latest example.
Fischer, who spent two seasons with the NTDP (2013-2015), just recently became the latest alum to suit up for an NHL club when he made his debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 21.
He wasted no time in making his presence felt as he became the first player in franchise history to score a goal in each of the first two games of his career, and the 11th player in Coyotes history to score a goal in his first career NHL contest.
While Fischer has spent most of this season with the American Hockey League's Tucson Roadrunners, he relished his brief, three-game stay with the parent club and getting the opportunity to see how his development stacked up against some of the world’s best players.
"It was a special time to play my first NHL games there and get a couple games in," said Fischer, who ranks second among his Tucson teammates through Sunday with 34 points (16-18–34) in 35 games in his first full season of professional hockey.
First-year Roadrunners Head Coach Mark Lamb talked about Fischer’s progression in the organization and how his skill set has expanded.
“Through the whole first half of the season here he’s really taken advantage of different situations with injuries or when guys get called up,” said Lamb. “He goes from a so-called defensive role on our team, a penalty killer, to a top scorer, offensive guy. But he’s still doing the rest of the stuff. He’s turning into a real complete player.”
And Fischer looks back fondly on his time with the NTDP, not just because it was a time when his game progressed, but because it left him with a lot of lasting memories.
“It was great,” Fischer said. “I keep in contact with all the guys, [there’s a] lot of workouts there, but that’s what you need when you’re 16, 17 years old, and we had probably one of the greatest teams to come through there. There’s probably seven, eight guys in the NHL right now and probably five, six more on the way. So, I couldn’t say enough good things about USA Hockey. The program did a lot for me.”
Fischer came to the NTDP from the Chicago Mission 16U team and quickly made an impact.
He notched 23 points (11-12—23) in 34 United States Hockey League games, while scoring 42 points (19-23—42) in 54 total games while playing alongside the likes of Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk with the U.S. National Under-17 Team. His strong play earned him a spot on Team USA’s roster for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he helped guide the Americans to the tournament championship.
In Fischer’s second season with the program, he continued to post strong numbers as he tallied 30 points (15-15—30) in 25 USHL games and 64 points (31-33—64) in 66 total games with the U.S. National Under-18 Team.
He went on to once again represent his country on the international stage, this time as a member of Team USA’s entry in IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship, where he helped the Americans defeat Finland for the gold medal.
“That was our final tournament after two years there. It was kind of what we built up to,” said Fischer when reminiscing about Team USA’s victory in Switzerland that year. “I think all the hard work, all the workouts, all the practices and games had led up to that tournament and that was our last six or seven games with that group of guys that will ever be on the same team together.”
The Coyotes took note of Fischer’s body of work with the NTDP and selected the Chicago native in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Because of what the NTDP has done for his career and the memories he made, Fischer says he strongly recommends the program for any American hockey player that has the opportunity to participate.
“You look at the track record and it’s really second to none with NHL picks and guys in the NHL. If you ever have an opportunity, there’s no way you could turn that down,” said Fischer. “Obviously, you get to represent your country, too. That’s something you don’t get to do too often, throw on the USA logo for two years straight every single game. I don’t think a person could pass up on that, it’s done an unbelievable job for 20-plus years.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.