Assessing Potential Factors Related To Ethen Frank’s Postseason Disappearance

Washington Capitals forward prospect Ethen Frank had an eye-popping regular season, posting 30 goals and 19 assists in just 57 games played. His performance during the 2022-23 season ultimately garnered him an NHL contract with the Capitals beginning next season.

But Frank has been a no-show in the postseason, posting no goals and just two assists in 10 playoff games. Frank’s shot production is also way down. During the regular season he averaged 3.3 shots per game for a 16.1% success rate. During the postseason Frank is averaging just 1.8 shots per game and has yet to convert.

Frank’s underwhelming showing has ultimately landed him two healthy scratches in the last four postseason games, including a seat in the press box for game 6 on Friday night. A 30-goal scorer is a healthy scratch? What gives?

Frank could be tiring. There’s a very good chance he’s hit a wall. Frank has played 67 games so far this season, by far the most games he’s played in a single season in his entire career. In fact, Frank has averaged about 35 games a season (nearly half the games of this season) going back to the 2016-17 season, when he logged his second most games in a season, playing 55 games for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL.

Hitting the “AHL Rookie Wall” is a real thing and can happen at any time during the season (See Hendrix Lapierre), It’s likely Frank is dealing with some of that.

Or is Frank missing a linemate? During the regular season Frank spent most of his time at left wing on the top line with Mike Vecchione at right wing and Mike Sgarbossa at center. Sgarbossa has been injured for a majority of the postseason, playing in just four of the Bears 13 playoff games so far. It should be added that Mike Vecchione is also struggling to score this postseason, posting just two goals and two assists in the first 12 games. Sgarbossa has been sorely missed, regardless.

Or is it a comfort thing? Some skeptics might say Frank’s production began to tail-off immediately after landing his deal with the Capitals. His downward trend does indeed begin around the same time, but he did post six goals in the last 12 regular season games, including a hat trick in the final game of the season. It’s interesting fodder, but it’s very unlikely his new deal has anything to do with it.

Other factors such as the increase in speed and physical play in the postseason are valid concerns, but that’s never really been an issue for Frank during similar “heavy” or speed games in the regular season. Frank himself is a speed game. It could be a very small part of the overall issue, but I would say it’s minor, if a factor at all.

So what should we glean from Frank’s disappearance in the postseason. Most likely it’s a combination of all of the aforementioned factors, with a potential reliance on Sgarbossa being the biggest concern. However, Frank performed well with strange linemates at the All-Star game and even scored, and adjusted well during occasional line changes during the regular season with the Bears. Frank was also dealing with an undisclosed injury towards the end of the season, which could also be a contributing factor.

The Bottom, line, Frank will get his shot in September at Capitals training camp, and how he performs then is what matters the most. It should be a very interesting watch.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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14 Responses to Assessing Potential Factors Related To Ethen Frank’s Postseason Disappearance

  1. Brant says:

    Whenever a player’s performance dips heavily after a contract, I worry. I’ve seen it many times in the NHL and in other sports. I don’t think Frank is that guy — but it makes you wonder.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s certainly a valid concern. It’s human nature to take the foot off the gas a bit, even if it’s subconsciously. Ryan Hofer also slowed down a lot after signing his deal. Could be just a coincidence.

  2. Reed says:

    Could be that the teams they’ve faced have done a good job of shutting him down. I don’t think he’s ever been a target for shut down before but with his numbers this season it would be top of mind for any opposing coach.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Certainly a potential factor. He’s facing the opposition’s best defense on a night-by-night basis, but in the postseason, those are some of the best checking/defensive players i]in the league.

      • GRin430 says:

        Well, if it’s an injury or fatigue, he’s gonna get a week or so to heal/rest now.

        I also wonder if the schedule of a game every other night is adding to his fatigue. The AHL mostly plays weekends, as does the NCAA. So it is a different pattern.

        But I doubt it. I think you guys are right. Assuming it isn’t an injury, he’s just facing better competition and has to step it up.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The AHL Rookie Wall claims yet another.

  4. DWGie26 says:

    I think it is most likely fatigue. I”m not worried about the contract thing, because he will in a contract year again. And he wants to fight for a spot in Caps camp. Also legit thought that playoff games are different intensity level. Part of the maturation process. One more series though… would love to see him be a hero.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The fact his downturn (and Vecchiones) coincides with Sgarbossa absence is the most telling to me.

  6. Jon Sorensen says:

    Greetings folks! Just a quick note, if you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to NoVa Caps posts in the “subscribe” box located in the upper right corner. Thank you!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully this nearly week off will help.

  8. novafyre says:

    Probably some combination of all the above. But you rightly start out with the longer schedule that pro hockey has. Colleges only have 35 game seasons. I don’t believe any junior hockey league plays more than 68 regular season games. Going up against bigger older players in a longer season has to be grueling. As your chart shows, Frank last played more than 38 games in a season 6 years ago. And he was an All Star this year with that added time and pressure.

    Interesting to compare with Bear Hughes, the Ray’s ECHL All Star. His production dropped off after the All Star break.

  9. Jay says:

    Frankie scores most of his goals from the point or a greasy misdirection near the front of the net. He’s also hasn’t seen much on the power play, which i notch to Sgarbossa’s absence. I don’t think it’s fatigue, given his training regime, but a nagging injury that hasn’t healed yet.

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