As I mentioned in the previous post there are countless ways to achieve your goals and make it to the next level in hockey. Each athlete and each athlete’s needs are different with regards to becoming a better player. Over the next three posts, I will take a look at three things to keep in mind when choosing your path in order to maximize your development through a look at either an NHL player or group of NHL players who reached their goals.
John Madden- Florida Panthers
At some point in almost any good athletes career, they will have the opportunity to be a “star” and the opportunity to be a role player on their team. Even those seemingly once in a generation talents that come out of small towns they dominated growing up on their way to the NHL often find themselves as role players at some point during a Freshman year in college or a rookie year in Major Junior, and if they are so talented that is not the case, they rarely step in to the NHL as top flight scorers. Occasionally a Sidney Crosby will come along and post 100 plus points at 18 years old, but for the most part even the NHL’s best had to work their way up an organization or depth chart to get where they are today.
With that in mind, the idea of not always being the best player on your team is critical to your development. John Madden came to the University of Michigan undrafted prior to the 1993-1994 season. A quick look at his career shows that he was able to fill a variety of roles during his time in the CCHA, from a checking line Center to a First Team All American who caught the eye of many scouts including Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.
In Ann Arbor, Madden found a program that was right for his development and a team he could work his way up on. Rather then opting to attend and play at a less skilled or storied Division 1 program where he could have starred from day one, he chose to play for Red Berenson and the Wolverines. His Freshman year he finished eleventh on the team in scoring with 17 points in 36 games. Of the ten players that finished ahead of him in scoring, six went on to play in the National Hockey League. He had surrounded himself and was learning from talented players that knew what it would take to compete at the next level and he was in a role where he could focus on learning the defensive side of the game and being a more complete player, skills that would serve him very well down the line.
During his Sophomore year Madden emerged as a more talented offensive threat posting 43 points and becoming a player opponents needed to be aware of at all times on the ice, even when the Wolverines were shorthanded. He continued to earn more ice time in all situations his Junior year and made the most of those opportunities, posting 57 points including an NCAA record 10 Shorthanded tallies in helping lead Michigan to a National Championship.
Madden had shown progress in each of his first three seasons in Ann Arbor and learned how to win throughout their National Championship run, but he returned to Michigan for one more shot his Senior year. The Ontario native continued to improve, collecting 63 points and the previously mentioned All American honors and breaking the NCAA’s career mark for shorthanded goals with 23.
In 1997 following his Senior year with the Wolverines, Madden signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils and was assigned to their AHL affiliate in Albany. He posted a respectable 56 points in his rookie campaign and was an impressive +35 showing the two way skills he developed at Michigan would translate to the next level. During his second pro season, Madden exploded for a team leading 98 points and the Devils decided he was ready for his shot to play at the games highest level.
Fourteen years later, the undrafted Center is still a fixture in the National Hockey League having signed with the Florida Panthers earlier this season. He has enjoyed 3three Stanley Cups and almost 900 NHL games and done so primarily as a checking line Center and shorthanded specialist, skills he learned during his early years not playing on the top lines in college or the minor leagues.
Nobody can attain their goals, get smarter, or become better, if they are always the best and brightest person in the room or on the ice. When choosing a program that is right for you and your development, make sure you have room for growth and can experience some time close to each end of the depth chart during your journey, it will make you a better and more valuable player to coaches and scouts down the road.