When you’ve been chasing a specific goal for an extended period of time, what do you do when that goal is taken out of your reach, but you nevertheless still have to keep putting in the same work you were doing before?
It’s a question that plenty of hockey players face every year, ones who have the unfortunate luck of playing on teams that don’t make the playoffs, but still have to ride out the remainder of a regular season schedule.
Dallas Stars forward prospect Brett Davis is all too familiar with this experience. His Kootenay Ice team has missed the playoffs in back-to-back years (and a third, going back before he was on the team), this time tumbling down the stretch and ceding a playoff spot late to the Red Deer Rebels.
And yet, even with his team eliminated, there was Davis on March 14 in Calgary against the Hitmen, playing the same kind of game that he had been for months: skating hard, controlling the puck with confidence, attacking the net. He even got rewarded with a goal, too.
I caught up with Davis after that game for a brief chat.
The biggest takeaway from the conversation was that no matter how things are going, if you want to pursue a career in hockey, keeping a positive attitude is of the utmost importance.
“You just gotta stay positive,” Davis said. “You can’t let not being in the playoffs affect you because you’ve still got stuff to prove to other people, and that goes for everyone else on our team too, so I think our team has done a pretty good job with staying positive.”
Considering how crucial putting forth a consistent effort is at the professional levels of hockey, that’s a good habit to get into early.
This positive mentality probably came in handy at a pivotal point in the year, too. Davis, who describes himself as “a dynamic player that can play a 200-foot game, has a scoring touch and can make plays,” had a quiet first half of his season, scoring just 16 points in 34 games, but picked things up in a big way after that, scoring 42 points in his final 38 contests.
“I had a little bit of a slow start, but I think in the second half I got a lot more confident, holding onto pucks and protecting pucks and stuff like that.”
The Stars, who Davis called a “top class” organization and “super professional,” likely noticed. The young center said the team checked in on him periodically throughout the season, observing the progress of their sixth round, 163rd overall pick from the 2017 NHL draft.
While missing the playoffs was a tough pill to swallow, the Ice still finished with 21 points more than they had last year, showing that the young team is slowly but surely starting to piece everything together more effectively. Davis has one more year of junior hockey left to play before he can make the jump to the AHL, so he’ll get at least one more chance in 2018-2019 to help bring success (and redemption) to his hockey club.
“As a team I think we took a big step from last year. The coaching staff have done a great job with trying to have a better team identity than last year. I thought in the first half we were playing pretty strong and then we went through a little slide here in the second half that hurt us, so hopefully we can become a bit more consistent.”
North American Juniors
Ondrej Vala and the Everett Silvertips finished first in the U.S. Division of the WHL and are set to play the Seattle Thunderbirds in the opening round of the playoffs. The Silvertips are a heavy favorite to win the series, but the Thunderbirds are the reigning WHL champions, so they could prove to be a tough out.
Jason Robertson finishes the 2017-2018 regular season in a tie for seventh place in OHL scoring, with 87 points in 68 games. He also finished first in the entire league in shots, with a whopping 308. His Kingston Frontenacs team will now play the North Bay Battalion in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Hamilton Bulldogs finished in first place in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, and now Nick Caamano and his club will play the Ottawa 67’s in a seven-game series, starting this weekend.
Liam Hawel and the Guelph Storm squeaked into a Western Conference postseason position as a seventh seed, but they’ll be in tough against a much stronger Kitchener Rangers squad.
Jake Oettinger has apparently saved his best hockey of the season for the last, following up strong play last weekend by pitching a 30-save shutout to propel Boston University over Princeton and into a Hockey East championship victory. He was also named MVP of the Hockey East tournament for his efforts. The Terriers will play the #3-ranked Cornell Big Red on Saturday, and if they win, will play their elimination next game on Sunday.
JAKE OETTINGER DESERVES THE WORLD DONT COME @ ME pic.twitter.com/MnaiLF7Asw— kirah (@eichgoal) March 18, 2018
Riley Tufte and the University of Minnesota-Duluth actually lost the third place game in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff to Rhett Gardner and the University of North Dakota, but still advance to the sixteen-team NCAA hockey tournament, where they will play Minnesota State. In a cruel twist, North Dakota’s win was not enough for them to advance, so Gardner’s season has now ended. Gardner can either turn pro next season or return to the NCAA to finish his fourth and final year of college eligibility,
Joseph Cecconi and the University of Michigan also made the Sweet Sixteen and will have their hands full, as they must play an explosive Northeastern team.
Jakob Stenqvist and Jacob Peterson each played some great hockey, but their Bjorkloven club was narrowly eliminated in their quest to move up from the second-tier Allsvenskan league to the SHL. Bjorkloven went 4-1-0 in the quirky six-team playoff format, while Oskarshamn went one better at 4-0-1 and solely moves on to the next round. Stenqvist finished with three points in five games, while Peterson finished with two points in five games. There is a chance now, however, that both players could move down to the U20 level and continue on together in those playoffs for Frolunda.
Miro Heiskanen’s playoffs begin on Wednesday as HIFK takes on JYP.
The Texas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive over the past week, picking up a few points with a 1-1-1 record. Normally a team that doesn’t produce much offense, the T-Stars were firing all week, picking up a combined 14 goals in those three games.
Roope Hintz was the leader offensively, producing four points in those three games, while Gavin Bayreuther added three points of his own, and Denis Gurianov chipped in one goal.
2018 NHL Draft Watch
You could say that Benoit-Olivier Groulx knows a thing or two about hockey.
Groulx is the son of former professional player and longtime coach Benoit Groulx, and the impact of growing up in rinks and being guided by a great hockey mind certainly shows on the ice. The younger Groulx is a smart, athletic workhorse who can make a big difference in all three zones. A shutdown centre that plays a lot like Radek Faksa, Groulx is better defensively than he is offensively, but he still possesses a sinister shot release.
Playing for the Halifax Mooseheads, who drafted him first overall in the 2016 QMJHL draft, Groulx had 55 points in 68 regular season games this year.