Seeing NHL action for the first time in three months must be hard on young players already, but add the fact that you’re being pushed into the circle of hell known as an elimination game and the nerves are probably rattling through your skin.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Calen Addison made his playoffs debut last night for the injured Carson Soucy and played amicably well beside longtime NHL veteran and two-time champion Ian Cole.
While the youngster was on the ice, he did get outshot, but so did literally every Minnesota skater during the Game 5 victory. It definitely wasn’t a pretty win to force the sixth game of the series, but it was able to extend their season no matter what.
Even if Addison’s minus-6 in terms of shot attempts at 5-on-5 isn’t the best and most fruitful opportunity you can think of as a 21-year-old blueliner, it was still tied with his partner Cole for the best among defenseman. The pairing clearly worked despite having just one offensive zone faceoff start and the majority of their shifts coming off the bench in the middle of play, and Cole recognized the rookies ability to make it work.
“A ton of poise for his first playoff game coming into a very loud, tough building to play in against a team that’s really, really good,” Cole said. “Creative puck plays. We talked about communication and I was going back for pucks and he was giving me great calls and helping out quite a bit. It’s tough for a young guy to do that. You need to not only be willing to communicate, but you have to make the right reads to communicate, too, and communicate good information. And I think he did a fantastic job.
“Smart player, obviously skillful. So it’ll probably be a first playoff game and a first playoff point of many for him. He’s going to be a great player.”
Addison was acquired in the trade that sent Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wild also got their first-round pick in the upcoming draft, that they will be using to add to their building pool of formidable prospects, which the young defender is a part of.
While Minnesota already have their top-four defensemen solidified for the next few years, Addison will have a chance to make himself a dynamic offensive option for the bottom pairing and someone that can perhaps take over Ryan Suter’s role on the powerplay as soon as next season. He will — hopefully — be one of many young players making their debuts as full-time NHLers, whether it is Matt Boldy, Marco Rossi, Connor Dewar, or any of the other skaters coming through the system. At least there’s something to look forward to.