Kings hope newly acquired prospect Tyler Madden continues to surpass expectations
John Gardner still laughs when describing his first impression of Tyler Madden:
“A skinny little kid,” the Connecticut prep hockey coach says.
That was five years ago, when Madden arrived at Avon Old Farms boarding school, where Gardner coaches, as a newly enrolled ninth-grader on the junior varsity team, even smaller than his current 5-foot-11, 155-pound size.
His stature, however, was deceiving.
Madden quickly built up his own pedigree, making his once-uncertain long-term potential immediately clear.
“I could see his talent,” said Gardner, who coached Kings goalie Jonathan Quick at Avon. “We put him on the varsity team at the end of the season. He was tearing up the junior varsity team.”
The 1980 U.S Olympic hockey team gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ‘Miracle on Ice,’ and the stories remained riveting.
Thus began a path that reached a major milestone last week, when Madden, now 20 years old and counted among hockey’s most promising prospects, had his rights traded to the Kings from the Vancouver Canucks.
In the last five years, the puck-possessing, play-making centerman became the captain at Avon and excelled in the U.S. Hockey League. He was picked by the Canucks in the third round of the 2018 NHL draft and represented the U.S. in the World Junior Championships that winter. He has spent the past two seasons starring at Northeastern, tied for fourth nationally in goals this season before being sidelined by a recent thumb injury.
“[He was] upbeat, positive, excited about the opportunity with L.A.,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, who spoke with Madden following last Monday’s deal in which the Kings also acquired forward Tim Schaller, a 2020 second-round pick and conditional 2022 fourth-round pick in exchange for Tyler Toffoli.
“He had some good conversations with L.A. leading into the draft [in 2018], so to him it made sense.”
Gardner and Madigan each lauded Madden’s trademark puck skills, but were equally impressed with his development as a two-way presence.
“He was always a work in progress,” Gardner said. “The good thing about him was, there was a lot of progress. He loved the game, and he worked at it. He’s one of those guys who really wanted to be on the ice all the time.”
“He’s a confident young man,” Madigan said. “But he works at it. There’s no arrogance to his game … He’s a gritty kid and he wasn’t in a hurry. Every step he just got better and better.”
Indeed, Madden, the son of former Selke Trophy winner and three-time Stanley Cup champion John Madden, surpassed expectations at every turn, especially after he was left off the NHL Central Scouting system’s initial ratings of draft-eligible prospects at the start of his draft season in 2017-18.
“When you watch him play, you’re going to see puck possession,” Madigan said. “He wants the puck on his stick. He makes good plays. He’s got great on-ice awareness and skates to the quiet areas. He can buy time and makes a lot of plays. And then he can score, he can finish. He’s got a good shot. An accurate shot.”
Kings forward Martin Frk signs a two-year contract with the team as he continues to cement his place on the roster.
It’s too soon to know if Madden will sign a contract this offseason with the Kings, who enter Monday’s trade deadline having already completed their major moves.
Forward Trevor Lewis and defenseman Derek Forbort are rumored as the two most-likely Kings who could still be dealt. But it’s doubtful either will demand a prospect as promising as Madden in return.
“He’ll adjust to the NHL game,” said Madigan, who compared Madden to Canucks forward Adam Gaudette, a former Hobey Baker Award winner at Northeastern. “Certainly the offensive part is his calling card, but he’ll adjust to being more thorough — and he’s thorough already for us — but he’ll understand he’s not going to have that latitude that we give him. He’ll adapt his game.”
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