NHL scouts can sometimes have a hard time getting viewings of players before the NHL draft happens. Usually, the more often a player has been seen, the more a team is confident on the type of player they are selecting. Also, the player has more opportunities to show their many talents. Anyone interested in getting viewings of Lethbridge Hurricnaes defenseman Calen Addison over the past couple of years has not had these troubles.
Be it getting lots of ice-time in the top-four for a WHL team that made a deep playoff run, or at the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament this summer, where he won gold with Hockey Canada, the chances to see the right-shot defenseman have been there.
Addison was a key part of the gold-medal winning Canadian squad as he scored twice and added four assists for six points in the five games. Addison and some of his teammates had a bit of unfinished business as they fell just short of gold at the U17 World Hockey Challenge the year before.
“That stung a bit but we represented our country very well, especially being just a third of the top guys. Being world champs at the U18 would be an amazing feeling.”
Addison said that before he and Canada accomplished that feat, with a 4-1 win in the final game over the Czech Republic. Not only could he go back to his hometown of Brandon, Manitoba with that gold medal, he got more prepared for the 2017-18 WHL season while doing it.
“It’s definitely a way to get into better shape. When you go to camp in August, it takes some getting used to. This helps you be more ready for that. It gets your lungs ready for the season. It’s a good warm up for the season and also a good way to prove yourself for the country.”
His on-ice performance is important to him, but how he behaves in his community and around his team when they aren’t on the ice is equally as important to Addison.
“I’m trying to just be a good guy. Be a good off-ice leader and teammate. Stuff like that. When we are on the ice, we are all skilled guys so it’s about being a great guy off the ice as well. At the U-18 it’s about buying into the Canadian way and doing whatever it takes.”
Going back to his time in Bantam, Addison has had the talk of being a top-pick around him, so the talk of him being a borderline first-round NHL draft pick is not foreign to him.
“You just have a feeling throughout the year. You don’t really want to pay attention but people bring it up to you. You just kind of get the feeling throughout the year. You just have to focus on what is at stake at the time and only worry about what you can control during the season. Everything will then fall into place for you.”
After he was taken second overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, Addison got into four WHL games in the 2015-16 campaign. He got a lot out of his time with the WHL’s Hurricanes that year.
“It was a great learning experience. You learn how to play against men. There’s guys that are five years older than you. You are 15 and there’s guys that have already turned 21. It’s a good stepping stone and gets you mature for the next season and knowing what to expect as a 16-year-old.”
That 16-year-old year was one to remember as he scored nine goals and added 24 assists for 33 points. That was the most by a 16-year-old, Lethbridge d-man since Brent Seabrook put up 39 in 2001-02.
“Not a lot of guys get the opportunity going in that I did and I’m so lucky to have the coaches I did and the support behind me that believed in me on the ice. They thought that I was mature enough to play in both offensive and defensive situations. I’m thankful for that. It’s a tough league to play in. You just have to take what you can from it and mature every year.”
While the young blue-liner was helping his team to the Eastern Conference Final, he was watching his team’s goalie: Stuart Skinner balance backstopping the team and going through the experience of being scouted for the NHL draft. That is something he will have to go through himself this coming season.
“I think it’s just another thing to mature through. You go through the combine and get to show off your off-ice strength and speed and power and your on-ice stuff. It’s stressful and all year you want to be at your best. It was stressful just watching him (Skinner) go through it as he’s a good buddy of mine. At the end of the day though, it was exciting to see just how happy it made him. It’s something to look forward to for sure.”
While he slowly got used to the regular season as he played in 63 games, the WHL playoffs were a new thing to him and something he gained a lot out of.
“It taught me a lot. The games are completely different in the playoffs. It’s completely different . It’s a way harder game and everything is way faster.. Everything . You really have to bear down and play a harder defensive game and still try to go like you can on offense. I think as you go as a player, playoff experience is a really good thing going forward.”
Addison worked hard in the off-season on improving, and not just on the weaknesses in his game. He also went after fine tuning those areas of his game that NHL scouts probably already loved.
“I think I improved my leg power a lot. Skating has always kind of been my top thing but it’s something I can always keep working on. You can never be too good at anything. There’s always room to improve at anything. I’m hoping to improve my all round game and maturity off the ice. I really want to bring that to the table this year.”
Addison will play a big role in how far the Hurricanes go this season and if his team ends up on a long playoff run, every NHL scout will have seen him play more times than they can count.
(Thanks to DN’s own Tyler Lowey for conducting the interview with Addison)