Last week the HARBORCenter held the annual NHL Combine, featuring over 100 of the top prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft. During the Combine athletes participate in interviews with the teams that aim at calling their name. Allowing future bosses to get a feel for who these kids are and what they can bring to the table. However, the prospects are also challenged in a myriad of physically challenging events. More challenging to some than others. You may remember a few years ago, Sam Bennett, currently of the Calgary Flames, couldn’t even do one pull up. To which he responded stating that he was disappointed in his performance but also that “Ultimately games aren’t won or lost if you can do a pull-up in the gym.”
Fast forward to 2017 and top Prospect Casey Mittlestadt finds himself in a similar boat. The top ranked North American skater struggled mightily. He too, was unable to complete one pull up, but also faltered on the bench press, only able to complete one rep. That’s rough, but okay it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s more about how you respond. Isn’t that life? I mean your going to fail at things, but it is how you respond to failure that dictates the story. Well, here’s where things kind of go off the tracks, from my perspective at least. Mittlestadt’s response was the following…
“I try to work on being a hockey player. I don’t try to really work on doing my bench press and pull ups. I want to be a hockey player and that’s what I train to be. Obviously its good to be strong and it’s something that obviously I can get stronger with and work on a little bit. But I don’t think being able to do a pullup’s going to make me be able to handle the puck better or be a better shooter. I don’t really buy too much into that.”
This quote I read in an article from Bardown, where they actually called this a “great response”. I think it’s quite the opposite to be honest. I mean, yes, it may not help you be a better shooter or help you handle the puck better, but its going to help you be a better hockey player. After all, that is what you are training for. You need strength to your game. When you’re fighting along the boards or challenging for the puck down low, it wont be there. When a defenseman lines you up at center ice, it wont be there. Im sure you all get the gist of where this is going. Bottom line, I see this as a garbage response that shows a lack of maturity and awareness for what it takes to succeed. Bottom line, in my opinion, it’s a garbage response.
I liken it to a college athlete making excuses for his grades because he is a star on the field. I mean, you can see that, point blank, in a Tweet from Cardale Jones when he said “We ain’t come to play school.” Or its like saying, ‘Well, I know it wont be on the test, so even though it’s part of the program, I’m just not going to study it.’ Don’t get me wrong, I get where the talented forward is coming from, but if I’m an NHL scout, I don’t want to hear excuses for why you couldn’t do something that was asked of you. ‘It was an eye opener and something I will focus on improving on every day’ would have been a “great response.”
Not some BS about whether it is import to be able to do or not. To me it’s a potential red flag for a poor attitude. I’ll break it down on a personal level. Two years ago, I wasn’t able to do a pullup. I’m sure my face looked exactly like Mittlestadt’s as I struggled to get up there. But I made no excuses, had nothing to do with “Ohhh, I’m not an athlete so I don’t need to be able to do a pushup.” It was because I was not in shape and needed to put in some serious work. And thats just what I did, I put my head down and got it done, no excuses.
Now, I hope despite his response, Mittlestadt will go on to improve his overall strength, both physically and mentally, at the next level, and continue to grow and develop into the hockey player his skills show he can be. But unfortunately, I would not bet my team’s 8th overall pick on him.