Hyman Making Strides to Reach NHL
Panthers prospect has dominant year in junior, now heading to Michigan
It was just one year ago when the Toronto Jewish community rejoiced upon learning that 2010 TanenbaumCHAT graduate, Zach Hyman, had been taken 123rd by the Florida Panthers at the NHL Entry Draft.
At that time, Hyman ecstatically informed Shalom Life of his future plans. He would take a year off from education and focus on playing for his Ontario Junior Hockey League team, the Hamilton Red Wings. Then, after hopefully tearing up the OJHL, he would attend Princeton in September 2011 and play for their hockey team, en route to eventually cracking the Panthers roster.
The now 19-year-old indeed had a strong 2010-11 campaign, scoring 42 goals and 60 assists for a total of 102 points in just 43 games for Hamilton. The captain of the Red Wings was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year for his staggering offensive numbers as well as his two-way play.
Despite Hyman’s success in his final junior hockey season, he decided to make a change in his future plans. Rather than getting ready to gear up for the Princeton Tigers in less than a month, he will instead be opting for blue, committing himself to play for the University of Michigan Wolverines, which is known as one of the most successful university athletic programs around.
“I was away for Passover break with my family in California as we were visiting our grandparents,” Hyman explains. “I was watching the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs; I think it was Philadelphia versus Buffalo. During the second intermission, one of the announcers said ‘Breaking news, the new head coach for the Penn State program is going to be former Princeton coach, Guy Gadowsky.’”
Hyman says that his level of comfort with Gadowsky as his coach was one of the main reasons for him initially opting for Princeton.
“He was really the one who recruited me so I was kind of left in a situation where I didn’t know who was going to be the coach. I kind of just wanted to explore all of my options.”
Hyman then visited plenty of schools, including Boston University, North Dakota and Denver, before ultimately choosing Michigan.
“It’s one of the best. The coach, Red Berenson, is a legend,” Hyman said, noting the vast amount of Michigan alumni currently playing in the NHL, such as Montreal Canadiens forward, Mike Cammalleri; Andrew Cogliano of the Anaheim Ducks; and Los Angeles Kings defenseman, Jack Johnson.
Aside from having to make such a large decision, Hyman said that he enjoyed himself while playing last season.
“It was a huge honour to be named CJHL Player of the Year,” he said. “It means I was acknowledged as the best [junior ‘A’] player in Canada and I was just humbled by that.”
As the CJHL Player of the Year, Hyman’s Hamilton Red Wings jersey will be on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame for the next year. He says he looks up to past recipients of the award, such as former Anaheim Ducks captain, Paul Kariya and current Minnesota Wild sniper, Dany Heatley.
“Those guys are star NHL players and just seeing that shows me I can also be like that. If I keep working hard, I can do that in the NHL and that’s what I’m planning to do.”
This past July, Hyman got a taste of life as a Florida Panther, as he participated in the team’s development camp alongside many of his future teammates, such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson,Quinton Howden and Rocco Grimaldi. The camp included three days of on-ice training, as well as off-ice sessions aimed to stress the importance of strength and conditioning, nutrition, team work, mental skills.
“I think I showed them my speed and my skill, how hard I work, how much I want to be there and how much heart I have.”
Despite being around so many high draft picks, Hyman says that he did not feel intimidated at all.
“Once you get out there, you’re just playing and you don’t really look at who’s a first round pick or who’s a seventh round pick. When you get drafted, it’s a new career and everybody starts on the same page. It’s just about working hard and proving why you got drafted.”
There is no timeline for Hyman to enter the NHL as far as he knows. For now, he is taking it one level at a time.
“I’m going to play college hockey for at least three to four years. I want to graduate there but we’ll see what happens with the Panthers. You never know, but we’ll see as time goes. I’m still a couple years away.”
According to Hyman, there is a phenomenal support system in Florida for prospects. He is surrounded by General Manager, Dale Tallon; Director of Player development and former Panthers captain, Brian Skrudland; and Scott Luce, Director of Scouting.
“The Panthers are really supportive,” Hyman says. “They don’t want to make anyone play too early. They wait to see when the perfect time is for you and when the perfect time is for them for you to fit into their line-up. Right now it’s more about developing and getting to the level where you’re going to fit in properly.”
Hyman is well aware of how important it is that he and his future teammates play well once he cracks the Florida Panthers line-up. Not only will it be vital to win games but as a southern hockey team, the Panthers are also focussed on attracting the attention of fans.
“We want to bring a lot of fans in and get the Panthers organization up on top,” says Hyman. “They’re revamping the whole organization and they have tons of prospects to do it. Hopefully in the next few years, Florida will turn into a bigger market.”
Meanwhile, Hyman’s college career will begin very shortly. He moves in to Michigan on September 4 and will participate in training camp before the season starts in October. His first year goals include scoring a point per game on the ice and deciding a major off the ice.
“I want to be an impact player right away. I want to play well for the team and win a bunch of games.”