Adam Clendening knows the 2010-11 season will be a big one for him -- it is his draft season, after all.
But don't expect the defenseman to panic or worry about what's to come. He has his father to thank for that.
Frank Clendening topped out at the Junior B level as a hockey player; but at an early age, he started passing along his hockey wisdom to his son, including a lesson on how to handle pressure on the rink.
An industrial tradesman who also coaches youth hockey in the Niagara Falls, N.Y., region, Frank devised a drill for his son to prepare him for hockey tribulations to come.
Starting when Adam was about 4 or 5 years old, he would attach small wire baskets to cardboard cutouts and put one near each faceoff circle. He then would dump the puck behind the net, have Adam chase it down, and while Frank would steam in on him, Adam would have to flip the puck into one of the baskets.
The goal was to teach his son how to move the puck smartly and accurately under pressure, not just clear it out wildly, and it seems like it's worked.
Clendening emerged last season as a star with the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 squad, leading all defensemen with 49 points in 65 games. He also had 14 goals, and his 120 penalty minutes led the club. He was even better in international play, leading the team with 20 points in 18 games.
That impressive total included a team-best 10 points in seven games for the U.S. team at the World Under-18 Championship in Belarus, which earned him a spot on the tournament all-star team.
He started his 2010-11 season with a spot at USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, where his 3 assists in three games against Finland and Sweden earned him positive reviews and could go toward him earning a spot on the 2011 World Junior Championship team.
He also garnered a spot at the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp Fueled By G Series, and his strong play there has carried right over into his first season of college hockey, at Boston University. In two games, he has an assist and is tied for second on the team with a plus-3 rating.
"Last season as an under-ager on a team that had so many draft-(eligible players), I spent my time watching them," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "(Clendening) did, however, jump out at you playing on the power play with his high level of finesse and skill. He is an excellent skater and hard to pin down when forechecked. He has a very good shot from the point. He is also very adequate in his own zone."
At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Clendening isn't a dominant physical force, and he's smart enough to know that he needs to add more physicality to his game.
"If I had to pick one place it would be (to get better), it would be a little bit more physical, whether that be in the neutral zone, defensive zone, offensive zone, wherever," Clendening told NHL.com. "I think it would probably be the physical element of the game. That would make me a complete package. It's something you need to work on. Being an undersized guy doesn’t make it any easier."
It's very similar to something Cam Fowler went through last season, when the offensive-minded defenseman knew he needed to get a little tougher going into his draft season. He jumped to the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires and became the No. 12 pick of the 2010 Entry Draft.
Clendening had the option of following Fowler into the OHL -- the London Knights took him in the fifth round of the 2008 OHL draft -- but he chose BU, where he'll have to match up against bigger, more physically developed players.
"I could have stayed another year (with the USNTDP), but I was able to graduate and go to college so I figure why not play against bigger guys, go to college, develop physically and on the ice more," said Clendening. "Try to develop my game. It's my draft year and that's a great place for exposure."
Considering BU is a top-10 NCAA program, scouts will have little problem finding him.
But when they do arrive on campus, don't expect Clendening to wilt under their glare.
"People are going to watch you whenever you play," he said. "I think you concentrate on yourself and play your game and don't try to impress anybody. Just stay within yourself and do what you do best. Master the way you play."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com