When the Kamloops Blazers needed a jolt, they brought in Austin Madaisky to provide a spark.
It was January of 2010 and the Western Hockey League season was reaching its fever pitch, with clubs jockeying for position and making deals to strengthen their respective rosters. Blazers GM Craig Bonner wanted to be proactive and bolster his blue line, so he targeted a tall, lanky 17-year-old who had been turning heads with the Calgary Hitmen.
Bonner and the Blazers felt Madaisky was their missing piece, and as he quickly developed into a strong, two-way defenseman, their initial hunch was proven true. They needed the help, too; the storied franchise had not won a Memorial Cup since 1995 and was a perennial one-and-done in the WHL playoffs.
Though the Blazers were swept in the first round by the Vancouver Giants that year, Madaisky and his teammates became part of a total culture change in the organization. The bar had been raised, and there was a new level of excitement in the building.
“The entire turnaround while I was there was incredible,” Madaisky told BlueJackets.com. “When I first got traded, to say they had been struggling would be an understatement. They had their glory days winning three Memorial Cups in the early 1990s, and then didn’t win a playoff game for what seemed like forever.
“The fans and the city kind of fed off it, too. There was a new energy around the team and it was really special to be a part of.”
During his two years in Kamloops, the Blazers and Madaisky were unable to capture the elusive Memorial Cup title, but they were part of a near-historic comeback in a semifinal series with the Portland Winterhawks (and Blue Jackets prospect Oliver Gabriel) this year.
After a stellar regular season (47-20-5) and B.C. Division title, the Blazers swept the Victoria Royals in the first round and set up a date with the powerhouse Winterhawks.
|Madaisky in CHL Top Prospects Showcase (2010) |
Portland took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, but the Blazers would not roll over. Trailing 4-0 in Game 4, they rallied to win 5-4 and extend their season by another day. They proceeded to come all the way back and force a seventh game – a memory that Madaisky will hold as his fondest in Kamloops.
“Our starting goalie and our captain were injured and out of the lineup, so it wasn’t looking good,” Madaisky said. “In Game 6, we were down 5-2 going into the third period and scored with 15 seconds left to win 7-6 and force Game 7. It was unbelievable…words can’t describe what we were all feeling on the bench.
“We came out after the game and saw people in tears. That game gave the city some life and provided some hope for the franchise and the organization. It was something I’ll never forget.”
Though his junior hockey career ended more abruptly than he would have preferred, Madaisky has begun gearing up for professional hockey. Summer training is under way, and he’s getting set for Blue Jackets development camp this summer and main training camp in the fall.
He signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets last week and has his sights set on the NHL. Whether that happens in 2012 or beyond is yet to be determined, but the fifth-round pick in 2010 wants to show the Blue Jackets he was worth the pick.
Based on the results of the past few seasons, it would appear Madaisky is developing quite well. He put up 50 points (13 goals, 37 assists) in 70 games last season with a +20 rating, nearly doubling his offensive output from the year prior.
“It was a very exciting moment for me,” Madaisky said of signing his contract. “It’s kind of a snapshot in time where you can look back at everything you’ve achieved this far in your hockey career. But at the same time, it’s just a gateway to another opportunity. In reality I haven’t really achieved anything yet.
“There’s a lot of work to be done and now the hard work really work starts. I’m working hard to prove to Columbus that I’m a really good prospect and I can help out the organization.”
Regardless of where he ends up in the fall, Madaisky plans to stick to what got him to this point.
“I just want to be myself and be a solid two way defenseman,” Madaisky said. “Last season, I think what people would notice most is my offensive numbers improving, but I also thought my defensive game grew a lot more. I tried to keep developing both ends of my game and come to compete all the time.
“Coming into camp, the goal is to try and make the Columbus Blue Jackets. If I happen to play in Springfield, Columbus, or Kamloops, I’m still going to try to develop as much as I possibly can.”
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