CALGARY, AB -- Making the leap to a league with a higher caliber of competition is never an easy task and many players struggle to make the necessary adjustments right off the hop.
John Edwardh was one of those players.
The 18 year-old Calgary native spent the 2011-12 season in the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL) with the Calgary Buffaloes Midget AAA team and was second in league scoring, recording 30 goals and 55 points in 34 games. After the Buffaloes season had concluded, he played three games in the AJHL with the Canmore Eagles, tallying two assists as he got a taste of what to expect at the next level.
Given his success in the AMHL, he hoped the transition to playing in the AJHL would go smoothly but that wasn't the case. Edwardh, who spent the 2012-13 season with the Okotoks Oilers, struggled out of the gate and wasn't producing offensively. It was a frustrating experience for the forward but ultimately, it gave him a better understanding of what he needed to do in order to be successful.
"During the regular season, it was a feeling out process," he summarized. "I had a slow start. But it came along and I had a good (run) in the playoffs."
A good run in the playoffs is downplaying the impact he had for the Oilers. In 16 postseason outings, Edwardh posted 19 points (13 goals, 6 assists), good for second in playoff scoring, and led the AJHL with six game-winning tallies.
"(He) really came on in the second half," Red Line Report scout Mark Staudinger told CalgaryFlames.com "48 per cent of his points came in last two months of the season and then he exploded in the playoffs helping Okotoks take the eventual RBC Champions (Brooks Bandits) to the brink of elimination."
Okotoks Oilers head coach James Poole was key in helping Edwardh make the necessary adjustments over the 2012-13 campaign and he lauded his young charge on recognizing what areas of his game he needed to improve upon.
"The pace of play is the biggest adjustment, in terms of being able to read and react at a higher game speed," Poole told CalgaryFlames.com. "He did a really good job at adjusting to the pace of play ... understanding the timing and the awareness of what it takes to be successful at the next level.
"He also understands it is hard work that is going to generate scoring opportunities. He really improved his work ethic day-in, day-out."
The mental aspect of the game that Poole touched upon was something Edwardh himself pointed to in regards to his development. He feels he made great strides in understanding the kind of commitment it takes to play at a higher level.
"It was a longer season than I was used to and there are a lot more ups and downs. You learn how to deal with what comes with a longer season and mentally, you get stronger."
Another reason for his success has been his physical maturation. He was listed at 5-foot-8 and 135 lbs. when he was drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the seventh round of the 2010 WHL Bantam but has added on several inches and muscle over the past three years. Now standing 5-foot-11 and weighing in at 170 lbs., he has the physical tools to be able to compete in those tough-to-play-in areas and win battles along the boards.
"He played a strong game in the offensive zone," Poole noted. "He gets into the right areas and is really able to capitalize on scoring opportunities."
While he has yet to commit to a school, Edwardh has already determined he will go the collegiate route after his tenure in the AJHL is over in order to further his hockey career.
"Less scheduled games (in college) will allow him to build a better foundation," Staudinger said.
In their April issue, Red Line Report singled out Edwardh as an AJHL player that emerged as a legitimate NHL Draft prospect this summer. While he was aware he was technically draft eligible this year, it wasn't something that entered his mind throughout the season.
"It would be an honour to be drafted, for sure," he said. "But it isn't something I had in my head through the year."
Red Line Report Scouting Overview: Shown to be a big game player, elevating his game down the stretch and into the playoffs which speaks volumes for his potential down the road. Currently a standout on the power play, combining a hesitation free release with a scorers touch in tight. Great at navigating the offensive zone, playing with his head on a swive. His hockey IQ allows him to view plays developing and opposing teams tend to overlook his location in scoring areas. Quick puck handling permits him to get past coverage to extend a play around the net. You cannot teach this kid's offensive instincts, has the potential to be a regular scorer moving forward. Must continue to add leg strength as he has trouble playing through contact in open ice and defensive zone effort needs some work as he loses assignments suggesting further conditioning is needed.