Mitch Fadden of the Tampa Bay Lightning faces of against Cory Emmertonduring 2008 NHL Prospects Tournament.
The day has finally arrived for Mitch Fadden.
The native of Salmon Arm, British Columbia stepped on the ice Tuesday morning for his first training camp, relishing the moment and ready to take full advantage of an opportunity with the Lightning organization.
“Just walking into the dressing room is great, seeing all the guys who have been here, all the veterans,” Fadden said. “It’s a special time for me.”
Fadden, 21, a fourth-round pick by the Lightning in 2007, proved he could put up points with the best offensive players in the Western Hockey League. In 206 regular-season games with Lethbridge and Tri-City the past three seasons, Fadden produced 249 points (107 goals, 142 assists). He also had eight goals and 28 assists in 29 playoff games.
Like many players with Fadden’s credentials, he must now show he can adjust his game for the next level.
“He’s got a very strong offensive hockey IQ,” Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton said. “Now he needs to be able to demonstrate that he’ll have a baseline of a defensive IQ as well. In juniors, you can get away with just being an offensive guy. In the AHL, you can’t. He’s got to be able to play a well-rounded enough game that the coach can afford to use him in all different situations.”
Fadden, who can play center and wing at 6-foot, 174 pounds, is primed to take on that challenge. He upgraded his offseason workouts to get stronger and is prepared for the quicker tempo he will encounter in pro hockey.
The most important adjustment he intends to make is in thinking the game at a higher level.
“You definitely have to change your mindset,” Fadden said. “At this level there are guys that can play both ends of the ice. This summer, I really focused on just thinking defense first. The offense will take care of itself.”
Fadden had the reputation as a confident player on the ice in juniors, playing with a bit of a swagger and unafraid to take a chance to make a big play.
The Lightning don’t want him to lose that edge.
“He’s a puck control guy with a lot of skill,” Lightning Assistant General Manager Tom Kurvers said. “If you have the puck, it’s an advantage. He has to provide that same kind of offensive presence for Norfolk to set up the key goal scorers and convert chances himself.
“He’s a confident guy. He’s not going to be overwhelmed in preseason if Marty St. Louis is on his line.”
Fadden is not starting over. He had quite an education through his junior career.
When he had just turned 16, Fadden played two games for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. He also played the next season and a half in the state of Washington before being traded to Lethbridge. It was there that Fadden began to show he can put up big numbers. He had 28 points in the final 30 games of the 2005-06 season and seven in six playoff games.
Fadden had 84 points (36 goals) in 71 games in 2006-07 and 89 (34 goals) in 72 games the following season. Nine games into last season, Fadden was traded to Tri-City where he had 71 points (35 goals) in 54 games. He also had 16 points in 10 playoff games and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Lightning.
“It all helped me a lot,” Fadden said of playing with three teams. “When I got to Lethbridge I got to play more in an offensive role and in Tri-City I was more of a two-way player. It was good for me to see all the different angles from coaches.”
Kurvers said Fadden has some of the characteristics of Derek Roy from Buffalo. Lawton compared him to Dustin Boyd of Calgary. Fadden will try to find his own niche.
Fadden missed the Lightning’s Young Guns prospects camp in July because of injury. The first goal is to have a strong camp and establish himself. Fadden set up Dana Tyrell
for a goal in the first scrimmage with a nifty cross-ice pass Tuesday.
“I just want to get the wheels back in motion, sharpen the edges and focus on the little things,” Fadden said. “I want to get a good jump start into the main camp.”
Fadden expects to start his career in Norfolk, where the Lightning have high hopes for him.
“He had a tremendous playoff last year,” Lawton said. “He made big strides forward. We think he’s a top-six type forward. He just needs to validate that he can do that at the AHL level.”