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'Farmer strength' helps Mappin mimic Holmstrom

by Brad Holland /
Imagine you're relaxing with friends during lunch hour at school when the worst, scariest experience possible occurs. The principal gets on the intercom system and calls you out -- by name.

Normally this is a panic-inducing event, especially to a mild-mannered, well-behaved son of a local oil prospector and farmer. But Cassidy Mappin of Big Valley, Alta., may not have minded the extra attention.

"The principal -- who was a pretty good friend of mine, actually -- went on the intercom and announced that I had been drafted into the Western Hockey League and told me that I had gone 12th overall," said Mappin, who was chosen by the Red Deer Rebels. "At that point, I didn't even know if I was going to go in the draft or not. I had never even heard of the WHL draft until my year of bantam AAA. I didn't think much of it, didn't think I was going to go that way."

If things continue on their current path, it won't be the last time Mappin has his name called at a draft. The 6-foot, 186-pound center has 17 goals and 39 points in 56 games with the Rebels, and was No. 73 in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for the 2009 Entry Draft.

After the school-wide address, everything changed for Mappin. His entire focus shifted from maybe playing in the WHL to finding a way to compete against the best players in his age group.

"Right after I was drafted, I was bound and determined to make this team," Mappin said. "I knew this was a great, great way to get to the NHL, and that was always a dream of mine growing up on the farm and what-not, always watching games on the boob tube. From what I heard, Red Deer was a great development team and had many players go off to the NHL and have successful careers. And right off the first training camp I was doing everything I could to make the team. Even knowing that I couldn't make the team that first year, I was still bound and determined to at least get into all of the exhibition games, make a big impression … as big as I could, anyway."

Mappin knows his best assets are his physical gifts, so he plays to them. He enjoys the physical aspect of the game and has learned how to use his strength and size to compliment his skills.

Red Deer coach Jesse Wallin was a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and skated alongside some of the world's greatest players during his time in Detroit. He knows what it takes to play a pro-style game, and how difficult it is to make the jump from the WHL to pro hockey, and he's trying to teach those lessons to his players, including Mappin.

In Mappin, Wallin found an NHL comparable -- one he got to know perhaps too well during intra-squad scrimmages in Detroit -- and told his young charge to watch him, learn his game and make it his own.

Tomas Holmstrom.

"He's got to be a guy that plays physical," Wallin said of Mappin. "He's a strong kid, he's a guy that has to play physical, he has to create space for himself and his linemates. He's got to score his goals by getting to the net and getting in front of the net and that's kind of the role and the comparison that's we've used for him, a guy like Tomas. This is the way that you have to play in order to have success."

Mappin was all too happy to accept the comparison. Not only is Holmstrom a four-time Stanley Cup champion, he also plays for Mappin's favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings.

"He told me that at the beginning of the season," Mappin said of the Holmstrom comparison. "I was on a line with Landon Ferraro and Tomas Polak -- they'd be the (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg to the Holmstrom in me. I took it. I thought that was great to be compared to him. He's very respected in the NHL. I'm not going to say that I'm a talented player, so being compared to somebody like that who gets into the gritty areas and does everything, does all the work that he can do to get that puck and get it out to those talented guys, I took it as a compliment. I actually like that comparison."

"He's got to score his goals by getting to the net and getting in front of the net and that's kind of the role and the comparison that's we've used for him, a guy like Tomas. This is the way that you have to play in order to have success."
-- Red Deer coach Jesse Wallin, comparing Cassidy Mappin to Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom

He comes by the role honestly. Having grown up on a farm meant Mappin had to go to the "tough areas" on a day-to-day basis. His father worked two jobs while he was young, so often the caretaking of the farm fell to him, his brothers and his mother, with the hardest jobs going to the boys.

"My dad is an oil consultant and a farmer off to the side," Mappin said, "so when my dad is gone, me, my mom and my brothers always took care of the farm. Back when I was younger my dad was gone for months at a time and it was up to me and my brothers when we got home from school to do the chores, get up and get all that done, make sure the cattle are fed, watered, and make sure everything is running smoothly."

Having that kind of responsibility so young is something Mappin points to as a source of pride and strength in his life. He learned how to be responsible, how to be counted on, and most importantly, how to be strong enough to get the job done, no matter the odds, no matter the excuses.

In fact, one might say it's the perfect upbringing for an NHL hopeful, especially one who plans to earn his living by going to the tough areas, doing the jobs nobody wants to do, and generally making his living the hard way.

NHL Scouting Combine GearSounds a little bit like your honest, hard-working, blue-collar Canadian farmer.

"People say it all the time -- there's different kinds of strength," Mappin said. "There's working out in the gym, but then there's that farmer strength, and I figure I've got that, having been out on the farm every summer of my life.

"You get tough quick, and if you don't, you're not going to make it far in farming."

You also won't make it far in the NHL.

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