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John Hynes reflects on path to NHL with Devils

Hockey Week Across America helps coach show appreciation of journey through USA development program

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- John Hynes was playing at Toll Gate High School in Warwick, Rhode Island, the first time he even considered a career in coaching.

Never could he envision being named the 17th coach in the history of the New Jersey Devils on June 2, 2015. It was a position earned through hard work and because of, in large part, lessons learned along his USA Hockey development path as a player and coach.

Reflecting on that journey never gets old to Hynes, especially during Hockey Week Across America.

"Sometimes you sit back and reflect on how hard you worked but also how lucky you are to have had the chance being around good people who helped you grow and provided great opportunities," Hynes said.

Hynes worked with many of the finest United States-born hockey players currently in the NHL, including Patrick Kane, now in his 10th season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Kane credits Hynes for providing motivation and a strict workout regimen during his two seasons under his guidance at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.

"He took what you did on the ice as serious as what you did off the ice and I think that helped my development and career," Kane said. "He's had some success here in the NHL and he'll probably have more as time goes on. But as far as motivating players and having a coach that you want to play for, he's right there at the top of the list."

Hynes played for and was a graduate assistant under legendary coach Jack Parker at Boston University, and later spent time as an assistant at the USNTDP, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and University of Wisconsin before returning to the USNTDP as coach for six seasons.

In 2009-10, Hynes was hired by Devils general manager Ray Shero, then GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as defense coach for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He was named coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2010-11 and spent five seasons there before finally landing in the NHL with the Devils.

Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy played for Hynes his first season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and is glad to have him once again.

"The only thing that surprises me is that it took him this long to reach the NHL," Lovejoy said. "Everything he does is perfectly tailored to the team he has and the style of play that he thinks will make the team successful."

Hynes received advice at every level he's coached and considers Parker the ultimate leader with the way he conducted business at Boston University.

"The way [Parker] instilled hard work in us as players is something I still use to this day," Hynes said.

The sacrifices Hynes needed to make in building his resume were necessary from the moment he graduated from Boston University in 1998.

"I was lucky to have [Parker] but also a group of coaches who came through, like strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle," Hynes said. "The summer after graduation I was a volunteer assistant. I also worked for Boyle in strength and conditioning and had to substitute teach in order to make some money on the side."

It was during this period Hynes felt a greater urge to coach at a higher level, and the timing was perfect.

"I wanted to become a Division I college coach and that's when [USNTDP coach] Jeff Jackson called," Hynes said. "Boyle was running the strength and conditioning program and recommended me and that's how I ended up going to the national program."

The list of players, in addition to Kane, under Hynes' tutelage at the USNTDP include defensemen Erik Johnson, Justin Faulk and Jon Merrill, and forwards Colin Wilson and Jason Zucker.

"I remember we'd have to weigh in every day, and I'd lie about my weight by four or five pounds because I was 20-to-25 pounds lighter than everyone," Kane said. "It was really good for me to have hard practices, then go in the gym for an hour-and-a-half and really train your body."

Said Hynes, "When you coach a guy of [Kane's] potential, then see that he's maximizing what he was born with, that's special. Patrick loves the game and was motivated by competition. He was undersized, didn't have a lot of strength, but was a dynamic offensive player. So long as he stayed healthy, you knew he was going to be able to be what he's become."

Merrill respects the fact Hynes has remained true to who he is even at the NHL level.

"His commitment to the game, to his team, it hasn't changed," Merrill said. "He cares so much and the time and effort he puts in to prepare is unbelievable. Some of the things he preached to us when I was 16, he still preaches today. He's stayed true to who he is as a hockey mind and that's allowed him to get to where he is." correspondent Brian Hedger contributed to this story

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