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On Campus: Sons of coaches making impact

Canucks prospect Madden, Devils prospect Thompson among top goal-scorers in NCAA

by Mark Divver / Independent Correspondent

Two of the top goal-scorers in college hockey -- Tyler Madden of Northeastern University and Tyce Thompson of Providence College -- are the sons of longtime pro players and coaches.

It's not a coincidence. 

While having a dad who played or coached at a high level may not guarantee success, there's no question it helps.

Madden, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, and Thompson, a New Jersey Devils prospect, are the headliners among current college players whose fathers played or coached in pro hockey. Thompson, a sophomore, is tied for the NCAA lead with 14 goals; Madden, also a sophomore, is tied for second with 13.

Tyler's dad John Madden won the Stanley Cup twice with the New Jersey Devils (2000, 2003) and again with the Chicago Blackhawks (2010). John Madden retired from the NHL after the 2011-12 season, then became an NHL assistant with the Florida Panthers and a coach with Cleveland of the American Hockey League. 

Brent Thompson, the father of Tyce, as well as Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres, is coach of Bridgeport in the AHL) and also had been an assistant with the New York Islanders.

Immersion in the game from a young age has helped mold Madden and Thompson, each 20, into NHL prospects. 

Madden (5-foot-11, 152 pounds) was selected in the third round (No. 68) by the Canucks in the 2018 NHL Draft. Thompson (6-1, 178) was picked in the fourth round (No. 96) by the Devils in the 2019 NHL Draft.

"[Tyler] has been around the game for a long time,'' Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. "You pick up things about the game. Those guys have real high hockey IQs.''

It is not just the institutional knowledge that helps.

"A big part of being a coach's son is he knows how to come and work every day,'' Providence College coach Nate Leaman said. "There are no days off with Tyce. He understands what it means to get something out of every practice.''

Tom Fitzgerald, who is the assistant general manager of the Devils and was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, had a 16-season NHL career that included being the first captain of the expansion Nashville Predators. He has two sons in pro hockey. Ryan is a 25-year-old forward in his third full season with Providence and Casey is a 22-year-old defenseman playing for Rochester (AHL). Each played at Boston College.

"You can't replace experience. There are great players out there whose dads weren't coaches or whose dads didn't play, but there is a benefit to having your dad be someone who has experienced the ups and downs of what players go through at all levels,'' Fitzgerald said.

"Not that we overcoach our kids -- we don't. But hockey's a big topic in our house and I'm sure it is in the Thompson and Madden houses, as well.''

Northeastern has had success in past years with the sons of coaches. 

John and Nolan Stevens are the sons of Dallas Stars assistant John Stevens, who coached the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings. The 25-year-old John Stevens played at Northeastern from 2013 throughout 2017 and is in his second season with Bridgeport. Nolan, a 23-year-old forward, played at Northeastern from 2014 to 2018 and is now in his second season with San Antonio (AHL). Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, whose father Dave is an assistant with Bakersfield (AHL), played for Northeastern from 2011 to 2014. This season, Tyler Spott, a freshman for Northeastern, is the son of Steve Spott, who was an assistant with the San Jose Sharks.

"It's a good challenge they present you with as a coach," Madigan said of players who come from coaching families. "They're smart players. You've got to be on your game to coach them.'' 

Here are some other sons of coaches and former players who are making their mark in college hockey:

Skyler Brind'amour, Quinnipiac University: A freshman forward, Brind'amour is the son of Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'amour, who played 20 seasons in the NHL. Skyler was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the sixth round (No. 177) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Jack DeBoer, Boston University: DeBoer is a sophomore forward. His dad, Peter, was coach with the San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers.

Erik Gordon, College of the Holy Cross: Gordon is a sophomore goalie. His father, Scott, is the coach of Lehigh (AHL). Scott also coached the Flyers and Islanders.

Cole and Christian Krygier, Michigan State University: The Krygier twins, sophomore defensemen, are the sons of Todd Krygier, an assistant coach with Grand Rapids (AHL), an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. Christian was picked by the Islanders in the seventh round (No. 196) of the 2018 draft. Cole was selected by the Florida Panthers in the seventh round (No. 201) of the 2018 draft.

Austin Lemieux, Arizona State University: Austin's father never coached, but Mario Lemieux became the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins after his Hall of Fame career with the team. The sophomore forward scored his third goal of the season against Harvard on Sunday in the SoCal Clash in Irvine, California.

Tyson McLellan, University of Denver: The senior forward, who played on the school's NCAA championship team in 2017, is the son of Todd McClellan, the coach of the Los Angeles Kings. He previously coached the San Jose Sharks and the Edmonton Oilers. 

Jordan Richards, University of Minnesota Duluth: Richards, a junior forward, has won two straight NCAA titles. His father, Todd, has been an NHL coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild. Since 2016 he's been an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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