When he played for the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen, Austin Madaisky used to see elite-level NHL defensemen like Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Regehr pretty frequently.
He didn't finish the season in Calgary, but a move west might make those NHL sightings a more common occurrence.
Madaisky, No. 57 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of players for the 2010 Entry Draft, had 7 goals and 27 points in 65 games.
"He moves the puck smartly and I like his size," B.J. MacDonald, who specializes on Western Canadian prospects for Central Scouting, told NHL.com. "He's not overly physical but he uses his body well in positioning in his own zone. He plays the power play regularly and has an offensive creative side. His skating and mobility is good. Not flashy, but gets the job done. I like the way he thinks and he shows underrated potential."
Austin Madaisky (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)
Madaisky had 18 points in 39 games with the Hitmen. On Jan. 15, he was dealt to the Kamloops Blazers, and while he finished with just 9 points in 26 games, he excelled in the playoffs, leading the team with 3 goals and finishing second with 6 points as the Blazers were swept in their first round series with the Vancouver Giants.
Despite the sour ending, the move definitely was a good one for the 6-foot-2, 185-pound defenseman, as it allowed him more opportunities to showcase his skills.
"We try to rotate six defensemen, but you could see his play dictated his opportunity to be used on the power play, penalty killing," Kamloops coach Guy Charron told NHL.com. "He got used in all situations and can excel in offensive situations that require defensemen to have good awareness, good first pass."
For Madaisky, the trade to Kamloops was helpful on multiple levels -- it moved the native of Surrey, B.C., closer to home, as well as gave him the opportunity to play more, and in more key situations.
"I look at it as a positive, a chance for me to showcase my abilities," Madaisky told NHL.com during the season. "It can be a little stressful at times; you have to be tough mentally. If you have a bad shift, throw it out the window and get back the next one and play hard."
His play certainly impressed Charron, especially in the playoffs. He matched Madaisky against the Giants' top scoring line, and he was an even player in plus/minus rating in three of the four games. And he chipped in with a team-best 3 goals (all on the power play) and his 6 points was second on the squad.
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"He's going to be a good power-play guy, he has a good shot, he reads the ice well," said Charron. "If he can complement that with being a plus player as a defenseman, or a guy who you can put in all situations -- we played him against Vancouver's big players, and he was able to excel and give us the offense we expected from him."
Madaisky will spend the summer working on different aspects of his game.
"Something I'm always trying to work on is my foot speed," said Madaisky. "As a defenseman, that's something every D-man can try to work on."
Physical play also is something Madaisky might need to work on. He's got the size for it; it's just more of a willingness to engage.
"He has that (edge)," said Charron. "He was involved physically. He's not identified as the type of player that has to be imposing himself physically, but he can be involved physically -- if there's an opportunity to finish a check, or do those things, I think he's capable of doing it. But he's more of an asset when he's playing than when he's in the box. I don't think Austin has shied away. It's something that as a young player to establish yourself, you have to make sure that part of the game, you don't shy away from it."
Charron also said he'd like to see Madaisky improve his on-ice decision-making. Not that it's bad, but the coach said the need to pick up that part of the game is something that's common to younger players.
"Sometimes his reads defensively were not as good as they could be," said Charron. "When I have meetings with him, it's his decision-making defensively. I encourage him to do the things he does well, rush the puck, join the attack -- do all those things his skills allow him to be. But defensively, whether it's penalty killing, you have to be in position, hold your ground a little bit longer, the play will come to you."
After the initial adjustment period of the trade wore off, Madaisky showed a number of positive traits with the Blazers, and that good play should carry into next season, where nothing in Kamloops should surprise him, and his play should improve further.
"When you're involved in a trade, there's an adjustment to make," said Charron. "He saw it as an opportunity to establish himself as a player right from the get-go, but there's always … you're tentative. But the more he played you could see his game progressing It's an indication of where Austin can develop."