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Mayhew's well-earned NHL contract came the hard way

Iowa forward scored a franchise record 27 goals during the regular season and has gotten better during the playoffs

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

DES MOINES -- #GerryTime could soon be headed to a NHL rink near you.  

The Wild signed Iowa forward Gerry Mayhew to a two-year, two-way contract, a deal that will allow the one-time Ferris State Bulldog to compete for a job in the NHL next season.

"I'm very excited," Mayhew said on Friday. "I may not show it right now, but I'm very excited. I can't wait to see what's in store for the future, I'm gonna work my hardest to get there and hopefully stick."

Knowing his history, it wouldn't be wise to count him out.

All of 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Mayhew has become one of Iowa's top offensive players this season, setting a club record with 27 goals during the regular season. He's kept that pace going in the postseason as well; his nine goals leads all players in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

His 60 points during the regular season nearly doubled his total from last year, his first full season as a professional.

Video: Gerry Mayhew on signing NHL contract

"He's a little guy but he plays big for his size," said Iowa captain Cal O'Reilly, Mayhew's linemate for most of this season. "He plays hard, he goes to hard areas, he makes plays, and he can score. The way he's played this year, and played for us here in the playoffs, there's no doubt he can play at the next level."

Over his two seasons in Des Moines, Mayhew has slowly earned more and more leash from his coaches. Derek Lalonde, himself a former Ferris State assistant coach, brought him to Iowa for 17 games following the conclusion of Mayhew's senior season. 

He then played in 72 games last season, scoring 16 goals and 32 points. Lalonde left for a job in the NHL last summer, but Mayhew's ascent has continued under first-year head coach Tim Army.

"I think it's just experience in the league now," Mayhew said. "And maybe I'm getting a little more playing time than I did last year, which is really nice, playing power play. I'm playing with Cal O'Reilly, who is one of the elite players in our league. He could be in the NHL ... but he's helped me grow."

One of his biggest fans is Iowa assistant coach Brett McLean, a veteran of 385 NHL games. McLean played nearly two decades of pro hockey in both North America and in Europe, retiring in 2017 and joining the Iowa coaching staff before Mayhew's first full pro campaign.

"It's a great story of how, if you have belief in yourself and you do the right things day in and day out, look at what you can accomplish," McLean said. "Gerry came in from day one last year in Traverse City and right from the start, has been the hardest worker every day. He competes, in practice, he takes care of himself, first to the rink, last to leave. And his game has just grown by leaps and bounds."

McLean doesn't disagree that his praise of Mayhew seems like a cliche. Nice guy, works hard, good team guy ... but in the case of Mayhew, McLean says it's all true. 

For a development league like the AHL, Mayhew's story is exactly the kind of tale the Iowa coaching staff can share with any young player that faced similar long odds like he did. 

Too small, undrafted, four-year college guy, AHL contract, but if one works at it, one can accomplish his goals.

"It's right, using the word cliche, because you could use so many of them," McLean said. "It's a great tool for us to be able to say to guys, 'If you work hard, play the right way and do the right things, you can earn yourself a spot here. You're gonna have to earn it, because it's gonna be competitive, but when you earn a spot here, you can earn yourself an NHL contract."

McLean marvels at the energy Mayhew brings to the rink, not just for games, but for practice as well.

Video: Iowa: 'Energy bunny' providing playoff spark 

The team often jokes on the bench that when Mayhew is playing well, the "puck magnet in his stick is turned on." In his two seasons with Iowa, it's amazing how often the puck just seems to find the blade of Mayhew's stick.

That's not by chance.

"Part of that is, being comfortable in traffic," McLean said. "A lot of guys, they'll wait for the puck to come out of traffic, they'll wait at their spot, where Gerry, he'll just go right in there. That's a big part of it. He'll find a way to get there, and you think he'll fall down or you think he's lost it and somehow he'll come out of it with the puck on his stick." 

Mayhew's longshot story goes back even further than college.

A product of Wyandotte Roosevelt High School in his hometown of Wyandotte, Michigan, Mayhew hasn't taken the easiest path to pro hockey.

Michigan's top high school players typically play AAA hockey, and Mayhew had a chance to skate for the prestigious Little Caesars program. He chose to stay home and play with his friends, winning a state championship as a senior as a result.

A solid two-year run in the United States Hockey League followed as Mayhew scored 77 points in 117 games with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. 

Without eye-popping numbers in junior hockey and lacking prototypical size scouts are looking for, Mayhew wasn't drafted. He went to Ferris State University and played four seasons, leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament twice. 

It's here where he earned the "Gerry Time" moniker.

Following a game-winning goal in overtime his freshman season, FSU play-by-play man Harrison Watt said it was "Gerry Time," and the moniker has stuck ever since.

Video: NHL 19 ratings with Sam & Gerry

"I didn't think it'd follow me to pro hockey," Mayhew said. 

That nickname has become a hashtag, #GerryTime. 

One of the best players in college hockey over his final two years in Big Rapids, Michigan, Mayhew latched on with Iowa in 2017 and scored six goals in his first 17 games with the team. 

Any thought that #GerryTime would be left behind was answered quickly. "Hashtag," as he's called by FSU associate coach Drew Famulak, has followed him to Iowa, and hopefully one day soon, to Minnesota as well.

"It just proves that it doesn't matter if you were drafted, what school you went to, where you're from ... if you work hard and you perform, you're going to get a chance," O'Reilly said. "I think there are a lot of teams that would have loved to have had a shot to get a guy like him. I think he can be an NHL player for Minnesota and be good for them."


More from Iowa's Calder Cup Playoff run:

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