Eyebrows were slightly raised when the Canucks selected Tyler Madden in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Madden was certainly a well-regarded prospect, but he had just 34 points in 50 games in the USHL, less productive than the USHL player that was selected immediately after him in the draft, Jake Wise.
Considering Adam Gaudette, another USHL player with minimal points in his draft year, went on to win the Hobey Baker award, the consensus was that Judd Brackett and the Canucks’ USHL scouts have earned the benefit of the doubt. In his freshman year at Northeastern University, Madden has rewarded their belief in him, scoring at just short of a point-per-game pace.
Eyebrows were raised for a very different reason during the Beanpot Semifinal on Monday, as Madden flashed some serious skill for the Huskies against Boston University. In front of a national TV audience, Madden took centre stage, scoring the overtime gamewinner to send Northeastern back to the Beanpot Final.
The Beanpot may just be three games in the middle of the NCAA season, but it has out-sized importance to the four Boston-area universities that participate each year. When Northeastern won the Beanpot for the first time in 30 years on the back of an Adam Gaudette hattrick in the final, it was a huge deal. Gaudette went as far to say that winning the Beanpot was bigger than going to the Olympics, which was a possibility for him that year.
Boston College alum and former Canucks Andrew Alberts was on-hand providing analysis, along with another former Canuck, Andrew Raycroft. Alberts identified Madden as a player to watch, saying, “Look for him to break out.”
That seemed prescient by the end of the game, though Alberts also said, “He’s not a guy that’s going to blow you away when you see him on the ice, but he’s a high-IQ type guy, sees the ice well, situational awareness is huge.”
Madden definitely blew some people away.
Where Madden was more of an opportunist earlier in the season, he’s grown into a play-driver for the Huskies, centring the top line. He’s shown that he’s more than just speed and grit, though he certainly boasts fantastic skating and isn’t afraid to get to the hard areas of the ice, in spite of weighing just 150 lbs.
Madden pulled off a gorgeous move late in the first period that had everyone sitting up and taking notice. He chipped the puck past Detroit Red Wings prospect Kasper Kotkansalo in the neutral zone and darted around him to gain the offensive zone. Then he executed a fantastic toe-drag around Arizona Coyotes prospect Cam Crotty and cut to the net, where he just couldn’t tuck the puck around Dallas Stars first-round pick Jake Oettinger.
Alright, Tyler Madden. pic.twitter.com/KSUqEwCnhv— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) February 5, 2019
If that had gone in, that would have been one of the best goals of the year in college hockey.
He followed that up with another fancy move on the power play in the third period, pulling the puck between his own legs to get around Nashville Predators first-round pick Dante Fabbro, then nearly beating Oettinger on the wraparound.
To top it all off, Madden was the overtime hero for the Huskies, beating Oettinger on a breakaway created by a great stretch pass from defenceman Jeremy Davies. Madden celebrated with a sliding snow angel on the ice.
Madden’s shot went just under Oettinger’s left pad, as he was seemingly expecting Madden to go upstairs. The goal gives Madden 9 goals and 21 points in 22 games this season.
That wasn't Madden's first unique goal celebration this season, as he celebrated another overtime gamewinner against number one ranked University of Massachusetts with a sliding kayak move, paddling himself out into the neutral zone with his stick.
Tyler Madden wins it for Northeastern In Overtime over #1 UMass. Madden is 8-12-20 in 18 games as a freshman. pic.twitter.com/d3toha9a7L— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) January 20, 2019
He had other nice moments in the offensive zone in the Beanpot semifinal — little drop passes off the boards, clever moves around his checks, and six shots on goal — but beyond Madden’s fancy moves, I was struck by his play away from the puck, which will endear him to his future NHL coach. His defensive positioning was excellent and he came down low in the zone to help facilitate the breakout for Northeastern. He harangued puck carriers on the forecheck and backcheck with his speed and stick, and played a regular shift on the penalty kill.
Madden also drew a penalty in the third period, battling hard to get to a rebound and drawing an interference call from Kotkansalo. Madden’s combination of speed, elusiveness, and agitation could make him a penalty-drawing machine in the future.
He wasn't perfect — the lone BU goal was scored after his pass up the boards was picked off in the defensive zone — but his overall performance clearly illustrated what the Canucks saw in him when they took him 68th overall in the 2018 draft.
Next Monday, Madden will look to help Northeastern win back-to-back Beanpots in the final against Boston College. The game will be on TSN2 in Canada at 4:30 pm PST.