After an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, LA Kings prospect Tyler Madden will look to play a big role for the Ontario Reign in 2021-22.
Few players will be looking forward to the Ontario Reign’s 2021-22 season more than Tyler Madden.
After choosing to leave college to sign a professional contract with the LA Kings in March of 2020, the Florida native missed two months with a collarbone injury. He could only play 14 games with the Ontario Reign, picking up five points along the way. But, he arrived at Development Camp feeling 100%.
Though the start to his pro career has been stunted by injury — his time with Eisbaren Berline was cut short due to needing surgery on his finger — we can’t deny that Madden was the key piece in the Tyler Toffoli trade to Vancouver in February of last year.
At the time, Madden was in his sophomore season at Northeastern. He had 19 goals and 37 points in just 27 games in his second and final year in college, earning him Hockey East First-Team All-Star honors.
Originally drafted in the third round by the Canucks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Madden possesses a very good shot to go with his intelligence off the puck. If you watch the goals in this below clip from his sophomore season at Northeastern, two things are noticeable: his shot and his ability to find space to get into when he doesn’t have the puck.
There are flashes of high-end skill in this clip, particularly in tight to the net, but it’s how he’s able to find soft areas in the offensive zone to get himself into prime scoring positions. And, of course, his shot allows him to capitalize on these.
In today’s NHL, size isn’t what it used to be, but at 5-foot-11 and weighing less than 160 pounds, Madden has recognized the need to “get a little bit stronger” this offseason to play a bigger role for the Ontario Reign.
Please make no mistake about it, though: Madden is up for the challenge. He earned the nickname “Bright Lights” as a freshman in college for not being shy in the moment. The son of former NHLer John Madden, Tyler is not short on confidence — or, more accurately, the phrase “earned confidence” coined by Reign Head Coach John Wroblewski.
This drive and determination were evident to Madden’s college coach as well:
“If he’s playing in the NHL next year, it won’t be a surprise. If he doesn’t, it’s going to mean the same as for a lot of people, that he needs to get games under his belt. If he makes it in camp or if he starts in the AHL, he will play in the NHL next season at some point. He’s determined, and that’s something you have to have. He’s got talent, skill, and a drive to be a successful NHL player.” – Jim Madigan, Northeastern coach, on Kings prospect Tyler Madden.
What position he plays is also going to be a question. In case you hadn’t heard, the Kings’ system is pretty deep down this middle in terms of their prospects. And oh, by the way, they added two AHL centers in T.J. Tynan and Brayden Burke. In Episode 2 of Making It Reign, I suggested Madden would start the season as the third-line center. There are too many decisions to be made to feel confident about that. However, the other side of the coin is whether or not he’s a center or a winger.
His skill-set of having an effective shot and his ability to quietly find himself into spaces to shoot — not to mention his strong mental make-up — could make a potential transition to the wing rather seamless if that’s the route the organization goes.
What remains to be seen is what his offensive production could look like at the professional level. He was dominant in college but because of the injuries, just hasn’t had the chance to show what he may be capable of in the AHL. I don’t think there’s any concern here about the drive and work ethic he’ll bring to the table. If things don’t click for him, it won’t be for lack of effort.
The other question is if the offensive production doesn’t materialize, will he adapt his game to be effective in other ways? Be it as a bottom-six type player, a penalty killer, he’s the type of player that’s going to force himself to be noticed — one way or the other — and I could very well see him transition his game to one that isn’t predicated on offense.
While his stock entering the season may be a bit down with all of the time that he’s missed, the jury is still very much out on Madden. He’s a player that could benefit from a couple of the higher-end prospects making the NHL out of camp, allowing him to play higher up the lineup and more minutes.
Questions may remain, but I’m not going to be one to bet against him. A healthy Madden is a candidate to get a call at some point this season, as I expect him to be able to play multiple roles and positions up and down an NHL lineup.