Calen Addison was chilling in Des Moines, Iowa, last week when he got the call. He immediately packed his bags, hopped in the car, and trekked 250 miles north to the Twin Cities.
A few days later, the 20-year-old Addison is on the verge of making his highly anticipated NHL debut. He will step into the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Kings in Los Angeles and play alongside veteran defenseman Ryan Suter.
“This is really a lifelong dream come true; I’ve waited almost 21 years for this,” Addison said Monday. “Any hockey player growing up always wants to play in the NHL. That’s their lifelong goal. Just for that to come true and be happening tomorrow is something special. I’m thankful that they believe in me enough to put me in the lineup here and give me that chance.”
To be fair, the Wild don’t have much of a choice given the current state of their blue line. Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy, Ian Cole and Brad Hunt are all on the COVID list, and captain Jared Spurgeon is still recovering from an upper-body injury. They are desperate for bodies.
That means Addison will get the next few games to showcase his talents. He is gifted offensively, with the skill and speed to ignite a rush all by himself.
Acquired by the Wild as a part of the Jason Zucker trade last season, Addison already has proven himself as a offensive threat this season, albeit at a lower level, racking up three assists in three games with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
While that type of creativity has been evident in practice this week, too, Wild coach Dean Evason already has preached to Addison the importance of keeping things simple during games.
“He doesn’t have to do too much,” Evason said. “He doesn’t have to be Jared Spurgeon out there. He has to be Calen Addison. That’s what we’re going to ask him to do. We expect him to compete his butt off, like we expect all of our guys to.”
That’s something Addison has taken to heart.
“I’m a young guy,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep it simple. I don’t need to overdo anything. I don’t need to be doing anything special. Just need to make the right play, make a good first pass, join in offensively when I need to, and be safe in all three areas of the ice. Just not overdo it, and keep it simple.”
No doubt playing alongside Suter will help Addison adapt to the next level. Not only is Suter among the most responsible players in the NHL, capable of erasing mistakes made by his defensive partner with relative ease, he also has been more than willing to lend an ear in practice this week.
“It’s been awesome,” Addison said. “He’s been around for a long, long time. He’s obviously proven it every year. He’s an awesome defenseman in this league. There’s not many better guys to learn from. He’s always teaching me things out on the ice. Just little things to make me better.”
The biggest piece of advice Suter has given Addison this week?
“Just have fun,” Suter said. “It’s the same thing I’ve said to every one of the guys I’ve played with. Just keep it simple. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s about how we react to those mistakes. He’ll be fine. He’s a good player.”
As complimentary as Suter was about Addison’s game, the veteran had no problem ribbing the youngster about his appearance. Asked about Addison’s curly flow with the mustache to match, Suter joked, “I told him he needs to get a haircut if he wants to be my partner.”