Clear the pucks after practice.
Clean the team bus, without volunteering.
No inimical stares - just good olâ€™ work habits prescribed by his teammates.
Itâ€™s all part of being a rookie for Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mitch Fadden , shifting from youth to maturity with the clubâ€™s farm affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.
Howâ€™s the forwardâ€™s first taste of the professional ranks?
â€œIt was rocky and exciting at the same time,â€ Fadden said before the Admirals' March 12 match against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers [Islanders affiliate]. â€œFirst I cracked my ankle after a block shot, and lost four of my teeth. The time out helped me to get into better shape and take it day by day. It allowed me to get stronger, faster, and to focus on improving my game. Iâ€™m playing much better and getting more ice time. Iâ€™m very excited about how far Iâ€™ve come since the start of the season.â€
In 39 games with the Admirals, Fadden posted five goals and 10 assists with 63 shots-on-goal as of March 11. Heâ€™s seeing roughly 12-16 minutes of playing time and is getting a chunk of time on the power play due to his ability to set up his teammates.
Recently, Fadden's time has fluctuated up to 22 minutes a game because of his performance, solid work at the middle wall, and his success at the wing.
â€œHeâ€™s creative with the puck, and heâ€™s a solid offensive guy," Admirals coach Leigh Mendelson said via phone. "He just needs to spend less time carrying the puck and needs to pass it to his teammates, especially coming into the neutral zone. He has good stick handling skills, but he needs to make better puck decisions.â€
Fadden loves taking the puck and has the tendency to cruise by teammates. He has been learning to utilize his team and not to gamble as much with the game on the line.
â€œI want the puck when Iâ€™m out there. I know that itâ€™s not going to be all about me, and what I want to do,â€ Fadden said. â€œYou have to make the right plays, the right decisions - you canâ€™t just think of yourself in this league. Itâ€™s not like it was in juniors.â€
Mendelson coached against Fadden from the Spokane Chiefs bench in the WHL last season when Fadden played for Tri-City.
â€œMitch has to use all the five guys around him. That comes with maturation,â€ Mendelson said. â€œLike a lot of young players, he just needs time. His biggest thing now is carrying the puck too long, and beating players one-on-one. With Mitch, he needs consistency.â€
The native of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, is not a blazer on the ice, but is increasingly punishing opposing defensemen.
â€œI know I can beat them deep and wide,â€ Fadden said of his foes. â€œMy legs are getting stronger because of my workouts, and it has improved my skating. I think I could beat eight on one [Laughs]. I can beat three on one.â€
Fadden said heâ€™s in the best shape of his life, building up his lower body and gaining muscle mass, making him stronger on the backcheck. He will continue his regimen of workouts during the summer.
â€œYou have to workout smart,â€ Fadden explained. â€œYou have to workout 12 months a year and six days a week to maintain. You have to know what you want. Itâ€™s about keeping focus, just because itâ€™s the offseason, doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t work. I will try to get on the ice as much as I can in the summer.â€
During his 341 career games in the WHL, Fadden piled on 136 goals and 318 points during stints with Seattle, Lethbridge and Tri-City. He posted 30 goals three consecutive times, so he has the ability to become vexatious on offense.
"I'm pushing myself to succeed,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m working on my shots at practice, after practice, and after games. I want to be the No. 6 forward for the Lightning, working on the top two lines.â€
Will Fadden be shadowed by his past work habits or attitude that had him overlooked during the 2007 NHL Draft (fourth round, 107th overall), according to some reports?
Not this time.
Former Admirals interim coach and now Lightning assistant coach, Jim Johnson, pulled no punches with the rookie before his promotion last month.
â€œCoach [Jim] Johnson took me under his wing,â€ Fadden said of his former Norfolk leader who is now with Tampa Bay as an assistant. â€œYou have to work hard, even when you have a day off. He taught me to keep my â€˜focusâ€™ if I wanted to succeed at the next level. He really opened my eyes to what it takes to get to the NHL - hard work.â€
Faddenâ€™s puck collecting and bus cleaning work is going well, if anyone was wondering. Itâ€™s speculated that heâ€™s doing a fine job.
â€œThey [teammates] assign those things. No, I donâ€™t have any other things to do except pick up the pucks after practice, and the bus,â€ Fadden, 21, said sheepishly. â€œI donâ€™t mind. I just do it.â€