Working 'After Hours' pays off for young Wild players

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2014 - 6:36 AM

By staying late and working with assistant coaches, Charlie Coyle and Co. are speeding their development.

 

Accompanied by his trademark thunderous laugh, Andrew Brunette calls what has become the Wild’s daily custom “After Hours.”

Every day, long after most Wild players retire to the showers, the sound of blades cutting up the ice and pucks bursting off sticks echoes at whatever rink where the Wild is practicing.

Take a walk to the glass, and the scene is the same every time: 21-year-old forwards Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and recently called-up Jason Zucker working overtime with Brunette and fellow assistant coaches Darryl Sydor and Darby Hendrickson.

“This is why our organization loves these kids,” said Brunette, the fourth-leading scorer in Wild history who since retirement has taken on a dual role in the Wild’s coaching and hockey operations departments. “They’re willing to work. That’s the one thing you can say about all of our young kids is that they want to learn, and they’re willing to put in as much work as possible — sometimes probably too much work.

“The Ninos, the Grannys, the Charlies, the Zucks, they are out there all the time working on their game.”

Years ago, teams had two or three assistant coaches — max. These days, teams invest a lot of time and money into player development, from hiring young executives to act as traveling liaisons between prospects and the team that drafted them, such as the Wild’s Brad Bombardir, to hiring recently retired players like Sydor, Brunette and Hendrickson to work directly with the “kids.”

Working together

Sydor, Brunette and Hendrickson have combined for more than 3,000 games of NHL regular-season and postseason experience.

It couldn’t work if the kids weren’t willing to put in the work. The one thing you quickly notice about the Wild’s youngsters is how professional they are.

Recently, coach Mike Yeo had to march to the ice to pull the kids off on a game day.

After Coyle, Granlund, Niederreiter and Zucker leave the ice, they often can be found on the locker-room floor with young goalie Darcy Kuemper stretching together. They’re all in tiptop shape and are driven to be successful NHLers.

“Practice is good and everything and you learn obviously there, but I think going out and putting in some extra work helps,” Coyle said. “I think guys try to do it and other guys follow, and now it’s become a habit.”

Micromanaging

Coyle and Niederreiter say it’s a huge asset having three coaches like Brunette, Hendrickson and Sydor, who have played in the NHL at a high level.

“They see the game and know the game and help you so much,” Niederreiter said. “They’re so good at telling you what you can do better and being positive with you.”

Brunette said the coaches all have their own special skill sets they try to instill into the forwards. Sydor works more often with the defensemen, although because of young Jonas Brodin’s hefty ice time in games, the coaches typically usher him off the ice rather than allowing him to take part in “After Hours.”

“We try to find the strengths and weaknesses in each player and work with them on that,” Brunette said. “Darby likes the tight turns and quick feet and moving and faceoffs. I like the in-around-the-net stuff, the passing stuff, the using the body on the wall stuff. Shot tips and net-front play is a big thing with all of us. So we come with different drills every day and work on that.”

Players bond

Hendrickson often works with the centers Coyle and Granlund, while Brunette often works one-on-one with Niederreiter, teaching him the nuances of protecting the puck, deflecting pucks and getting shots off quickly.

The four forwards have become good friends away from the rink and love pushing each other at the rink.

“We like competing with each other and growing together,” Niederreiter said.

When Brunette was a young developing player in Washington in the mid-1990s, he worked in Portland with coaches Barry Trotz and Paul Gardner. Once he got to the NHL, he learned by absorbing everything veteran teammates Dale Hunter and Adam Oates did.

“We didn’t have the young coaches in the NHL to help,” Brunette said. “We got that in the minors, but this is a different era. These kids are getting opportunities where maybe in the pre-[salary] cap era they’re in the minors.”

Production increases

With Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise injured, Niederreiter and Granlund have been skating on the so-called first line with veteran Jason Pominville, while Coyle and Zucker have been on the so-called second line with veteran Dany Heatley.

They all have made big impacts during a streak of five victories in six games heading into Tuesday’s game against Ottawa.

Coyle has two goals and two assists the past two games. Granlund has four assists the past six games and has won 59 percent of his faceoffs in the past eight games. Niederreiter has eight points in the past eight games and a game-tying goal and shootout winner. Zucker has three goals in the six games since his fifth call-up of the season.

“We have a lot of young guys on the team, and it’s not like we’re hiding them on the fourth line or our sixth D pairing,” Yeo said. “These guys are key players on our team. We need them to contribute and be effective. They’re growing big time right now. We’re asking an awful lot from them, and they’ve really been delivering.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close