Norris Point sniper expected to add punch to inconsistent power play
© Mykal McEldowney/The Greenville News photo
Brandon Hynes works during practice with the Greenville Road Warriors on Oct. 22, 2013.
ANTIGONISH, N.S. — As a veteran of both Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and ECHL hockey, Brad Peddle has a unique perspective on what lies ahead for Brandon Hynes.
The coach of the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men hockey team suited up as a player for the squad from 1995-99, earning the team captaincy and winning the Dr. Randy Gregg Award as Canada’s top hockey student-athlete, before embarking on a five-year professional career that included two years in the ECHL.
Hynes, of course, recently left the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors during his rookie season, choosing instead to enrol at St. FX to earn a degree, while maintaing his hockey career in the AUS.
“(The ECHL and AUS) are comparable, but they’re different,” Peddle, a native of St. John’s, said via telephone. “The guys here have schooling on their plate too, that’s the difference ... you have to have guys who can manage both.
“But in terms of level of play,” he added. “They’re very comparable.”
Peddle said most AUS rosters are dotted with guys who played four or five years of major junior hockey, like Hynes did in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and who had the ability to go play minor pro at 20, but decided to get their education instead.
“And good for them, because that’s the way you should do it,” he said. “Unless you have a legitimate opportunity coming out of junior where it’s an NHL opportunity ... it’s really a no-brainer to go to school and then try pro when you’re done.”
Peddle had seen the 21-year-old Norris Point native play before and had kept tabs on him, even when he went to the ECHL. He had closed the book on ever getting to bring Hynes to the X-Men when he saw how well he was doing with Greenville, where Hynes was leading the squad in scoring with 14 points (7G-7A) in 20 games before deciding to leave.
That’s why Peddle was so stunned to receive a late-night phone call from the player’s representative, telling him Hynes was interested in attending university and wanted to speak with him.
“If you’re changing the way your team looks at Christmas, it better be worth it,” said Peddle. “Getting a call like that, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t want to speak to him.”
The deal fell in place very quickly. Peddle estimates it took four or five days to officially make Hynes a member of the X-Men.
Though the coach likes his current group — they’ve compiled a 7-6-1 record so far, for third place in the AUS standings — he knew Hynes would be capable of helping to fix their main weakness.
“We’ve got a real strong, high-character group that competes hard,” he said. “The one area we can improve on in the second half is to put a little more bite into our power play. Our power play has been inconsistent in the first half.
“Obviously with Brandon’s scoring ability and his shot, we’re hoping that will inject a little more offence into our lineup,” he added. “Goalscorers are hard to find ... it’s something I think any coach would like to add to their team, no matter if they’re happy with their team or not.”
One thing Peddle stresses is how competitive and skilled a league the AUS is, something he says many people may not fully realize.
“Every night is a tough game ... you can’t take a night off,” he said. “I haven’t had too many guys in nine years I’ve been doing this come in and not be shocked at how high a level it is.
“In our league, you’ve got to be able to compete over 200 feet.”
He expects it will take Hynes at least a couple of games to adjust, noting his new sniper will get a “good, healthy dose” of two solid squads — University of New Brunswick and University of Moncton — when the second half begins on Jan. 3.
“He’s coming in right in the heat of it, right into the fire,” said Peddle. “January and February in college hockey is playoffs.”
The five-foot-nine, 175-pound Hynes does have the benefit of experiencing the pro game, which should make his transition into varsity hockey easier. The hope is he can quickly become a vital component moving forward for a club with championship aspirations — not just for next year, when the team hosts the University Cup nationals, but for this season too.
But nothing will be given to him.
“We’re going to play him to his strengths,” Peddle said. “At the same time, like any player, he’ll get the chance to play, and then a lot of it is up to the player. I think that’s the way it has to be.
“I know he competes hard and that’s a good thing.”
Hynes will debut with the X-Men on Dec. 29 in an exhibition game against the Guelph Gryphons.