When you are working to achieve your lifelong dream, there are no fancy summer getaways planned.
For defencemen and former co-captain of the Windsor Spitfires, Jalen Chatfield many of his days this summer have been spent with his friend and former Spits teammate Sean Day inside the WFCU Centre (in Windsor, ON) preparing for NHL training camp.
He can be seen doing agility drills up the stairs in the main bowl of the arena, on ice taking part with former and current Spitfires in assorted practice drills, to working up a sweat in the weight room.
Chatfield understands his road ahead to crack the Vancouver Canucks lineup is full of a lot of sacrifices to make it to the NHL.
“Since the end of my hockey season, (with the Utica Comets) for the last few months I have been here working out, both on and off the ice, just concentrating on getting better every day,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield is accustomed to beating the odds. The native of Ypsilanti, Michigan was undrafted in the NHL and undrafted in the OHL too, signing his junior contract as a free agent back in June 2014.
His strong work ethic earned him the respect of his Spitfires teammates and coaching staff alike, as he was voted co-captain of their squad that went on to capture the 2017 Memorial Cup.
Chatfield explained that he is not alone, that there are other NHL prospects that are undrafted and willing to do whatever it takes to have an opportunity to make their respective team.
“There are a lot of guys like me, that don’t get drafted, that go on to have pretty good careers,” Chatfield said. “Then, there are a lot of other players that will get drafted, that just don’t pan out. It’s not really the path you take, but it’s what you do with it. That is what a lot of guys have to realize. You have to put in the work and stay focussed, and see the bigger picture in all of it. In the end, if you are out working the other guys, then you will be more ready and able to out play them.”
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As junior hockey players move up to different leagues, the level of difficulty increases exponentially for all hockey prospects looking to achieve their dream of making it to the NHL. For Chatfield, he had a sample size last season participating in the Vancouver Canucks training camp and playing a season with their minor league affiliate the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League.
“It’s a whole new league and a whole new game,” Chatfield said. “You are going from playing with guys that are 16 to 21 years old in junior hockey to grown men. You have to adjust to the game, as it’s going to be faster and more physical. I thought before that I had prepared for all of it and was ready for it.”
Currently, the Canucks are going through a transition, as the faces of the franchise both Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired together at the end of last season. They are pushing towards an infusion of youth on their team, with young stars Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser upfront.
On the blueline, veteran defenceman Alex Edler anchors the Canucks defensive corps. In this year’s NHL entry draft the Canucks chose flashy defencemen from the University of Michigan, Quinn Hughes 7th overall and 37th overall Moose Jaw Warriors defensive standout, Jett Woo. As Vancouver rounds out their roster with their prospects, Chatfield is aware there is an opportunity to have a role with the club, but must prove it on the ice.
“There is a younger group of guys on the team, but at the end of the day we are all trying to make the NHL and that is my goal,” Chatfield explained.
For now, Chatfield continues back to the grind, as he prepares himself for the Canucks training camp in early September.