Apr 26, 2022

By: Mitchell Courtney

Getting to the NHL level is considered the pinnacle for many hockey players around the world, and as long as the game has been played, size has played a significant role in the success or failure of many who have chased that dream. For 5-foot-11 Iowa Wild defenseman Calen Addison, breaking that mold has always been top of mind.

Born and raised in Brandon, Manitoba, Addison’s parents began to acclimate him to the ice before his stature ever raised any doubts. His first memories of skating date back farther than his desire to play organized hockey.

“I started skating when I was two years old, so at that point it is kind of more parent driven,” Addison said. “My family would always take me skating when I was young.”

Although his parents played a role in getting Addison to hit the ice for the first time, he noted that it was an activity he enjoyed from the beginning.

“It was definitely something that I liked right away,” Addison said. “I do not remember a time where I did not want to be on the ice.”

As he grew older, Addison began to realize that his size would eventually factor into the decision-making process for coaches, teams and organizations who would be evaluating him as a player. From that point forward, he took it upon himself to model his game and his style of play to NHL defensemen who possessed similar attributes.

“My favorite NHL player to watch was always Erik Karlsson, especially when he was in his prime in Ottawa,” Addison said. “He was a player that I tried to model my game after.”

Karlsson, just one inch taller than Addison, starred for the Ottawa Senators for nine seasons from 2009-18 before being traded to the San Jose Sharks on Sep. 13, 2018. He has scored more than 20 goals as a defenseman on two occasions, and has recorded 50 or more points in a single season five separate times. Like Karlsson, Addison understands the importance of adjusting to the physicality of the North American professional game.

“Being a small defenseman, it can be tough. You have to learn how to battle. You have to play with the strengths and the skills that you have,” Addison said. “For smaller guys like me, you have to learn how to defend and read situations effectively. Those things certainly come with more experience.”

After three productive seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL from 2015-18, in which he tallied 98 points in 135 games, Addison was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round (54th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft. As a relatively high draft choice, Addison originally expected to be a part of Pittsburgh’s future plans. However, on Feb. 10, 2020, Addison was traded to Minnesota along with Alex Galchenyuk and a conditional first-round selection in the 2021 NHL Draft, in exchange for former Iowa and Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker. The news surprised Addison, who had not envisioned being involved in a trade so early in his professional career.

“I could not believe it,” Addison said. “I was a little over a month removed from the World Juniors and I was in Lethbridge. I was having a nap after dinner and I actually woke up to a voicemail and a text from our Assistant General Manager in Pittsburgh saying that I had been traded.”

After receiving the career-altering news, Addison quickly received a phone call from the Minnesota Wild brass, welcoming him to the organization and expressing their desire to have him play a role for the Wild for years to come.

“After I got the news, Billy [Guerin] called me to welcome me,” Addison said. “It was one of those things that I could never have pictured.”

Adjusting to the professional game is a difficult task, and it becomes increasingly more difficult when you are the newest member of an organization with lofty goals and expectations. Conversely, Addison noted that the Wild organization did and has done everything in their power to make him feel comfortable in the days, weeks and months following the trade.

“It was huge that the Wild invited me to the training camp that summer before the bubble,” Addison said. “That was a big stepping stone towards knowing all the guys, all the staff and the rest of the people in the organization.”

Addison’s first impressions of the Wild organization were overwhelmingly positive and he maintains that he has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Minnesota and Iowa.

“Everyone in the organization from Billy [Guerin] all the way down to the players have been extremely welcoming,” Addison said. “I am not surprised at all that I have enjoyed it here this much.”

In his first two seasons as part of the Wild organization, Addison has experienced the highs of being recalled to the NHL and the constructive development of his game at the AHL level in Iowa. He noted that moving up and down can be a challenging process as he strives to make a consistent impact, but that he trusts and believes in himself and the plan the Wild organization has for him.

“It is definitely tough, especially when you go up and play really well and get sent down,” Addison said. “It is a very unpredictable business and that is just how hockey is. It is hard to make it to the NHL and it is even harder to stay up there.”

For Addison, maintaining a positive outlook has helped him focus on his personal development and the success of whichever team he is a part of on any given day.

“For me, it sounds cliché, but it really is about staying positive, keeping my mind in order, and not losing track of what is at stake,” Addison said.

As he continues to develop, Bill Guerin, Iowa Wild General Manager Mike Murray and the rest of the Wild front office have offered words of encouragement to Addison throughout his journey.

“The messaging has been positive. It is usually just ‘keep doing what you are doing’,” Addison said.

Addison has placed an emphasis on his offseason conditioning and maintaining his body to ensure peak performance levels during the season. In the offseason, his focus shifts to a strict healthy diet and differing activities to ensure a well-rounded training program.

“I like working out in the summer and doing different stuff because it makes me feel way better,” Addison said. “When I do that stuff, it makes me feel really good coming into the season. It is all about just staying active, whether that is playing tennis or playing pickleball.”

Some of his offseason training methods continue into the season and Addison mentioned that keeping his body loose and ready is an effective way for him to be competitive night in and night out.

“I am also really into stretching and I keep up on that during the season,” Addison said “I have to make sure that I am well-conditioned and that my body is feeling good. For me, the stretching helps because when your body is really tight it makes things a lot more tiring. The looser I can be, the easier it is on me.”

Though he has found sustained success in the AHL with Iowa, one of Addison’s goals is to do the same with Minnesota in the NHL. Additionally, he has his sights set on the game’s biggest prize.

“I have played games in the NHL so the next step is to be a permanent guy there,” Addison said. “I want to hold my spot, be there for years and play as long as I can. Ultimately, as a player, you always hope that you can win the Stanley Cup too.”

With some professional success in his rearview mirror, Addison’s sights are set on performing consistently at the next level and winning the Stanley Cup. He understands that the easiest way to reach his goals is to concentrate on his daily growth.

“I think it is important to take things one day at a time,” Addison said. “The more you look at your situation and the more you think about it, the harder it is on you. As a young athlete, you just have to work hard and eventually success will come if you keep doing the right things.”

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