Mike Haviland has experienced the entire gamut of hockey.
The 52-year-old native of Middletown, New Jersey, has coached at the NHL, AHL, ECHL and NCAA levels. He won the 2010 Stanley Cup as an assistant with the Blackhawks and owns a pair of ECHL championships when he was the bench boss of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies and Trenton Titans.
Haviland has learned about pro players and players aspiring to be pros. There's a keen sense to identifying the differences between the two.
As the head coach of Colorado College, Haviland watched Flyers prospect Wade Allison score five points (two goals, three assists) for Western Michigan during a two-game series in January. The senior Allison was clicking for the Broncos as they swept Haviland's Tigers in the weekend set. A week and two months later, Allison inked his entry-level contract with the Flyers, officially starting his pro career.
“He possesses a great package of size, speed and skill, and we strongly believe he’ll be an NHL power forward moving forward," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said in a statement on March 27 when the 2016 second-round pick signed.
Haviland had no addendums to the description, specifically the power forward section. Allison matured into a pro-ready 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger with four years at Western Michigan and playing for Andy Murray, a former Flyers assistant coach who has 10 years of NHL head coaching experience.
"I know Flahrsy a little bit, too, and I agree," Haviland said last Wednesday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "Listen, I think the biggest thing with anybody from college, it’s the learning curve and how long is that curve until they can understand what it’s like to be a pro and how hard it is daily.
"Learning under Andy Murray and that staff there I’m sure has helped Wade understand what it is to be a pro because Andy understands it and so does his staff.
"When Wade plays hard and he was really getting after it like I’ve seen, he’s a dangerous player. I’m sure Philly wants the curve to be quick and not take a lot of time, but that’s just the way it is.”
With Allison, Haviland emphasized power forward. During 2018-19 — a season in which Allison was not himself after tearing his ACL, abruptly ending a special sophomore year — Colorado College held the junior to one assist over four games.
The 2019-20 season was not the same story. Allison faced the Tigers only twice but had a four-point game in the second matchup after netting a goal in the first meeting. Through the two games, Allison was that authoritative power forward, playing on his terms and recording eight shots to go along with a plus-5 rating.
I think Wade took his game to a different level. He was dangerous every time he touched the puck, it didn’t matter who he was playing with. He was always dangerous on the power play, but I think he was more dangerous every time this year. When we played them, he was making something happen — more of that power forward, taking things to the net, a noticeable player and a dangerous player.
It just seemed that he was at a different level this year for me.
(Allison's first goal against Colorado College)
(Allison's second goal against Colorado College)
In his final collegiate season, Allison scored 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 26 games, with 17 of his points coming at even strength. Because of injury issues, he played 30 or more games only once in his four years with the Broncos. As a result of the injuries, staying in college made much more sense. Similar to fellow Flyers prospect Tanner Laczynski, a four-year forward out of Ohio State, Allison's transition to the AHL and NHL from a physical standpoint shouldn't be as drastic as it would be for a younger player making an expedited jump.
Both Allison and Laczynski will be 23 years old in 2020-21.
"They’re men, they’re good hockey players and I expect that they’ll challenge for spots right away," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in March. "Whether they can make it, time will tell. But they’re players that are very close to being able to step in and play.”
There's enticement to Allison's pro ceiling because he has a craftiness and skill set to potentially play up in the lineup. Then there's the size and disruptiveness to profile down in the lineup.
He could be a wild card.
Haviland likened Allison to Troy Brouwer, a 6-foot-3, 213-pound winger who won the 2010 Cup in Chicago. Brouwer has scored 20-plus goals and 40-plus points three times in his 14-year career.
“I would probably say a pro guy, because I spent so many years in pro hockey, for me, he’s got a little bit of Troy Brouwer," Haviland said. "Brouwsy could score when he played like that power forward type of player. I think Wade maybe is a little bit more fluid through the neutral ice. Brouwer was more of a north-south guy and Brouwsy had a tremendous career, I loved him and he was one of my favorite players, but I saw a lot of Wade in that — dangerous in the offensive end and when they play that power forward game, they can be really effective. I think that’s where Wade can be.”
Wade Allison, definitely crafty around the net. pic.twitter.com/2PTnIXoMkU— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) June 26, 2019
Wade Allison with a nasty shot past Felix Sandstrom to send championship game to OT. pic.twitter.com/7HxpXaOHtD— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) June 28, 2019
Power forwards aren't always flashy and the mindset of one might not be a style many wrap their arms around. Head coach Alain Vigneault's system is predicated on that effort.
It could be Allison's quickest ticket to the NHL.
“I’ve had a lot of guys come out of college when I was in the American League and even in the NHL, some of them, the curve is 30 games in the American League and some guys are a year in the American League," Haviland said. "I think Wade has that chance to make an impact on a very good Philadelphia team and organization. He’s going to be a really good pro player because of his IQ and his skill set. If he buys into that power forward thing — certainly I don’t have him on a regular basis, but I’ve seen it — if he becomes that power forward, I think he could be an impact guy for them.”
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