Updated Oct 30, 2012 - 10:16 am
Hauf making an impression in his second season
By Tim Pigulski
With much of the attention from scouts and media being focused on star defenseman Shea Theodore, it can become easy for Jared Hauf, who was selected well ahead of Theodore in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, to be forgotten.
After an impressive three games in three days, it appears as though Hauf may be ready to take some of the pressure off of his teammate and friend.
Prior to the season, both players were listed, along with fellow blueliner Jerret Smith, on NHL Central Scouting's Preliminary Draft Rankings. Theodore, who earned an "A" rating, projects as a first-round pick, while Hauf and Smith, with "C" ratings, will likely find themselves selected in one of the later rounds.
"It's exciting, but the three of us try not to get caught up in any of the Central Scouting rankings stuff," Hauf said. "We just try to work hard together throughout the season."
It seems that it'd be easy for a player like Hauf to get caught up in the hype after he was selected fourth overall in his Bantam Draft. While many pre-draft rankings predicted the towering 6-foot-6 defenseman as a first-rounder, most didn't have him going as high as he did.
"I wasn't expecting it throughout my bantam season, but I did have a meeting (before the draft) and [the Thunderbirds] told me that it was coming," remembers Hauf, who had a plus-three rating in three games last weekend.
Last year, early in his first full season with the T-Birds, Hauf was fortunate to return to his hometown of Calgary, Alberta to face the team he grew up watching -- the Calgary Hitmen. The T-Birds won that game in overtime 5-4, eventually defeating current Seattle goalie Brandon Glover after he replaced starter Chris Driedger.
Hauf, who made it onto the score sheet after receiving a match roughing penalty with Calgary's Jimmy Bubnick, remembers the homecoming experience well.
"Growing up playing hockey it was exciting to go to Hitmen games," reflects the Calgary native. "To play there, with friends and family in the audience, was a great experience."
This season the T-Birds will have the opportunity to host Central Division-leading Calgary at home on Feb. 9. The Hitmen are currently third in the Eastern Conference with 19 points through 15 games played.
With his enormous frame, the 17-year-old Hauf projects as more of a shutdown defender than one who will put up a large number of points.
Prior to his draft, scouts compared him to former Spokane Chief and Ottawa Senators draftee Jared Cowen, who stands at 6-foot-5 and played in all 82 games for the Senators last season.
"Being big, you try and look at those guys who have good size in the NHL and try and model your game after them," he said. "I watch guys like Chris Pronger, (Zdeno) Chara, and Shea Weber. They're all bigger and can move the puck. I try and have them influence my game."
Along with 6-foot-7 defenseman Taylor Green and 6-foot-6 wing Mitch Elliot, Hauf stands as one of the biggest players on the Seattle roster.
"I feel like a good part of my game is physical play and size obviously helps with that," he said. "Also, long reach and a good stick help on the penalty kill."
Early in the season, the physical defenseman has already shown tremendous improvement in his positioning and defensive play from last season. It's well-known that defensemen face a steeper learning curve than forwards and Hauf is no different.
"I think it goes with all young, big defenseman, myself included, that we need to work on quicker feet, pivoting, and our skating in general," he said. "But I still think I can contribute a lot on the defensive side of the game -- being physical, moving the puck, and clearing the zone."
The T-Birds feature one of the youngest defenses in the entire WHL with Hauf, Theodore, Smith, and Green all 17 years old, Wardley (18), and rookie Kevin Wolf (16).
Last season the young defense was able to take notes from 20-year-old Cason Machacek and 19-year-old Brad Deagle, who was an unfortunate victim of the WHL's maximum of three 20-year-olds per roster.
To add some experience and a stabilizing presence, general manager Russ Farwell went out and snagged 19-year-old Jesse Forsberg from Prince George in exchange for Colin Jacobs, who had asked to be traded from Seattle.
"It was nice to have a couple of older guys last year to show us the ropes and how the league works," Hauf said, referring to Machacek and Deagle. "Even still this year, Forsberg is great to have. He's been in the league four years and he still mentors me and Shea and the rest of the young guys."
During his rookie season, Seattle missed the playoffs by just two points when they weren't able to secure the eighth seed during the last weekend of the regular season.
After three games this past weekend, the Thunderbirds now hold a 7-5-1-0 record and 15 points through their first 13 games. The team is hoping that it won't find themselves in a similar situation when this season reaches its conclusion.
"Last year was an eye-opener. We learned that we need to get going right from the start of the season," said Hauf, who has found himself paired up with an assortment of defensive partners as head coach Steve Konowalchuk experiments to find the best lineup combinations the T-Birds can offer.
"The guys are all close and that'll help us win more games. We really just seem like a great group of friends."
This past weekend marked what may have been Hauf's best in the WHL, as he saw significant time on a penalty kill that allowed only one goal in 10 opportunities through the three games.
He also appears to have gained the trust of Konowalchuk as he was paired up with Theodore to face off against Kamloops' top line of J.C. Lipon, Colin Smith, and Tim Bozon -- the top three scorers in the WHL.
As a whole, the young Seattle defense is gelling together nicely early in the season. They allowed only seven goals in three games against very good offenses in Tri-City and Kamloops and an Everett team that had scored six goals the night before against Spokane.
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