LEWISTON – The Lewiston Maineiacs are moving closer and closer to draft day, and are starting to piece together a puzzle that will eventually turn into a working roster for next season.
One key piece, 17-year-old defenseman Tom Michalik, has verbally committed to the team.
“We got everything tied up last week, and we finished it off (Monday),” said Maineiacs assistant coach and assistant general manager Ed Harding. “We have a verbal agreement right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the paperwork at the office in a day or two.”
Michalik, who will turn 18 on Dec. 30, will be 18 by league rules this season, but at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, the young blueliner hardly plays like a 17-year-old.
“He’s a big kid, but he’s fleet of foot,” said Harding. “He worked a lot on his outlet passes last year, and he’s a lot better at those now than he was last year. We feel he’s improved immensely just in the last year.”
Michalik, who played last season for the New England Junior Huskies in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, was at the Maineiacs’ training camp last August, but left after two days.
“The reason I left, I wanted to finish as much of my schooling as I could,” said Michalik. “I wanted to get the core classes out of the way, so next year traveling around, it will be easier to transfer my stuff and easier to get my diploma.”
The staff has not promised Michalik a position on the roster, though, saying he will have to earn his way onto the team like everyone else.
“He’s coming back to camp this year, but he’s not guaranteed a spot on the team,” Harding cautioned. “He is, however, ready to forego his eligibility. He wants to be a professional hockey player.”
“The coaching (in Lewiston) is phenomenal,” said Michalik. “I got some good offers from some D-I schools, but I decided Lewiston was really the best place for me to develop, and I think I’ll get the most out of everything there.”
A self-described stay-at-home type defenseman, Michalik seemed at ease at the Maineiacs’ camp last season, battling hard in his one-on-ones with current AHL standout and former Lewiston forward Alexandre Picard.
“I just try to make the right plays on defense,” said Michalik. “I’m really looking forward to playing in front of the fans in Lewiston.”
Last year, for the Huskies, Michalik played in 40 games, scored two goals and added 10 assists while taking only 52 minutes in penalties. Also on that team were former Maineiacs goaltender D.J. DelBuono and former Cheverus High School defenseman Adam Horgan.
As for where exactly Michalik will fit in, Harding already sees a niche the sturdy defenseman can fill nicely.
“He’ll complement some of the more offensive guys well, we think,” said Harding. “He’s a big kid, he’s strong in the corners and we think he’s going to be a (darn) good defenseman.”