For Detroit Red Wings prospect Jared McIsaac, it was only fitting that his first goal as a member of the Grand Rapids Griffins came with some additional hoopla.
Amidst a frenzied home crowd, teddy bears came raining down onto the ice for a Griffins’ promotion. It may have taken five minutes to clean up the ice, but the duration didn’t matter to McIsaac.
For the 22-year-old defenseman, it was a long time coming–and it just extended the glorious moment.
“It’s been a long road the past couple of years,” McIsaac said. “The goals–it is what it is. More importantly, I’m just happy to be playing on a consistent basis. That game was awesome–to score that in front of a big crowd.”
“Yeah, it was big.”
Confidence is Key
Taken in the second round of the 2018 draft, McIsaac impressed the Red Wings with his hockey IQ and upside. The season following the draft, he posted impressive numbers to the tune of 62 points (16-46) in 53 games with Halifax. McIsaac, it seemed, was right on schedule with what Detroit expected.
Any Detroit fan following McIssac’s career knows what happened next. A slew of injuries slowed the defenseman’s rise within the organization. Finally healthy, he appeared in ten games for Grand Rapids last season. A frightening hit during the prospects tournament that sent McIsaac out on a stretcher had many holding their breath.
But McIsaac was just fine. Since then, he’s been emboldened by good health, and even better play.
“Confidence is everything,” McIssac said. “Especially as a younger kid playing pro. Confidence is huge. You’re going to go through ups and downs.”
That confidence has also been buoyed by prominent members of the Red Wings organization.
Support from the Red Wings Organization
One of the most supportive voices within the Red Wings is former defenseman Niklas Kronwall. He dealt with his own injury issues during the start of his career, and McIsaac has leaned on the now director of European Player Development for wisdom.
“I have a pretty good relationship with Kronner,” McIsaac said. “I talked to him after the shoulder problem and kinda bounced things off of him here and there. He’s been really good with that, and obviously an unbelievable player for Detroit all of those years. Any chance I get to listen to him, I’m all ears. He’s been great for me.”
On the ice, it’s been veteran Brian Lashoff, who has a multitude of experience both in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
“I’ve talked to Lash a lot,” McIsaac said. “He’s been around a long time and he’s seen it all. I definitely do not hesitate to ask questions to him and he’s been really good to me.
McIsaac on the Rise with the Griffins
In a prospect pipeline Steve Yzerman has reloaded with defensive talent, McIsaac is seemingly near the top. With changes expected in the offseason and roster spots opening up, McIsaac could find himself with the big club sooner rather than later.
Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill acknowledged that McIsaac has certainly grown this season.
“He’s played pretty solid hockey,” Blashill said. “So I think there’s been growth there as well. Again, I think part of his timeline got extremely adjusted probably when he has gone through the injuries that he’s gone through, including in the prospects tournament this year. It hasn’t made it an easy time for him but hopefully through these challenges he’s grown and continued to build that mental toughness it will take to make it and be an impact player.
Though it’s the dream, McIsaac keeps his focus on one day at a time.
“My goal is to get there, but I’m not there yet,” McIsaac said. “My goal is to keep working on my game, on my craft. One day at a time. It’s been my mindset all year–one game at a time–one day at a time. I like where my game’s been headed throughout the season.”
Beyond that, McIsaac acknowledges that remaining even-keeled and consistent will take him closer to that goal.
“Being healthy is a huge step,” McIsaac said. “Continuing with the consistency in my game. It’s not going to be smooth sailing the whole way. That’s something I’ve realized over the past couple years..especially with everything that’s happened. I think just trying to stay focused, not getting too high or too low. Just being consistent in all aspects of my game.”
If that consistency continues, McIsaac’s opportunity with the Detroit Red Wings might be close to arriving.