Top 25 Under 25, no. 15: Mike Hoffman

Mike Hoffman battling for position. Meanwhile, the one fan in attendance is ignoring the play directly in front of him. - Claus Andersen

From being cut by his hometown team and passed over in the draft to QMJHL MVP and leader of his AHL squad, Mike Hoffman has seen his ups and downs. The time is fast approaching where his future in this organization is going to be decided.

There are no surprises here. Hoffman was going to make this list at some point. He's a prospect we're all familiar with, having been drafted in 2009, spending several seasons with the Binghamton Senators and even making his NHL debut last season. Last year, we had Hoffman at number nineteen on this list. This year, he earns the fifteenth spot. His gradual ascendance is typical of the kind of career he has had so far. Hoffman's is no familiar tale- for a player in his third season of professional hockey and on the cusp of making the NHL, the Kitchener native has faced more than his fair share of obstacles.

Hoffman spent one season with the Kitchener Rangers. Then, he was cut. He was signed by the Gatineau Olympiques and then traded to Drummondville. The whirlwind wasn't done there. He was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility. By his second, he had shown an offensive dynamism: increasing his point total from 48 to 94. The Senators took a flyer on Hoffman, betting that his rise to relative prominence was a sign of things to come. It was. Dealt to the Saint John Sea Dogs before the start of the QMJHL 2009/2010 season, Hoffman would go on to be the MVP of Quebec Major Junior Hockey.


Mike Hoffman

#68 / Left Wing / Ottawa Senators

5-11

176

Nov 24, 1989



Before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Ottawa management hinted at the possibility of Mike Hoffman as a top-six forward in the system. Of course, that was back in the days when Ottawa's other prominent scoring prospects by and large began with "Bobby" and ended with "Butler". The system was left wanting, but Hoffman was surrounded by competition in the following draft, and other potential big league players have emerged from the woodwork since. In an article from the Senators website by Rob Brodie, here is some of Bryan Murray's thoughts on Mike Hoffman:

"Mike Hoffman came to camp (last year) as a guy that was sort of a borderline player," Senators general manager Bryan Murray said after watching the performance of the former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League most valuable player at development camp. "I thought the first half or beyond in Binghamton last year, he was borderline.

"Then he got to the second half and in the playoffs, in particular, he became a real force and he looks like he's an NHL player now."

That was in 2011, before the start of last season. Mike Hoffman would spend the year in Binghamton, (save the one sojourn with Ottawa) playing a central role in then-coach Kurt Kleinendorst's gameplan. Hoffman played in all situations, including manning the point on the powerplay. As a major contributing player on a poor team, Hoffman had plenty of opportunity to display some of his best talents: he has slick hands, a nose for the net, a decent shot, good vision, fluid skating and defensive ability, to boot. However, the significant ice-time also exposed some of his weaknesses, most prominently in his decision-making, getting beat on the point for shorthanded chances the other way far too often. Mike Hoffman has been a lynchpin of Bingo's offence for the better part of two seasons. There isn't much missing from his game.

Hoffman's skills are well-recorded. Furthermore, we know he's pretty much first in line for a real shot at having an NHL gig. Or at least he was first, until he crunched his collarbone this past weekend. Forget about Binghamton's depth chart (if you were ever actually thinking about it) because this injury was a big blow to Hoffman. Perhaps on the eve of an NHL call-up, he gets hurt. Still, this does not have to be a defining moment for a player who knows how to perservere. He needs to focus on recovering, fast, and getting right back to where he was. The team won't have passed him by in a matter of weeks, but it certainly makes his calendar even tighter than it already was.

When the time comes for Hoffman to play, he is going to have to play very good hockey. There won't be much room for error. Fortunately, Hoffman's skating is strong and his two-way style well-suited to what Paul MacLean likes to play. Mike Hoffman is going to get his shot by this organization to crack the roster, and when he does, he has to show the same resilience he has throughout the rest of his hockey career.

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