Calen Addison is a self-aware teenager. He knows the type of player that he is.
And the type of player that he isn’t.
Measuring in at roughly 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Addison will never be mistaken for your prototypical shutdown, defensive-defenseman.
But focus solely on his size, however, and you’d miss everything else that he brings to the table.
Addison, 42nd in Future Considerations’ Fall ranking, is a dynamic blueliner, combining sharp instincts, quick feet and smooth hands, a package that makes him a dangerous player from the back end.
“Skating, play-making, offensive defenseman,” Addison describes himself.
“I like to make plays off the rush and in the ‘O’ zone, create opportunities from my own zone by joining the rush and just be an offensive guy.”
It’s a strategy that certainly pays dividends on the scoresheet.
So far this season he has recorded 18 points through 18 games for the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, easily the most among defenders on his team and good for a tie for eighth among all WHL defenders.
While defensemen like Addison often get described as ‘high-risk, high-reward’ players, that’s a notion that Hurricanes coach Brent Kisio rejects about his star young prospect.
“One of the things that we like about (Addison) is that he’s not that high risk,” Kisio said.
“He knows when he can go and when he should stay back. I think, for 17-years-old, one of his best qualities is he really picks his spots well. We like him being aggressive, we like him jumping up in the play, but he knows when the time to stay back is.”
Even though Addison primarily describes himself as an offensive player, Kisio is quick to extol the draft eligible’s continued improvement at both ends of the ice.
“He’s a real good two-way player,” Kisio said. “He’s really developed on the defensive side of the puck. Last year offensively he was strong, especially for a 16-year-old, but we like the way his defensive side has come this year. He plays a lot of minutes for us in all different situations, power play, penalty kill. He can obviously skate real well with the puck moving forward and he makes a good first pass.”
Protecting a defensive zone with such a small stature is not an easy task.
But Addison already displays an advanced understanding of the best ways to utilize his frame.
“You’ve got to be strong on your stick, box guys out in front of the net and be strong in the corners, and not let them get to the net before you do,” he said. “Defending with your feet, not over-committing with your body…just playing smarter rather than playing a little bit more physical, it’s something you got to work on when you’re a smaller guy.”
These abilities were additionally honed over the summer during time spent with Hockey Canada and their staff.
Addison took part in the National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp and was one of the seven blueliners to make the final roster for Canada’s entry to the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.
Coached there by Kisio, Addison picked up two goals and four assists in five games as Canada took home the gold.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime,” he said. “It’s a dream since the start of me playing hockey. Just to make that team was an honour, and then obviously to win with so many great players, you can’t beat it.”
While his overall game has improved a lot over the past year — and he has a shiny new gold medal for his trophy case to help prove it — Addison understands that there is still much work to be done.
As recently as 10 years ago, defensemen his size usually wouldn’t get a lot of attention prior to the NHL Draft. Things are starting to change now, with more and more small defenders making it to hockey’s highest league.
Addison, in much the same way that he reads the play out on the ice, is already one step ahead in terms of knowing what he has to do to get there.
He’s already aware.
“(I need to) tighten up my ‘D’ zone and my defending, being a smaller guy,” he said. “I have confidence offensively, joining the rush and making plays, but I’ve got to be stronger defensively.
“Better with my stick and defending with my feet.”