Who is Jake Muzzin?
Not the player you see today but the boy he was, his trials, journey and the man he is trying to become.
Jake’s career nearly ended before it began. He had two herniated discs surgically repaired in his lower back in 2005. He didn’t play much the following season but appeared back on track in 2007 when he resumed play for the OHL Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
The Penguins drafted him 141st overall in 2007, during the now notorious “Hickey” draft. Jake is a big kid, 6’3″, over 200 pounds. His serious injury issues behind him, he continued his OHL career but hit a second wall. The Penguins didn’t sign him.
In 2010, the Kings picked him up as an undrafted free agent and handed him a 3 year contract. He played for about a month during the 2010-2011 season and off to Manchester he returned. Since then, minus some additional injury issues, Jake has done well.
At 23, opportunity knocked. The injuries to Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene created a gaping need. With Thomas Hickey’s waiver, Jake’s experience got him the role and ice time he now enjoys. Greene may be gone for the entire season. Willie Mitchell should be back in the coming weeks (the doctors have cleared him). When Willie returns, what happens to Jake?
I believe that depends entirely on Jake.
Jake’s road to his role today hasn’t been paved with international success, gold medals, adoration and opportunity at every turn. Instead, Jake has had to battle through injuries, recovery, rejection and narrow windows of opportunity in which he has tried to fit. All the God-given size and natural skillset in the world doesn’t mean a whole lot if Jake cannot conquer the mental side of this game and the game of hockey, in general.
“One mistake from being scratched.”
“One injury from being sent down.”
“One re-injury to his back from a career that ends far too early.”
Kids his age are taught clichés and how to deal with reporters, most of them softball in the L.A. market, but they aren’t taught how to self motivate, gain and maintain confidence and how to channel the edge and intensity that is at the core of every great young hockey player’s repertoire into consistent productivity.
Jake Muzzin’s first NHL goal put a wide smile on my face. Nothing breeds confidence like production. He is built to be an offensive defenseman but one with a physical and nasty edge. His greatest challenge will be whether he can quiet the demons between the ears so that he can do what he hasn’t done so far in his career – stick.
Categories: L.A. Kings News