Photo by Greg Hamil
Brandon Mashinter is with a new organization and showing his worth
Rockford, Ill. – Life as a professional hockey player can be anything but certain. After starting his career as an undrafted free agent and uprooting himself multiple times, Brandon Mashinter has had a taste of the unexpected. The 25-year-old winger is fighting for a place in the NHL with his third organization in the Chicago Blackhawks.
Coming into the league as an undrafted free agent out of the Ontario Hockey League (Belleville Bulls) gave Mashinter a unique chance to make a choice on how to begin his career. Unlike those that were drafted in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Bradford, Ont. native was able to pick from multiple teams, eventually entering the league with the San Jose Sharks organization on Mar. 3, 2009.
“Everyone wants to get drafted. It’s a dream, right?” said Mashinter. “But, after awhile, it’s almost a blessing not to, because then you can almost choose any team if you’re good enough to get picked up like I was. I had four teams offer me contracts so now the ball was in my court. I could choose where I wanted to go. What place fit me best. For me, it was more of a blessing than anything.”
Mashinter spent the majority of the first four years of his career with the Worcester Sharks, the AHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks. Much like now, he views himself as both a tough player and someone who is tough to play against. Mashinter showed this in his first year with Worcester by recording 22 goals, 15 assists and 13 fighting majors in the 2009-10 season; the first in Worcester’s history to reach double digits in goals, assists and fighting majors.
Getting traded can be a shocking experience. Mashinter knows this more than some after being traded twice in 2013, first from San Jose to the New York Rangers, and then from New York to the Chicago Blackhawks last December.
“All of 2013 was quite a year. Getting traded from San Jose’s organization to New York was a transition. Getting to know New York’s system, then going from New York to Chicago,” said Mashinter.
The Hartford Wolf Pack were preparing for a game on Dec. 6, 2013 against Adirondack when Mashinter was pulled out of the pre-game meal and received the news of his latest transaction.
“We were in Adirondack and just about to go in for pre-game meal. Coach (Ken Gernander) just pulled me aside and said, ‘You’ve been traded.’ I had to get a few things out of the hotel room, then went straight to Albany airport. Then flew from there to Charlotte,” said Mashinter.
The gritty winger went from being prepared to play a game Friday night, to flying out that same day and playing a game with his new team just over 24 hours later.
“The next night I played, then we got a flight back to Rockford and we got a good week off. But, after the game in Charlotte I flew back to Hartford, grabbed all my stuff, and then drove all the way to Rockford. So, that was pretty hectic.”
Mashinter didn’t have a chance to develop chemistry with his new teammates, including two players he has had on-ice scrums with in the past, captain Jared Nightingale and veteran-leader Wade Brookbank, prior to his first IceHogs game. But, it wasn’t long before Mashinter started to build new relationships in Rockford.
“There are a few guys I knew from playing against, so obviously you kind of go towards them because you know them a little bit from playing against them. Other than that, I didn’t really know anyone. It’s been a good adjustment, it’s a good group of guys,” commented Mashinter.
Defenseman Theo Peckham is one of those players, having played against him from 2004-2007 in the OHL.
Mashinter brought toughness to the IceHogs when he arrived and has found a productive niche in the organization with his style as a power forward.
“I think I’m going to be the same player as I always was, a power forward,” said Mashinter. “A guy that gets the pucks in and wears their ‘D’ down. For me, physical play comes first and that’s where it opens up some room for me and my linemates.”
In just 22 games with Rockford heading into the All-Star Break, the physical forward shows 7g-6a-13pts to go with four fighting majors.
Making it to the NHL is the goal for most players in the AHL and Mashinter is no exception. He’s had tastes of the hectic schedule that goes with getting called up, having made his NHL debut with San Jose on Dec. 29, 2010.
“I remember in my second year we had a three-in-three and at the end of that third game I got the call up,” reminisced Mashinter. “I had to take a flight out that night and I ended up playing the next night. I ended up playing four games in four nights and had a six hour flight as well. It can be tiring, but when you’re up you don’t really think about that.”
He played four games with the New York Rangers in October, but Mashinter still strives to make it back to the NHL. He knows how this system works and that he can only control how he plays.
“I think I could be ready,” said Mashinter. “It is up to me to play well but it is also up to Chicago to bring me up. It’s their decision. I feel like I’m ready, but it’s up to them.”
Mashinter may be a tough, physical style forward that isn’t afraid to get a fighting major, but he won’t be satisfied until he makes the strides he knows he can make.
“I want to be known as someone that’s tough to play against, not just tough.”