Photo by Rena Laverty
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that in his younger days, Tyler Kleven was more interested in watching a hockey game with his dad rather than run around and play with the other kids.
“I was more of a kid that focused on the game,” said the Fargo, North Dakota, native. “I remember all the kids would be running around when we would go to the Fargo Force games since there was a play set there. I would be sitting next to my dad and be really focused. I really think it helped me along the way. I really wanted to absorb everything I learned.”
Since arriving in Plymouth, Michigan, to play for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, Kleven has done everything possible to make the most of his opportunity and learn about the game. He credits some of the little things in making a difference in his development.
“Coming into the program, my game was pretty basic,” he said. “I didn’t know what a power play was, or the penalty kill, or all the systems. Now, having one year under my belt and going though video with Coach [Seth] Appert and Coach [Nick] Fohr, it has helped me out.
“That is the biggest part of my game that has grown. I understand systems and how to make decisions, depending on what time in the game it is and executing.”
As a defenseman, he realizes the benefits of watching video and how it has impacted his game.
“Watching yourself make mistakes that can be corrected is a huge part of your game,” said Kleven. “You can either keep making mistakes or correct them by watching them on film, you can watch yourself whether it is the gaps, since when you are on the ice, you really don’t notice that. You notice the time and space which has helped me.”
Kleven, who is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, always has been learning how to use his body in a positive way on the ice. Last year, he was known for laying some big hits while this year he is using video as a way to help refine his physicality.
“Before coming to the NTDP, I would run at guys and have huge trained hits,” he explained. “I have adapted and now I’m angling guys and still creating contact but not as big. I’m not drawing as many penalties this year. Last year, I had a lot of penalties and I’m learning from that video, how to use angles and closing time and space instead of just running at guys. It has knocked down a few penalty minutes.”
He also credits work done in practice in helping with his development.
“Coach Appert always talks about execution, whether it is making those tape-to-tape passes, or scoring,” said Kleven. “You have to bury [the puck] in practice, or you are not going to score in games. You have to make those simple plays in practice and that will lead to the execution in games and more ice time and you playing better.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
He is excited to show how far he has come when he faces his future college team — a Dec. 28 contest against the University of North Dakota at USA Hockey Arena. It’s his home state and home team.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “I grew up watching the University of North Dakota my entire life, going to games as a little guy and watching all those big players skate around. Playing against my dream team is huge and it will be scary to go against those guys, but I’ll be prepared.”
Kleven and his Under-18 teammates won their first international tournament in early November in Sweden. It was a special feeling to earn the title, but he understands that there is still work that needs to be done.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It gave us confidence and we are going to use that confidence and take it back and watch film and apply to future competitions. We are not done yet — we still have two more huge tournaments coming up. We have to use everything we have learned and apply it. We can’t get too high because we won.”
He did have one favorite game from the event.
“The Switzerland game [a 6-2 win on Nov. 8] was fun for me,” he said. “We started off slow and I got an assist and I don’t get a whole lot of points so that was big. I got a goal in that game and it was really fun."
One thing will never change and that is how special it is for Kleven to wear the colors of his country.
“It’s everything,” he said. “I love throwing on that USA jersey. Being able to represent your country, it takes the pride to a whole new level. You want to win against those other countries that are highly respected. It’s all based on pride and you have to wear it with respect.”
Maybe that is why he is willing to do everything, both on and off the ice, so he can be on the final roster for the Under-18 World Championship in April.
“You have to take it day-by-day,” Kleven said. “Every day, you come to the rink to get better and you have to have a good work ethic and that is the biggest thing. You have to execute every day, whether it is on the ice or taking 20 minutes and watching video with Coach Fohr or asking for advice from Coach Appert. It all adds up and that is what I have to do every single day and hopefully, I can get better from that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.