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Hunter McKown Applying All Lessons Learned with NTDP into Under-18 Season

By Becky Olsen, 03/10/20, 2:30PM EDT


Physical training has paid off for the future Colorado College Tiger

Photo by Rena Laverty

For Hunter McKown, wearing the red, white and blue of Team USA is a daily reminder of how special it is to play for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.

“It has been everything to wear the jersey,” he said. “It is such an honor. We are really in the best spot possible for our age. The way they treat us and take care of us here is second to none. I’m going to miss playing here and all the necessities that are available here. I’m going to miss that a lot, but it’s been a fantastic experience.”

A May training camp, following the end of his Under-17 year, really helped him take momentum into his summer training and of course, set him up for success in his Under-18 season.

“The real thing with the spring training is that it is a prep for the whole summer,” he stated. “It is teaching you the habits you are supposed to have during the summer. It is a culmination of all those things. The bottom line is that it is hard work. Eventually, it will pay off and that is where it really comes together.”

There were a few surprises from NTDP Director of Sports Science, Brian Galivan, during that May training. There was one thing that the team did in particular that McKown carried with him.

“I think the most fun thing we did was one of the weekend days, we went over to this lake that had a beach at it as a team,” recalled McKown. “We did a bunch of workouts in the sand and eventually, we went in the water and we were doing different kind of workouts. It was a team bonding and fun thing for us. It was the best training moment of the spring.

“It was something I have never done before. Going into it, no one knew what we were going to get. Obviously, it turned out to be something fun but there were some nerves going into it.”

McKown, who is a 6-foot-1, 182-pound forward, credits the NTDP’s training for helping him develop and grow both on and off the ice.

“When I came here, I was about 170 pounds and now, I’m close to 190 pounds,” he said. “It’s been a pretty big gain. It’s all around — it makes you faster so that right there is a huge component of hockey. Being thicker and wider, you are not going to get bumped around as much, rather, you can bump other guys around. That has been the main thing it helps us.”

It’s the little things that have made the biggest impact for him in his U18 season.

Photo by Rena Laverty

Photo by Rena Laverty

“I think the confidence factor,” he said. “I think being bigger and stronger, especially from the stuff we go through in spring training. Compared to last year when we were the youngest guys in the league and now, you feel like you are not terrified to go into the corner against a huge guy. You feel like you are in the right place.”

That confidence has paid dividends in the college games. McKown particularly remembers his first one, against Northern Michigan University on Oct. 5 at USA Hockey Arena. Despite the U18s coming up just short, falling 4-3, it was an experience he will always remember.

“I remember our first game, the first period, all I was trying to do was get through it,” he said. “My legs were killing me out there. I was so tired. Really, after the first period, I started to feel more at home with it.”

He is very thankful for the experiences in playing college games, especially playing at the University of Michigan.

“I think as a team we did a great job, handling those college games,” said McKown. “I think we would have won more than we did but it was a fun experience. It gives you an insight into what is coming.

“When we played at Michigan [on Jan. 25 and won 4-1], that was my favorite game. It was packed and a really fun environment. We knew a couple guys on the team. It was really fun.”

He understands just how important his familiarity of playing college hockey games will be when he takes his game to Colorado College in the fall. It was an easy decision for him when it came to picking his future college.

“The environment that the coaches have created there is just amazing,” he said. “All three coaches are great guys. You feel taken care of and I’m not even there yet. That really shows a lot about what they do and how they care for their players. It is a beautiful area so that is something I’m looking forward to.”

Photo by Rena Laverty

McKown will take plenty of experiences with him to Colorado College, including playing in the 2020 BioSteel All-American Game in January at USA Hockey Arena. Playing for Team [Mike] Knuble along with his U18 teammates, the group skated to a 6-1 win over the top USHL prospects.

“That was a fantastic experience,” he said on the event. “I don’t think anyone knew what to expect going into the game. Obviously, they told us that they wanted it to be played as a normal game, not a typical all-star game. I thought the turnout of it was fantastic — both teams competed hard.

“I thought they did an amazing job putting everything together, especially since that was the first time, they have done the game in that format.”

And it is with all these opportunities that McKown, it’s easy to understand how appreciative he is for his experiences with the NTDP.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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