During Ian Cole’s two-year stint with the National Team Development Program his coach Ron Rolston, who was recently named the interim head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, would have his young players mold their playing styles after NHL players who he felt possessed similar skills.
Cole would come home from a practice or game and try to learn something new to add to his playing repertoire by watching Ottawa Senators defenseman Wade Redden, the player Rolston felt Cole could emulate and learn from.
Eight years later and Cole, now in his first full-year of action at the NHL level, has reached the epitome of the hockey ladder with the St. Louis Blues.
One of his teammates?
“It kind of has come full-circle, and he is now on our team,” Cole laughed. “He is an awesome guy. I couldn’t ask for a better veteran leader. Now being able to talk to him and learn from him firsthand is better than watching him on TV.”
Redden learned about his role in Cole’s development during the Blues’ February road trip.
“I thought it was funny, especially now that we are playing together,” said Redden, who was acquired once the lockout ended in mid-January.
“Obviously I was the same way. When you are watching guys when you are younger there are certain things you have to do to be at this level, and I think after that everyone has to do what they do best.
“Ian is a good young player, and he has only been getting better here as he has been playing this year.”
After being selected in the first round (18th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Cole has spent the majority of this season playing alongside Alex Pietrangelo on the Blues’ top defensive pairing. The 23-year-old has one assist and a minus-4 rating in 14 games after producing one goal and three assists in 22 games for Peoria (AHL) during the NHL lockout.
“This year, right now, being paired with [Pietrangelo] and playing against a lot of teams top lines every night is definitely more mentally taxing and you have to be more mentally aware and into it every single minute of every game,” said Cole, who honed his skills during his three years at the University of Notre Dame.
“If you make the smallest mistake, failing to get the puck out once, there is a pretty good chance it’s going to end up in your net.”
Cole, who also won a silver medal in the 2007 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and played in two World Junior Championships, credits much of his development to his time with the NTDP.
“I had a great experience playing there, and it really molded me as a player to where I am now,” the Ann Arbor, Mich., native said. “Coach Rolston was awesome at helping me shape my game as a defenseman first, then being able to push up offensively and help out or make stuff happen.”
Fellow St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who played with Cole at the NTDP and in the World Juniors, said it was only a matter of time before Cole found a permanent home among the Blues’ blueline crew.
“He has developed really well, and the more and more he has played he has found his game and his confidence,” Shattenkirk said.
“You see him with the puck now and he looks calm and poised. He is getting a lot of big minutes against a lot of other teams best players. Hats off to him for adjusting and playing so well.”
After patiently paying his dues at the NTDP, college and professional levels Cole has reached the NHL level with the Blues and has proven he is here to stay. He is happy with the path he took to get to where he is today.
“I am just happy to be on a good team and such a good organization,” Cole said. “I didn’t have to be rushed along. I could really solidify a very solid game first and build from there.”
Photos courtesy of Getty Images; Jennifer Hamilton
Age: 10 | Rockville Centre, N.Y.
Colin started skating two years ago, and within three months announced that he was going to try out for a travel team. Despite his parents’ pleas to aim lower,
Colin was determined to make the squad. His coaches were impressed with his determination, and offered Colin a spot on the team if he could improve his skills over the summer. Colin worked hard to improve and when the season came around he was ready.
Now in his third year, Colin plays defense with the Freeport Arrows. He juggles hockey with other sports, academics and commitments to the community and his family. He plays goalie on two local lacrosse teams, and has learned to use his hockey skills to play stellar defense.
Off the ice, Colin serves on the student council as a representative for his 5th grade class. According to his mother, Jen, his greatest strength is his compassion. Colin’s little sister was adopted from China and the lessons he has learned in helping others less fortunate are displayed daily. He recently collected money to donate to two causes near to his heart. Half the money went to help a classmate with a rare illness, and the other half went to buying Christmas presents for “adopted teens.”