The Devil's In The Details

John Hynes Passion For Development Has Paved His Way To The NHL

Never let it be said that John Hynes didn't pay his dues before setting foot behind an NHL bench. 

The coach who has had a hand in the development of so many of this nation's best hockey players is himself the epitome of a man who has worked his way up through the ranks to get to where he is today. 

And he's done it by never straying far from his roots as one of the game's preeminent developmental coaches, always pushing himself as hard if not harder than his players, and never being satisfied, even after reaching the highest level of the game.

It's a philosophy he's carried with him over the many miles he's logged on his hockey journey, starting with his days at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, where he left his mark on some of the greatest players in the game today.

"I can never say a bad word about the guy. He was tough, hard-nosed, and in your face, especially at that age," said Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane, who honed his game at the NTDP from 2004 to 2006. "We were young-15, 16, 17 years old-so it was a little bit different than we were used to, but he helped a lot of us become men and kind of grow up a bit. 

"He's a great man and an unbelievable coach," Kane added. "You knew he was going to find his way into the NHL someday. It was just a matter of time. I expect big things from him in the future."

It didn't take long for Kane's words to ring true. After being named the head coach of the New Jersey Devils in the fall of 2015, the Warwick, R.I., native proved he belongs at the pinnacle of his profession after leading the Devils back to the Stanley Cup playoffs in his third campaign at the helm, the first time they had qualified for the postseason since 2012.

More than just wins and losses, Hynes can take pride in the role he's played in the continued growth in the American hockey that starts at the grassroots and percolates up to the highest levels of the game.

"The players we turn out, they can play any style of play," Hynes said. "They play with speed, good hockey sense, and puck skills."

One doesn't need to look any farther than the Devils current roster to see that. This year's squad features 12 players with American roots, including forwards Kyle Palmieri, Stefan Noesen, Blake Coleman and Miles Wood, defenseman Andy Greene and Will Butcher, and goaltenders Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid. 

"With the growth [of hockey] across America, there's more and more players to choose from," Hynes said. "With the quality of hockey in the U.S., with youth hockey and the American Development Model, you can play hockey in any Junior league and be recognized. The growth is strong, and you don't have to leave the U.S. to have extreme competition against Canada and countries around the world."

The same can be said for an influx of American coaches working at the highest levels of the game. 

For Hynes, the road to the NHL ran through Ann Arbor, Mich., where he served two terms at the NTDP, helping develop the next wave of budding college and pro stars.

"The NTDP spurred development in the U.S., and the USHL and other Junior leagues have raised their level of commitment to development," Hynes said.

"The colleges have done a great job of moving that along. The coaches emphasize player development and quality competition, with off-ice training and good practice habits. College has been a feeder system for the pros and the NHL, with the coaching you receive at that level and the quality of competition in games."

And that feeder system has expanded to all corners of the country. Two of Hynes' Devils in Coleman and Noesen were both born in Texas, and played their early hockey there.

"It goes back to the ADM, and doing the right things at the younger ages," Hynes said. "If they [players] love the process, they will love going to the rink. You put them in the right training environment, and you get better as a country. It's making U.S. hockey more competitive, with the national teams and such."

Prior to his promotion to the NHL, Hynes was head coach for six years with the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, whom he guided to five consecutive Calder Cup Playoff berths. He was also named AHL Coach of the Year in 2010-11 in his first year at the helm.

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin credits Hynes with helping him develop his game over three seasons in the AHL, to the point where the Biddeford, Maine, native became a mainstay on Pittsburgh's blue line during back-to-back 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup championships.

"After my first year, I realized I had to put in the time and get better defensively," said Dumoulin, a two-time All-America selection and NCAA champion at Boston College. "John Hynes really taught me. He was great for me, and I'm thankful for him."

It's a lesson that he learned from legendary coach Jack Parker when he arrived at Boston University in the mid-1990s. Over the course of his three seasons with the Terriers, Hynes was never the biggest or the most talented player, but few of his teammates worked harder.

After an injury cut short his senior season, Hynes discovered his true calling as a coach as he served two seasons as a graduate assistant at BU before joining the NTDP.

After two seasons as an assistant, he joined Mike Eaves at the University of Wisconsin before returning to Ann Arbor, where he became a cornerstone of the NTDP's development efforts, winning 188 games in all, while training the next generation of NHL stars.

"Coach Hynes is just one of those guys that you just feed off him," said Palmieri, who played for Hynes at the NTDP and has been reunited with him in New Jersey. 

"You still see the passion, that's always been there. He's one of those guys that you can't help but feed off of. He brings that intensity and the passion with him on the bench and in practice. It's contagious for his players and his coaching staff. 

"He's always been that way, which makes it pretty clear for players. There's no gray area and that's something that makes me really enjoy playing for him."

No matter where the game takes him, Hynes has never strayed far from his roots. From his youth hockey days in Rhode Island, to his time with the NTDP and the opportunities he's had to coach various national teams, Hynes has appreciated all that USA Hockey has done for him. The feeling is more than mutual. 

"It's been such a great experience, and it's who I am as a coach," said Hynes, who coached the U.S. National Team at the 2016 World Championship and was an assistant at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. 

"I remember the select festivals at Lake Placid, with players and coaches from all over the country, and it helped me to go into coaching. 

"I've had tremendous opportunities to be around U.S. and international coaches, and I've taken a lot of pride in that, in my exposure to great players and coaches."

"I want to get better, and continue to have opportunities to represent the U.S. as a coach," he said.

Based on how far he's come already, there are no worries there. 



Roman J. Uschak is a freelance writer based out of Union, N.J.




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