Photo By Dan Hickling/Hickling Images
Philadelphia Flyers prospect Tanner Laczynski saw it all during his USHL career. The Shorewood, IL native began his junior career as a 16-year old, spending two games with the Chicago Steel before joining the team full-time the next season. In what would ultimately be a disappointing season for Laczynski in 2014-15, he refocused his hockey development and geared himself toward making another run at the NHL Draft.
But nothing came easy in 2015-16. Laczynski began the season 5,000 miles away from home in Yekaterinburg, Russia for the Junior Club World Cup. After taking home the JCWC Best Forward Award, Laczynski and the Steel returned to Chicago with bronze medals in hand and some additional confidence heading into the regular season. Yet, things didn’t work out as they were planned. The team struggled early and Laczynski, the leading scorer for the Steel, was acquired by the Lincoln Stars to help push the team for a Clark Cup championship run.
Chicago was a city that Laczynski played and lived in for 18 years. Quickly, he had to pack up his life and move 500 miles away to Nebraska.
Despite the added adversity, Laczynski excelled everywhere he played last season; he scored 40 points in 33 games in Chicago, 23 points in 19 games with the Stars and picked up 11 points in 10 international games for USA Hockey. Finally, the NHL Draft dream was realized in Buffalo with the Philadelphia Flyers selecting the power forward 169th overall. Following the NHL Draft, Laczynski was invited by USA Hockey to participate in the National Junior Evaluation Camp and would eventually be named to the final roster for the NJEC exhibition series.
“It’s been a busy summer. Getting drafted, going to camp there, just learning as much as possible. I took away a lot of new stuff that I hadn’t known before,” said Laczynski. “It was a great camp. I started working on some of that stuff for a week and a half that I had off before this camp ready to go. I feel like I’ve played well, done the little things. Summer has been going good.”
All told, it was a season of growth both on and off the ice for Laczynski. NHL scouts noticed the additional 20 pounds of muscle Laczynski added, but something more important was happening off the ice.
“I think it was just a matter of time and maturity. First year in the league I was just an immature kid. I was just playing the game to play the game. I didn’t really have a purpose at that point,” said Laczynski. “About halfway through the year, something kind of turned in my head. I was still a bottom six forward, and something in me switched. I just decided that if I am going to take this seriously, I have to start putting in the work. Going into the summer, just hitting the weights and doing a lot of training, gaining that extra weight really helped me for the next season.”
The NJEC is the fourth time that Laczynski has donned the red, white and blue during his young hockey career. He said he cherishes any time he gets to put on his nation’s colors and uses it as extra motivation in the offseason.
“Any time you go overseas and play for your country, it’s special. It’s something you can’t take for granted either. Only a select few get chosen to do those things, and you definitely have to lay everything on the line,” said Laczynski. “That’s what I try to do. If you take that for granted, you don’t know the next time you’re going to be playing there so you have to make the most of it.”
Laczynski will be heading to Ohio State University next season where he hopes to make an immediate impact with the Buckeyes program. He is open to the idea of playing wing, or helping at center, in order to help inject some instant offense to his new team.
College hockey will be another test for the promising prospect, both on and off the ice, but Laczynski has already prepared for that challenge and is ready to prove himself.
“I’m going to do whatever is asked of me from the coaches,” said Laczynski. “Whatever they ask of me, I’m ready.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.