Zach Hyman has come a long way in such a short period of time, a relative unknown to the Toronto hockey market when he was acquired from the Florida Panthers on June 19th, 2015 in exchange for centre Greg McKegg. Four days later was signed to a two-year entry level contract with the Maple Leafs. Florida had drafted Hyman 123rd overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Before this Zach Hyman had very successful years developing in the minors and the American University system. Hockey Canada named Hyman Player of the year in 2010-2011 season while playing in the CJHL. He was then offered a full scholarship and committed to play for the University of Michigan, starting in 2011-12 season.
In his junior year at the University of Michigan, He was selected as the Bates/Deskins award winner, which is won by the Top Junior Student Athlete. More success followed Hyman through his College years capping off with a Hobey Baker award nomination.
Zach has earned himself the reputation of being a hard worker who never takes a game off. Coach Mike Babcock has praised Hyman for always playing the game right, which is a great compliment from a highly regarded coach such as Babcock. Zach has displayed his effectiveness on penalty kill this year (scoring 3 shorthanded goals), and has been used effectively on a line with Auston Matthews, and either William Nylander/Connor Brown on the other wing. But what has been understated is his ability to fetch the puck and get it to his teammates, his tenacity to get to the front of the net for tap in or screening the goalie is also overlooked when simply looking at his stat lines. Some of the success attributed to the Matthews line can be to a chip in play by Hyman or simply screening the goalie.
A player with Hyman’s tenacious work ethic should remind us of a couple of players that have played similar roles with similar success. Watching Hyman play and develop under Babcock, you can see a hybrid of Darcy Tucker and Leo Komarov in the way he plays his game.
His fearlessness in going into the dirty areas of the ice to retrieve the puck in the defensive and offensive zones, which is often overlooked and underrated. Hyman has established himself in Maple Leafs’ history book as well, as Hyman’s 3 short-handed goals on the season surpassed the previous Maple Leafs record for number of short-handed goals scored by a rookie which was held by Gus Mortson. Hyman also tied the record for the most consecutive games with an assist by a rookie with Dan Daoust, Bob Nevin, and Frank Nigro (6 games with an assist).
Hyman has received a lot of negative attention lately in the media and in some fan circles in regards to being on the line with Matthews. An argument can be made that there is no better line for him to play on, than with a big body centre like Matthews and a highly skilled wingers in Brown/Nylander. My belief has been when watching Hyman play, that a team doesn’t win a Stanley Cup with a team full of Zach Hymans, but a team also doesn’t win a Stanley Cup without one or two on the team either.
I feel under coach Babcock and his coaching staff the best of Zach Hyman hasn’t been tapped into and there is still more he can give when it comes to the offensive side of puck, but that he has very successfully matured and developed into a great defensive specialist with a workhorse attitude that can only rub off on the youngers players on the team.