Pushing practices and its symbolization of Pederson's stellar sophomore season
By: Alexander Kinkopf
April 23, 2019 11:44 AM
Photo: San Diego Gulls
Jay Varady classified Lane Pederson as a “culture carrier” after the second-year pro’s first-career hat trick on March 23, a Roadrunners 3-2 victory over the visiting San Jose Barracuda.
Strong, strong words dripping with substance to illustrate Pederson the player, person, and prospect.
“That's exactly how I'd describe him, as a culture carrier," reiterated the Roadrunners' head coach. "He’s a guy that our organization is looking for in terms of how we want to play, and he does it every day. Whether it’s in practice, or whether it’s in games, he’s always right there and he’s doing the right things.”
Varady echoed those sentiments a few days after the players had cleaned out their lockers last week, taking a minute to recollect on Pederson's marvelous season, one that saw ever-evolving forward finish as the team’s leader in goals (23) and points (47).
The sharp hike to the 21-year-old’s offensive output came in large part to the shackles coming off when mediating his shooting approach, developing a sense of confidence to pull the trigger rather than seeking out deliveries.
Pederson’s 23 tallies tied the single-season franchise-high mark set by both Michael Bunting and Mike Sislo during the 2017-18 campaign.
The x-factor? And he was direct when asked. “Shooting more, honestly.”
“In the past, I’ve kind of had that pass-first mentality in a lot of prime scoring areas where if you shoot the puck, you’ve got a good chance to score,” he said of his uptick in goals. “So for me, it was just about being comfortable with shooting more, trying to get pucks off my stick a little quicker, not stick-handling it every time I have possession.”
Only Chris Mueller (67, 2016-17) and Dylan Strome (53, 2017-18) have recorded more points in a single season than Pederson’s 47 since the Roadrunners’ 2016 inception. He matched Christian Fischer (47, 2016-17) and Mike Sislo (47, 2017-18) for the third-highest total in club history.
Good company. And that's no coincidence, but consistence.
His game laced with steadiness, Pederson played in all but one of Tucson’s 68 games this year, factoring in as a staple in all team situations.
“I saw a player grow over the course of the year, and his growth was his consistency,” Varady noted. “He was the same person every day in terms of his approach, in terms of his stretching, in terms of his preparation, in terms of his cool-down, all of the little things that matter, he did it consistently, you saw that in his game and it allowed him to grow throughout the course of the year.”
Photo: Kate Dibildox
Many names craft their game at the American Hockey League level; it’s where they prepare. Throughout the year, the Roadrunners dressed 18 different players with prior NHL experience, whether it was a quick assignment for conditioning purposes or to play a critical nightly role to shepherd those on Tucson’s roster that have never gotten a taste of the grand stage.
“Living the pro lifestyle, a lot of the onus is on you and how you prepare, how you rest, how you eat, and everything you do in between at the rink and at home,” Pederson said of the mindset that goes into the development process.
Learning from the likes of many Tucson forwards who have graduated to the NHL level over the course of his two pro seasons, he added:
“You can learn a lot from the older guys just with how they take care of their bodies and watching what they do on a day-to-day basis, you see why they’ve had so much success for so long and why they’ve played at this level for as long as they have, so that’s a really big part of the game.”
Those values Pederson instills on a daily basis on and off the ice are what lead the Roadrunners’ staff to see the budding forward as a firm representation of the practices the organization looks to push in its youth, its future.
“Serious is a good word to describe a hockey player; I think dedicated is what he is,” Varady added of Pederson. “He’s a good teammate, a good person, he has a good game on the ice and he’s always working to make it better. When he gets off the ice, he’s still trying to get better, and I think that goes right through everything he does.”
And of course, that desire to progress will be the theme he carries into and throughout his summer.
“Definitely my speed, I want to be quicker in and out of areas, jumping through holes, stuff like that, I think that’s a big focus and something that I’ll try to emphasize in my summer training,” he said. “Being able to play quicker, faster, and obviously getting bigger and stronger – everyone says that every year and it's kind of cliche, but it’s true.”
Photo: Rockford IceHogs