In many respects, it’s been an emotional fall for Big Valley boy Ty Mappin.
In between his brother Kyle’s wedding last month and his grandfather’s death this month, the 17-year-old Mappin changed hockey addresses early in his NHL draft year.
He left the Everett (Wash.) Silvertips — the Western Hockey League team that drafted him seventh overall in the 2011 bantam draft — and joined the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
After playing a full major junior season as a 16-year-old, Mappin was poised to step into a greater role this season with Everett, but that wasn’t the vibe he received during training camp and the pre-season. So he sought a move to the AJHL, and the Silvertips obliged.
“It’s a good change,” Mappin said last Friday night after assisting on two goals in the Grizzlys’ 5-3 win over the host Camrose Kodiaks.
“Everett had a really strong team this year, so I didn’t know if I would be able to crack their top two lines. I felt like I could be more productive and show myself more playing in junior A, playing on the top two lines and getting that power-play time, kind of showing scouts that I can play.
“I mean, you don’t want to take that step down, but I thought it was appropriate to build up my skills some more, so then maybe next year I’ll go back and be able to crack those top two lines and I guess show the WHL that I can play in that league and be a top player.”
Mappin was relatively satisfied with his WHL rookie season, during which he scored five goals and 17 points in 63 games with a rebuilding Everett team.
In the off-season, the Silvertips brought back part of their past in former NHL coach Kevin Constantine, and added the likes of Edmonton Oilers prospect Jujhar Khaira, a six-foot-four, 215-pound forward.
The early returns for Everett are promising. The Silvertips have climbed to the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
“With them bringing in those top guys, like Jujhar and some of the 20-year-old forwards, it’s hard to crack those top two lines,” said Mappin, a five-foot-11, 175-pound centre. “That’s pretty much the main reason why I decided to come to Olds.”
Mappin had returned home to Big Valley even before he finalized his AJHL plans. He sent text messages to his former minor hockey teammates with central Alberta teams.
“I came back home and put my name out there,” he said. “I asked guys with Camrose, Olds (and) Drumheller what they think of the organization and I ended up coming to Olds. It was (almost) too good to be true, with the lines, and I know quite a few people on the team, which makes it a lot easier to get in with the guys.
“I used to play bantam AA with Landon Kletke, so he made it pretty easy to join, or persuade me to come to this team. And I met with Brett Hopfe, the coach of Olds. We sat down and had a talk, and he told me all the good things about coming to Olds, so I decided this was the spot that I wanted to come to.”
Including the Grizzlys’ 2-1 loss to the Calgary Canucks at home Saturday night, Mappin has five points — all assists — in 11 games. Despite the zero in the goals column, Mappin has already been a big boost to Olds, say coach/GM Hopfe and Grizzlys hometown captain Spencer Dorowicz.
“He’s still finding his groove,” Dorowicz said of Mappin. “He’s been really effective for us. Even though he hasn’t scored yet, he’s done great things for us. He’s growing into his role here really nicely, trying to get in with his line and feel that chemistry out. It’s just a matter of time before he starts popping a lot of goals for us.
“He’s a really skilled player. He’s a power-play guy. He’s really creative and fun to watch, for sure.”
That’s the player central Alberta fans remember from two seasons ago, when Mappin was the top scorer with the Canadian midget AAA champion Red Deer Optimist Rebels, even though he was the team’s lone 15-year-old.
He graduated to the WHL with high expectations last season, during which he was part of Team Pacific at the world under-17 championship in Quebec.
“Ty has been through the ringer a little bit, as far as hockey goes,” Hopfe said. “He’s almost like a beaten dog sometimes, at times.
“We’ve been just trying to help him enjoy the game again. Even though he may not be producing as much as he would like on the scoresheet, he’s doing the little things that we really enjoy. Even tonight (Friday’s win at Camrose), he was out there blocking shots the last minute of the game. He got two assists tonight. Once he gets his first goal, there’s going to be a whole bunch of them going in.
“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to have him play on our roster.”
The Grizzlys take a 6-9-4 record into tonight’s road game against the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
Hopfe believes that pro scouts will track Mappin wherever he plays, and that his AJHL stint might just be a stepping-stone.
“There’s no doubt about it, he’s got to be the most skilled player in the league,” Hopfe said. “If not, one of the most skilled players in the league. To be able to have that title at 17 years old, it’s quite an accomplishment.
“He’s going to have a lot of looks from a lot of different teams, NHL-wise, still. We’re hoping that we can push him to that level, and hopefully someone takes a chance on him in the draft.
“We want to help him develop his game to the point where he can go back (to the WHL) and be a first- and second-line guy.”
Primetime and power-play situations enable offensive-minded players like Mappin to do their job. His brother Cass, a former WHL and AJHL player now in the CIS with the University of Lethbridge, advised him of as much during his late-September conundrum.
“Cass told me some things,” Mappin said. “He said, ‘If it’s not working … you’re too good of a player to be playing that fourth-line, healthy-scratch kind of role.’ I don’t want to sound cocky, but I agree with him, and I decided that this (playing in the AJHL) would be the better idea for me, and kind of get my name out there a bit more.
“I told (the Silvertips) that if they could help me find a team in the AJ, that would be great. They didn’t have any hard feelings about it. They weren’t too disappointed or mad at me, so that’s pretty nice.
“The GM (Garry Davidson) is a really nice guy, so he made the transition back to Alberta pretty easy for me.”
Mappin sat out the Silvertips’ season-opener, after which Davidson told the Everett Herald that Mappin needed to play somewhere this season “where he will get a lot of ice time, so he could develop,” and that might have been difficult in Everett.
Davidson said he hopes Mappin works his way back to Everett.
Mappin is open to returning to the Silvertips, if they retain his playing rights.
“We’ll see how the season goes,” he said. “It’s a hard choice right now — it’s the start of the season. So we’ll see by the end of the (season), or in the summer. See what they do with my rights, or if they keep me, then that’s even better.
“I think I’m going to stick it out here (in the AJHL) for the rest of the (season). If they ever need a call-up, I’ll certainly be there for them if they ever need everything. But for now, I think it’s better if I stay here. I told the (Olds) coaches that, this year, I’ll try to help them win a championship.”
Mappin’s new hockey home is close to his family’s farm. It’s a short route between Olds and Big Valley.
“I might speed a little bit, but I’ll make it there in about 40 minutes,” Mappin said with a smile. “It’s pretty nice to be able to go back to the farm and spend some time with my parents. Pretty much every Sunday, we get off, so that’s when I will most likely head home.
“Last year (in Everett) was a handful. It was hard to be away from my parents and my brothers, and the whole family. It’s nice to get back and see them every home game, or pretty much every game. It’s nice to have family support.”