Complementary, by definition, means making something else better. On their own, complementary players fails to stand out. However, when partnered with other skilled athletes, they improve a team’s overall performance. For the University of North Dakota, Gavin Hain is that player.
A glance at his numbers and one will walk away unimpressed. Hovering around .30 points per game three years into your college career is not going to make anyone’s jaw drop. Still, there is more to hockey than points. That is where Hain’s value shines through.
Gavin Hain the Role Player
Ten games into his junior year at North Dakota, Hain fails to assist his team much in goals and assists. The fact of the matter is he has never been an offensive dynamo. Even during his USNTDP days, he averaged around 30 points a season through two years. Luckily for the Fighting Hawks, they possess plenty of other players that contribute in that department.
Hain’s primary area of value to his team is defense. Just last season, he played on one of the most effective shutdown lines in all of hockey. Although his linemates are different this season, North Dakota still relies on Hain for his defensive expertise. Hain finding himself on the ice for a goal-against is simply a rare occasion with UND. As expected, those responsibilities include shutdown opportunities five-on-five and an abundance of time on the penalty kill.
The reality is that Hain is much more than just a quality defensive-minded forward. He thrives in the game’s detailed aspects, such as clearing his own zone and entering the puck into the offensive zone. He does enough with the puck, allowing teammates to position themselves advantageously. Hain’s outlet pass is often on the mark as well. Plainly, Gavin Hain is the perfect set-up player when the team transitions from defense to offense. Yes, these qualities will never place him in the limelight. Still, they are treasured and a part of why North Dakota is so successful.
For North Dakota, Hain serves as a constant presence on the roster. What he can bring the team is provided each game. Though some may view his skillset as limited, his talents are still of great importance.
Invested in the Flyers organization, what we really want to know about Gavin Hain is whether he has a future in Philadelphia. Is he someone that can one day crack the NHL roster, or is that goal unreachable?
Though it may come as a surprise to some, potentially making the Flyers down the road is in the cards for Hain. The role that he serves on the ice is already defined at this point. Who he is at North Dakota is likely who he will be in Philadelphia. Like every league, the NHL needs players that can serve as complements to the more highly-skilled assets. Hain fits that mold perfectly. With some seasoning in the AHL, it’s hard to imagine Hain’s skillset not translating to the NHL level. At the same time, there are opportunities for growth offensively.
When assessing a prospect’s value, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers. There seems to be this false notion that if a forward cannot light up the scoresheet during his developmental years, there is no place for him in the National Hockey League. There is much more to hockey than offensive production. Attention to defense, effectiveness on the penalty-kill, and the ability to set up teammates’ opportunities are all important attributes. One can argue that they are also more transferable to the professional game.
After a four-season college career and one year in the AHL, it is easy to picture Hain as a candidate for Philadelphia’s fourth-line. The necessary talents are present and will likely continue to improve. At the same time, he provides an affordable option to fill one of the spots. For a team needing to allocate large amounts of money elsewhere, that becomes extremely important.
Complementary players typically do not receive the praise others do. Although that is justifiable, there is still room for players like that in the professional ranks. Gavin Hain continues to prove his value at North Dakota. Only time will tell if he can do something similar for the Flyers in the future.