Not all professional hockey players have to hail from the great hockey states of Michigan, Minnesota or Massachusetts. Blake Coleman hails from Plano, Texas where he fell in love with the sport playing as a youth. Like all fledgling players from the south with an eye towards playing professional hockey, Coleman left home at age 15 and joined the famous AAA Belle Tire U16 team playing out of Detroit. Belle Tire has numerous NHL alumni that have graduated from its ranks.
Blake Coleman was able to return home to Texas for his U18 AAA season and join the Dallas Stars. But for a southern hockey player, being home is always short lived and Blake was soon relocated to Kearney, Nebraska playing for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. The 1991 birth year, left hand shooting forward played 2 seasons of Junior Hockey with the Indiana Ice where he made First All-Star team, Forward of the Year and Player of the Year.
Blake’s final junior season bore great results as he accepted a scholarship with the Division 1, Miami Redhawks. It also earned him a third round pick by the NHL New Jersey Devils. In his freshman year at Miami, he played in 39 games and put up 12 goals and 11 assists. In his junior and senior season with Miami, Coleman’s scoring increased significantly where in his final year, he was third overall in scoring behind Austin Czarnik (Boston Bruins) and Riley Barber (Washington Capitals), but tied with Barber for most goals on the team (20).
Blake Coleman is considered a very versatile forward whose physical style and excellent puck skills, as well as his down low abilities, provide him with great tools for the NHL. He has a powerful slapshot and is deft at deflecting pucks in front of the net.
The 5’10” 200 pounder signed a contract with the NJ Devils and played his rookie season with their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany. His first season was cut short with an upper body injury that required season ending surgery. Coleman returned for his second professional season and played 52 games with Albany where his scoring touch (19 goals, 20 assists), as well as his two-way playing ability (+21), was noticed by the Devils. Blake Coleman was called up by the big club where he played 23 games and averaged 13 minutes per game in the NHL.
Blake’s maturity was recognized by the Devils’ staff: “I think sometimes when you have guys that are a little bit older, even though they are ‘rookies’ as far as experience, you get them at different ages and experience levels,” Head Coach John Hynes said. “Sometimes when guys go through college they’re mature and sometimes they’re even more mature physically just because there is more opportunity to train, there are less games and the season is not as long playing college.”
Coleman was resigned as a restricted free agent this summer by New Jersey and his confidence is obvious: “I like to think I can play any role. That’s kind of how my career has gone. I’ve been slotted first, second, third and fourth (lines). Left wing and center. I like to think I could fill any void or any position they need help at. Whatever they ask, I’ll do to the best of my ability.”
Photos By: Ed Mulholland – USA TODAY Sports
Blake spends several weeks back in Texas recovering, and beginning his summer training during the off-season. He then makes his way to The Hockey Summit in Estero, Florida where Justin Roethlingshoefer, the Assistant Strength and Conditioning coach for the Anaheim Ducks and Head Strength and Conditioning coach for the San Diego Gulls, and his partner, 14 year Pro Hockey veteran Ernie Hartlieb, work with the top young talent from the NHL and KHL for 7 weeks each summer. At the summit, Blake trains alongside the likes of Sean Kuraly of the Boston Bruins, Steve Moses who played in the KHL last season, Kevin Morris of the Manchester Monarchs, and more.
Cover Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland – USA TODAY Sports