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By CHRIS BAYEE, 03/28/18, 9:30AM PDT


An upgraded approach opened a big door for former Anaheim Jr. Ducks defenseman Kyle Mayhew recently.

The 1997 birth year is enjoying a career season with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the North American Hockey League, and the University of Denver coaching staff took note. One thing led to another, and Mayhew committed to play for the Pioneers starting this fall.

“It’s a dream come true to go to such a prestigious school,” Mayhew said of the eight-time national champions, most recently in 2017. “They saw me at the (NAHL’s) top prospects game and reached out.

“They have so much talent and are always in contention in the NCAA Tournament. They have a great coaching staff. I am very grateful for this opportunity.”

Mayhew, who is 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, has battled the smallish defenseman label but said he turned the corner during his seasons playing Midget hockey for the Jr. Ducks.

“The 18U team was run like a junior team,” he said. “We were held accountable. I felt very prepared when I went to junior (in 2016).”

Mayhew put up 12 points in his first season in Fairbanks, but that number leaped to 36 (including eight goals) in the first 55 games this season. One of the Ice Dogs’ top-scoring defensemen, he’s helped them to the best record in the NAHL as playoffs approach.

“I’ve taken a pretty big leap,” he said. “Our coach (Trevor Stewart) has the same mentality as my Jr. Ducks coaches – you have to work hard every day, get in the gym every day. I’ve gotten bigger and stronger, but (Stewart) has helped me improve my hockey IQ a lot, too.”

The strength gains combined with Mayhew’s elite skating ability and offensive acumen put him on the college radar.

He said his time with the Jr. Ducks also helped prepare him for bigger stages.

“We went to Nationals my last year of 18s, and that was a fun year,” Mayhew said. “It was such a great experience with my coaches and teammates.”

Mayhew became the 13th player with ties to the Jr. Ducks to make a Division I commitment in the past four seasons, and the second in two seasons to commit to Denver, joining fellow defenseman Slava Demin. Current 16U AAA forward Josh Groll committed to Michigan in late October.

In addition to Demin, six other players made college commitments last season: forward Patrick Choi (Bentley), defenseman Nicholas Kent (Quinnipiac), center Shane McMahan (Minnesota State), defenseman Rourke Russell (Miami), forward Eetu Selanne (Northeastern) and defenseman Cam York (Boston College).

Demin is in his second season with the Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League and is rated 32nd among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Service in its mid-term draft rankings. York, who is playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s U17 team, is on several watch lists for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Defenseman Chad Sasaski (Colorado College) and forwards Justin Dixson (UMass-Amherst) and Jake Gates (Colorado College) committed during the 2014-15 season, while forward Rory Herrman (Arizona State) committed during the following campaign. In addition, one of Herrman’s Jr. Ducks teammates, goaltender Carl Stankowski, was ranked by NHL Central Scouting at the beginning of this season.