Torey Krug admits he moved up too quickly as a youth hockey player. A product of Michigan’s HoneyBaked and Belle Tire clubs, the Livonia, Michigan, native said playing as a younger player on a team with older guys “seemed like the right thing to do.”
But those older players were also getting bigger and stronger. And Krug wasn’t. He quickly realized he made a mistake of jumping to the next level too soon.
“It got to a point, physically, where I had to go back down to my own level,” said the 5-foot-9 Boston Bruins defenseman. “Playing at your own level and not rushing development, I think it’s crucial. It allows good players to get even better.
“I learned that when I was young and stayed the course from there on out.”
Krug played for the United States Hockey League’s Indiana Ice before embarking on a collegiate career at Michigan State University, taking his game up level by level and step by step to realize his NHL dream.
“I knew in order to reach the NHL, I would have to develop my game. USHL and then college were those next steps in my progression and my development,” Krug said. “What’s the rush?”
That question bears repeating for a lot of 14U/16U players: What is the rush to get to the next level?
The 26-year-old Bruin shares his insight on why players should reel in their eagerness to get to the next level and stay focused on maximizing their development at their level.
Patience pays off
Despite being a 2012 Hobey Baker finalist, a Central Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Year and two-time CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman, Krug was undrafted.
Even when he signed an entry-level contract with Boston as a free agent in the spring of 2012, he didn’t make an immediate impact with the storied franchise. Krug spent the majority of the 2012-13 season with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League, developing his game. And then, he was called up to Boston for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Krug exploded with four goals in five games – the first rookie defenseman in NHL history to achieve such a feat. He became a mainstay on the blue line and has remained so ever since. Krug has already surpassed the 50-goal mark and is approaching 200 career assists.
Patience truly is a virtue, even at the highest levels.
“When you take your time and be patient and become dominant at one level, you succeed to the next level and I think it’s really important to take your time and make sure you’re ready to go,” Krug said. “Even at the pro level, some guys get mad playing in the minor leagues, but it’s crucial for your development so that when you get to the NHL you’re ready.”
Staying the course means you’re more likely to continue playing with your best friends. And that is a value that transcends your hockey development.
“Hockey’s fun, right? Not only is it important on the hockey side, but from a social aspect, it’s equally as important to be playing with your friends and developing with people that are your own age,” Krug said. “Socially, it develops some great people. It’s obviously a great sport that people talk highly of and I think it starts at a young level.”
Take responsibility for your development
Krug remains one of the smaller guys on the NHL ice, just like he was at the youth level. At 14U/16U he said players should start taking responsibility for their own development, especially if that means you’re on the smaller side. That means ramping up strength and explosiveness training to build the engine.
Don’t worry about what other players are doing. Stick to your path at your own pace.
“It’s important at a young level to realize, hey, you might not be the biggest guy out there, but you learn how to play the game and if you’re not able to physically overwhelm players, you have to find a way to get the puck elsewhere,” Krug said. “It’s just another reason that if you stick on the right path in your development and work on your game, not everyone elses, you’ll be just fine.”