It shouldn’t come as a surprise when an AP (Affiliated Player) shines in their debut at the next level. You see all their hard work was all done behind the scenes well before they skated under the bright lights of the next level.
Hockey parents, players and fans praise the depth of the organization and it’s affiliates, but very few of these groups actually see the AP in action with their team before the call up.
All of their hard work, growth, development and adversity they have faced often goes unnoticed and unappreciated. There’s tons of reasons why the player gets called up, like injuries or suspensions at the U18 AAA or for potential trade bait at the CHL level, but more often than not these young players are called up because they have paid their dues and fully deserve an opportunity.
An opportunity is everything these players might need to send a message to the organization and teams across the league that they are for real and that they deserve to play at that level. Obviously, the organization is fully aware of the players potential, that’s why they signed them as an affiliate, free agent, or drafted them, but even then sometimes they still surprise.
There’s only a select few that fully grasp the current value of the player, how hard they have worked, their journey to this moment and what this opportunity really means to them.
It’s no surprise AP’s or “call ups” play so well, it’s the one opportunity that they have been looking for their entire lives. For some it’s a dream come true, for many, it’s a chance to show everyone they belong, but more importantly it’s a chance to prove it to themselves.
In the biggest audition of their lives, under the brightest of lights the pressure and high expectations all fade away. It’s all about instincts, it’s all about skill and character. Sure, it might take a couple of shifts to settle in, but once they do, they always seem to excel.
No matter when or where, AP’s never seem to disappoint especially when they are given a shot and opportunity to show what they got at the next level. Obviously, throwing a player to the fire isn’t ideal, but parking their arse on the bench as an AP isn’t ideal either. Every coach has been there, it’s a tough situation for the player, team and coach to be in. That’s why it’s so important to communicate and be transparent once the player is called up and given an opportunity to practice with the team and new linemates or D partner. It’s not easy to find some AP’s ice time especially in a playoff situation, but one should never underestimate their contributions, AP’s always seem to respond and will always rise to the occasion when supported.
The next time you see an unfamiliar name or number in the lineup take note, remember their name, because you will see plenty of them next year and you will be able to tell the story, “I remember when I saw that kid play as an underager, or AP.”