PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Last season, Mackie Samoskevich earned top-line minutes for the Michigan hockey team when four of its Olympians left for Beijing. That trial by fire resulted in five points over four games, and it also helped him advance his two-way game.
Now, the forward will try to correlate that experience into a sophomore surge.
“I gained a ton of confidence throughout that couple of weeks and I think playing more definitely helped out a lot,” Samoskevich said at USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp on Tuesday. “Definitely a good little sneak peek into next year and playing a little bit more and having a bigger role.”
And Samoskevich’s offseason training could make top-line dominance an easy feat. After mixing up his training regimen — partly by design and partly by circumstance — he not only got into great playing shape, but he also rose above training barriers that had obstructed him in previous seasons.
“Prior to the last few years, he always had trouble keeping weight on, keeping the muscle on,” his mother, Patty Samoskevich, said. “And in the last two years, he was really zoned in. He was able to keep the muscle, build the muscle, keep those pounds on and not drop.”
After struggling to keep 190 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame in other offseasons, Mackie accomplished that goal over the summer. And the results showed at the evaluation camp. He skated around the ice with the stature of a matured college hockey player.
That’s not to say he wasn’t in great shape his freshman season, but in the offseason, he finally filled out his frame.
But the path to reach that goal wasn’t easy. Usually, Mackie puts in work with Prentiss Hockey Performance, one of the leading conditioning companies in the sport. Through their training expertise, he was able to keep himself in top playing shape.
But this offseason, Mackie didn’t take his usual training route. Mackie stayed in Ann Arbor during the spring, which meant he trained with Michigan this offseason. Much of that work entailed weight training, which helped him grow his lower body strength. By the time he went home to Connecticut — his first NHL development camp with the Florida Panthers on the horizon — he didn’t have time to put in a full campaign with Prentiss.
Instead, he honed in on his skating to prepare for the Panthers’ camp. And from his performance, the decision to switch up his offseason plans paid off.
“He’s smart when it comes to his body and listening to his body,“ Patty said. “They worked out hard (with) weight during spring while he was at Michigan and when he got home, he knew what he had to do to get ready for Florida.”
That growth has been the story of Mackie’s summer, one that has prepared him for a large role with the Wolverines.
He returns to Michigan as one of the more experienced players leading a roster made up of more than a dozen freshmen. Most of the Wolverines’ key producers left the program this offseason, and Mackie is positioned to inherit plenty of their missing minutes this upcoming season.
That advancement won’t just be handed to him, however, as plenty of skilled forwards are entering the lineup with Michigan’s incoming class. Mackie will have to earn his ice time, but he comes in with first-line experience under his belt.
And with an offseason of growth supporting him, Mackie seems ready to turn his former top-line experiment into a full-time job.