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2024 NHL Draft

Michael Hage is fully healthy and ready to impress

Michael Hage is a centre for the USHL's Chicago Steel, a top-notch organization with immense resources for draft prospects. They invest in all of the best coaching, training – you name it. Anything to help their players get to the top of their game.

For Hage, that's meant recovering from a difficult summer, trying to overcome a shoulder injury heading into the most important season of his entire career – his draft year. The process hasn't been easy. Just attending to your rehab can take up a lot of time in the day.

Hage believes he's finally feeling 100 percent, and his improvement has shown up this season. Just in the nick of time.

“It was good. I’m continuing to strengthen my shoulder,“ Hage admitted. “It feels good. I think I put in enough work when I was rehabbing it. Now it feels just as good as the other one.”

Hockey players all understate their injuries and the work they put in. When I dug a bit further, I got a clearer idea of how hard it was for him and why he looks better at this point of the season than he did at the Fall Classic at the start of the season.  

“Just a normal summer of working out, training, and skating. It is a setback when you’re out for that long (he played in just 19 games in total). I did try and work twice as hard. Put in the work every day and do the extra work to strengthen my shoulder and make sure it never happens again. Just getting your legs back to where you felt you were before. I think I did that.”

Playing in the All-American Game isn’t as easy as we sometimes think it is. This game can test a player’s adaptability, and Hage passed the test even though he didn’t see anything on the scoresheet. Hage did have some scoring chances.

“Different circumstances playing with new guys. Just flying in, playing with new gear, and new guys was a fun experience. I just tried to bring my work ethic and make plays. Glad we got the win,” Hage smiled. “I think I’m a creative guy. I want to make plays. Create opportunities. I tried to do that. We had our looks. That’s what a lot of my game is. Just trying to make plays.”

Playing the centre position is challenging. Some have to learn about all the responsibilities, and some are more natural, and that’s where Hage falls for me.

“I think just being able to support everyone, all over the ice. You have to be good in your own zone,” Hage added. “I think it’s a position where you are very involved all over the ice, and that’s what I really like.”

Hage is committed to Michigan. The fact that he’s a centre going there means his two-way game needs to be on point.

“The offence is fun, but it‘s important to be mature enough to play in your own zone. Help your D out and be close to the puck. That’s something I take pride in,” Hage emphasized.  

Hage is a good skater. He’s able to make plays at speed. He lives near Toronto and as a result, has some great coaches who live nearby. The young pivot got a skating coach who is on the staff of the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.

“I think it got a lot better this summer and it’s one of the big parts of my game," Hage said, then got a bit deeper into it. “I have a skating coach. MacKenzie Braid in Toronto. I worked on stride and smoothness. You work on a little bit of everything. Just being smooth and quick out of turns.” 

Like any hockey fan, he has a few players that he watches. He shot high and picked out two very talented players.

“I like guys like Mathew Barzal and Jack Eichel, lengthy and creative. They can make plays. Really great players,” Hage stated. 

Hage is extremely satisfied playing with the Steel. He is more than happy to talk about what they’re doing. This is a perfect match of organization with a particular player’s needs.  

“I skated with them at the end of my U16 season and I fell in love with the way they do things. it’s an organization that’s had a lot of success. I think just the way they do things there and push for individual player development and how hard we work in the gym every day. It’s been really good to kind of prepare yourself for that next level. After I went to visit schools, I never wanted to go back to major junior.” 

His family lives in Canada, but they’ve had a chance to come over and see him play, and that’s important for a young prospect playing away from home in another country. 

“My mom tries to come down once a month. She watches all my games,” Hage revealed.  

Parents love to watch, and parents love to give their input too. Hage seems to have found a healthy balance with that. 

“Oh yeah, she texts me. I’ll look at my phone once in a while,” he smiled. “She’s given me her report on the game, so yeah.” 

When I asked if he knew his game well enough to see little flaws, he quickly responded with, “No, but I acknowledge her.” 

There’s nothing like hockey families. It’s the kind of sport that lends to family togetherness with the long car trips and games to watch a family member play that brings them all together. I always say the community is a tight-knit one. That helps a young player feel connected too. The worst feeling for a player is to be in another country and feel isolated. 

When talking about his draft year, Hage is keenly aware of what’s at stake but doesn’t give a cliche answer, and that will help him during the slew of interviews with NHL clubs shortly. 

“It’s been a goal of mine for a long time. I think I’ve just gotten better as the year has gone on. To come back from injury and try to get comfortable early in the season. Getting used to new teammates. I think we are getting better as the year goes on."

I think he has the skillset of a second-line centre. Let’s see where Hage goes in the draft. 

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2024 NHL Draft Chicago Steel Univ. of Michigan USHL NCAA Michael Hage
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