Brenden Datema could tell his shot was improving by the lack of damage he was doing back home in Michigan this summer.
The shooting tarp he bought was put to use inside the garage as Datema invested time improving his shot.
“I really used it a lot and I didn’t put any more dents in my parents’ garage door,” Datema said in a telephone interview. “I spent a lot of time shooting pucks this summer.”
North American Hockey League goalies can see the effectiveness of Datema’s shot.
Datema leads all NAHL defensemen in scoring and leads the entire league in power-play goals while helping the Amarillo Bulls to the top of the South Division standings with an 8-3-0-1 record.
The 19-year-old shares the league lead with nine goals. His eight power-play goals double the total of all but one other NAHL player.
“We are very proud of Brenden for the way he has started the season,” Bulls coach Rocky Russo said, according to a story on the team’s website. “He took his summer very seriously, adding muscle and improving his game in a number of ways.”
The 6-foot-5, 219-pounder said he works to make sure to get the biggest advantages possible out of his size, including with the strength of his shot on the offensive end and the use of his reach in the defensive zone.
“He returned to Amarillo prepared to be a leader and play in all situations and his results are currently reflecting that effort,” Russo said. “Brenden is a very good skater with good offensive instincts and an NHL-quality shot. He has been a calming presence in our defensive zone and his stick and physical play have helped us to succeed on the penalty kill.
“We look forward to watching Brenden continue to grow and develop this season and in the future.”
The numbers point to Datema’s offensive growth.
After registering only two goals and seven assists in 43 regular-season NAHL games in 2017-18, Datema has five goals and four assists through 12 games this season.
Teammate Nick Anderson is second among NAHL defensemen in scoring. He plays the role of power-play playmaker, setting up Datema for the one-timers on which he has shown off his improved shooting prowess.
Anderson shares the league lead in total assists with 12 and ranks second in power-play assists with six.
“Nick Anderson really helps me out, setting me up for those goals,” Datema said.
Anderson joined the team from the Minnesota Wilderness during the 2017-18 season and is among the returnees who helped the Bulls run off seven straight wins following a season-opening loss.
“Every single player bought in to what Rocky wants our game plan to be,” Datema said. “Our systems work really well when we’re doing things right.
“We have a good group. We have a lot of returners this year and we just know what to expect.”
Datema came up through some of Michigan’s strongest youth programs, playing for HoneyBaked and Belle Tire, then going to the USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U national championship game with Victory Honda in 2016 when the team settled for the silver medal after a 2-1 loss to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.