It’s been smooth sailing for Prout since bad travel day

Chapter Two

When last we left Dalton Prout, the Columbus Blue Jackets

rookie defenseman had jumped out of a cab into his first NHL game of the

season.  You may remember the story.  It was March 1st, and Prout had

received word he’d been recalled by the Blue Jackets, who were about to play in

Chicago against the hottest team in the league.

After his inbound plane went to the wrong gate at the

airport in Hartford, CT, the trip became part panic, part anticipation for

Prout.  Once he finally arrived in

Chicago, he had to cajole his way to the front of the taxi line, but the angst

didn’t stop there.  When the taxi pulled

up to the United Center, the player entrance was blocked by two large

SUV’s.  While Prout was trying to

convince security he really was a player late for the game, Todd Richards

called him.  The head coach of the Blue

Jackets told the young d-man to get into the arena and forget paying for the

cab or dragging his equipment with him; they were both being handled by the

team.

Before the end of the first period, Prout finally joined the

team for that game in Chicago, playing nearly nine very composed minutes in an

overtime loss.

So, how has the plot turned since that eventful travel day

for the native of Ontario?  It’s turned

into one of the most compelling stories in the NHL, actually.  In the 16 games following his 2013 debut in

Chicago, Prout’s time on ice has more than doubled, to just over 18 minutes a

game.  He’s been an even- or plus- player

in 16 of his 17 games played this season, including a +4 in Calgary on March 29th

that set an all-time record for Blue Jackets rookies.

Most importantly, in his 17 games with the team, Columbus

has gone 11-2-4 with Dalton Prout patrolling the back line.  Certainly, a ton of that credit goes to the

goaltending work of Sergei Bobrovsky and the team’s collective effort in

general.  But make no mistake:  Prout has had a major impact on the Blue

Jackets since he arrived under such harried circumstances.  And he’s still trying to catch his breath.

“It’s been a whirlwind the whole time,” he admitted.  “I haven’t been able to catch my breath, but

I finally feel a little bit settled in. 

Obviously, day by day, you feel a little bit more like part of the team,

and the best part is the team has had success, so it’s been nice to be a part

of.”

With a blend of toughness, hockey sense, strong skating, and

a real commitment in his own zone, the former 6th-round pick of the

Blue Jackets in the 2008 draft has quickly earned the trust of the Columbus

coaching staff.  He plays heavy, critical

minutes for the team and has done that since his first few games.  Was he surprised to be getting those types of

minutes so early in his second stint in the NHL?

“Yeah, the first time I was in that situation it was a

little bit surprising, but you have to take it in stride at the same time and

realize it’s still hockey, and I still have to do my job,” he said.  “So the execution is the same as it is in the

beginning of the game.  Every point of

the game is important when I’m out there.”

When asked the best way to earn a coach’s trust, Prout said

it goes beyond performance on the ice.

“I think there’s no one answer, one defining moment that you

can gain a coach’s trust.  I think it’s

developed over time through many things, such as your play on the ice, your

communication off the ice, having the same perspectives on the game, being able

to manage the game at certain points.  In

crucial situations, you want to have the same mindset as the coach, so he knows

what he’s going to get out of you when puts you out there.”

One of the reasons Prout has had such a positive impact in

his second go-round with the Blue Jackets is because he has managed

expectations for this call-up.  He’s

keeping everything simple.

“You know, honestly, one of the things I learned was to come

up here without expectations and just kind of go about your business as a

hockey player.  Do the things you think

you need to do to be successful, little things from preparing yourself to

keeping the same game that got you here. 

So, no expectations, but hard work.”

Between the success he enjoyed with Springfield earlier this

season and the playoff race he’s involved in now, it’s been a rewarding season

for the 23-year-old Prout.

“It’s really fun. 

I’ve been on both ends; I’ve been on a rebuilding junior team and a

junior team that was ranked number one in the country,” he said.  “When you’ve been on a rebuilding team you

can appreciate winning that much more. 

And the mood is just better. 

Everything comes just a little bit easier.  We’ve had some puck luck; we’ve had big goals

at critical times and great efforts.  It

seems every night someone different steps up.”

mso-fareast-language:EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">At this moment, chapter three

of the Dalton Prout 2013 story is being written, by him and his teammates.  If this group crosses the playoff line by the

end of the season, this story could well be a bestseller.