A Rockford hockey player steps into the big leagues

It’s a long climb from the rinks of the West Michigan Bantam Leagues to the NHL, but one West Michigan man has done it.

Mitchell Chaffee made his NHL debut with the Minnesota Wild

Chaffee had no points in the Wild’s 2-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens, but he managed to get a shot on goal in 7:33 of ice time. Chaffee was on the Wild’s fourth line, along with fellow rookies Brandon Duhaime and Connor Dewar.

“It’s exciting,” Chaffee told Minneapolis StarTribune, before the match. “You dream of this day. I’m finally excited that it’s here, and I’m looking to get out there and make a difference.

Before being promoted to the NHL, Chaffee led the Iowa Wild in AHL scoring with 22 goals and 15 assists in 45 games. Chaffee had just been on the ice at Van Andel Arena last Friday against the Griffins.

On March 4, Chaffee scored in a 4-0 Iowa win over the Griffs at the Van, where his family and friends were on hand to watch.

West Michigan’s Path to the Big Leagues

Chaffee grew up in Rockford and played for several Triple A travel teams in the Grand Rapids area before leaving home at 16 to play junior hockey for Honey Baked Hams Hockey Club in Detroit. He also played for the U.S. national under-18 team.

Chaffee almost returned to West Michigan to play for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL in 2014, but his rights were traded to the Bloomington Thunder. He eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was the team’s leading scorer for the Hockey East League in his sophomore year.

He was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, which recognizes the best college hockey player.

In his final season with UMass, the Minutemen made the Frozen Four and lost in the title game against Minnesota.

2019 NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Championships – Semi-Finals

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He left school after his freshman year when he was drafted by the Wild in the 2020 draft.

If he does well in that stint with the Wild, Chaffee could be in contention for a permanent spot next season with the club.

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