ST. PAUL — Nothing has come easy in Gerry Mayhew’s hockey career.
But his play so far this season made the Wild’s decision a simple one, as Minnesota recalled the scoring forward from Iowa of the American Hockey League on Sunday.
Mayhew has three goals and three assists in four games with Iowa this season and has scored two more goals in shootouts. His six points is tied with two others for the most in the American Hockey League.
This on the heels of a 27-goal, 60-point breakout season last year in which he led Iowa to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in team history. Once there, he scored nine goals in 11 postseason contests.
Indeed, it seems scoring goals might be the only thing that has come easy for the undrafted college free agent who didn’t even have an NHL contract until May.
Earning that contract was a dream come true for Mayhew, who entered training camp with a legitimate chance to make the big roster.
While he didn’t at first, he simply forced his way onto it by being too good in Iowa to keep away for long.
“I’ve [had] a focus on shooting the puck,” Mayhew said. “I’ve had some goals, which is good, but coach keeps saying, ‘Shoot the puck and good things will happen.'”
The message from the NHL staff when he was assigned to Iowa at the end of camp was a simple one.
“Don’t be pouty, don’t be discouraged, just work that much harder,” Mayhew said of their directive. He’s certainly done that.
Mayhew doesn’t have elite size or can’t-miss skill. He was never a highly-rated prospect. But the former Ferris State University alternate captain has, what teammates and coaches in Iowa have called, a puck magnet on the blade of his stick.
For one reason or another, Mayhew seemingly always finds ways to put the puck on net.
“Part of that is, being comfortable in traffic,” Iowa assistant coach Brett McLean said of Mayhew last May. “A lot of guys, they’ll wait for the puck to come out of traffic, they’ll wait at their spot, where Gerry, he’ll just go right in there. That’s a big part of it. He’ll find a way to get there, and you think he’ll fall down or you think he’s lost it and somehow he’ll come out of it with the puck on his stick.”
Mayhew assisted on a goal in a 2-1 shootout loss in Des Moines on Saturday night, Iowa’s first loss of the season following a 3-0-0 start. Mayhew scored Iowa’s only shootout goal as well.
After the game, he got the call from Minnesota assistant GM Tom Kurvers, who also serves as Iowa General Manager, saying he was getting a promotion to the big club.
When the news broke of his ascent on Sunday, teammates, friends and family were texting in large numbers.
“Lot of family [is] proud of me. It’s a pretty special moment,” Mayhew said.
The first call was to his mother, Catherine, and father, Gerald. A native of Wyandotte, Michigan, the Mayhews are expected to be in Toronto if Gerry is still with the club on Tuesday. Scotiabank Arena is about a 4 1/2 hour drive from the Mayhew home.
Counted on as an offensive catalyst in Iowa, Mayhew may not get the kind of minutes he’s received with the minor-league club. Power-play time is also a long shot as he gets his feet wet in the League.
But Mayhew said he’ll do whatever is asked of him in order to stick around.
“Whatever role they really want me to play, I’ll be able to do,” Mayhew said. “I’m pretty aware that I probably won’t be top-6. But every time I’m on the ice, I want to be able to make an impact.”