ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Some hockey players do a lot of weight training, sprinting or skating to strengthen their legs during the offseason.
For Jack Ahcan, he will do a lot of wall sits. A wall sit is when a person forms two right angles, one at the hips and one at the knees with their back against the wall.
Some people will time how long they can go doing a wall sit. Ahcan said he has a different method of determining when he stops.
"I just sit on the wall for as long as I can," Ahcan said. "One of the things that they emphasize where I work out is, if you're on the wall, you want to finish down on the ground. You don't want to end up dropping right away because then you have more left.
"When your legs can't go anymore, then you go down to the ground. And I'll do like a Russian lunge ... it's a lot no weights, but more body weight (use). It's really helped me throughout the years."
The St. Cloud State men's hockey captain's regimen has clearly paid dividends. If you meet Ahcan off the ice, you'll notice that he stands about 5-foot-8. If you've watched him on the ice, you may wonder how someone that size on that ice can bounce so many opposing players with a body check.
Well, there's no official number out there, but a rough estimate is that much of his 185 listed pounds are in his lower body, notably his legs.
"I think sometimes he surprises the other team's players when he goes in for the hit at how hard it is," Huskies head coach Brett Larson said. "He's a little bit like a football linebacker, who accelerates into the hit really hard. I don't think guys expect that.
"I would imagine that when a guy runs into him, it feels like what it would to run into a fire hydrant. It ain't moving much."
Ahcan, the Huskies' senior captain from Savage, is also on the verge of joining elite company when the Huskies play host to Miami in an NCHC series this weekend. St. Cloud State (5-9-0-0 NCHC, 8-12-4) plays the RedHawks (3-9-2-1, 6-14-4) at 7:37 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday (FOX 9+) at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
The combo platter
Ahcan is three points away from becoming the third St. Cloud State defenseman in the NCAA Division I era to score 100 points in his career (Jimmy Schuldt, 118 points, 2015-19; Kelly Hultgren, 107 points, 1991-95). Ahcan has 19 goals and 78 assists in 135 career college games.
This season, he leads the Huskies in penalty minutes (40) and is second on the team in assists (15) and points (19) in 24 games. Perhaps a convergence of the elements that Ahcan brings to the team came in a span of 8 seconds on Friday, Jan. 24, in a game at Western Michigan.
With his team trailing 3-0, Ahcan scored a goal at 19:48 of the first period. At 19:56, Ahcan took a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit to the head.
"He's been put in a tough spot of being a leader of an extremely young team," Larson said. "I think he's handled the ups and downs of the year really well and led by example.
"Even in the game on Friday, he was going to will our team back into the game. He jumped up and scored that goal and then, unfortunately, he was trying to do the same thing on the next shift by delivering a big hit. I don't blame him for that hit because he was doing everything he possibly could to get his team back in the game and the kid was reaching for a puck and his head got pretty low."
Ahcan, who has played in team-leading 120 consecutive games, said that it was not easy to receive his second game misconduct for a hit this season. If he gets another, he will receive an automatic one-game suspension.
"The faceoff came and I thought, 'Let's get some more momentum' and I stepped up and I'd say it was a good hit, but I ended up getting kicked out," he said. "It's a hard game and it happened so fast and I talked to Lars about it and that's just me playing how I play and I don't think I'll ever stop playing that way.
"I don't think it was a bad hit, but it was pretty difficult watching the game in the stands for two periods and not playing with the guys."
A scout's view
Brooks Bertsch, a former St. Cloud State player (2011-15), is in his second season as a scout for the Los Angeles Kings and is primarily in charge of unsigned college free agents. Bertsch said that Ahcan is in the top 10 among college free agents because of the variety in the way he plays.
"Jack can play in any type of game," Bertsch said of Ahcan, who is tied for 16th on St. Cloud State's career assists list and has 115 career penalty minutes. "He can play a heavy, physical game and still be effective. He can play in a speed and skill game and still be effective.
"He's got a nice element of compete and will coupled with offensive capabilities in terms of puck moving, skating ability and being able to run a power play."
Bertsch said that the NHL game has changed even since Ahcan was last draft eligible four years ago in terms of how scouts view his size. And that will be to Ahcan's bargaining advantage at the end of the season as it was to former St. Cloud State center Blake Lizotte, whom Bertsch helped the Kings sign last spring despite being 5-foot-7.
"I think it will be a concern of a lot of teams at the next level, but Jack, if you get to know him as a person — his will, compete and his character are unmatched," Bertsch said of Ahcan. "He's proven people wrong at every level. He went to the USHL and became Defenseman of the Year there.
"He won a gold medal on the World Junior Team (USA in 2017) and was an All-American last year and he's on pace to be a 100-point defenseman, which is extremely difficult to do in college hockey."
Like most players, Ahcan wants to play in the NHL after his college career finishes. But he also wants to do everything he can to help St. Cloud State get back to the NCAA tournament for the third straight season, so he's recently cut off talking to pro scouts until the end of the season.
"I think it's really cool that I'm mentoring freshmen who look up to me as being a senior captain and I think that's going to help the team in the long run and keeping this program going," he said. "We've kind of shut down (pro scout talks) to focus more on the team.
"On a Friday, it's more relaxing and hanging out with my teammates instead going out and being by myself and talking to somebody. It is really cool to get their perspective, whether it's something in my game to help me or having those conversations with NHL scouts. It is really cool, but we're focusing on the end of the season here and going on a little run."
Ahcan is on track to graduate after spring semester with a degree in real estate.