Darren Helm is so soft-spoken, he might be hard-pressed to state the obvious. But strap on a pair of skates and Helm’s play speaks as loudly as any other offensively gifted player in the WHL.
So far this season, he has let his actions on the ice do the talking. The entire WHL has been forced to take notice of the Winnipeg native, as he continues to find ways to produce offensively. At 18 years of age, Helm has certainly gained the confidence of Medicine Hat Tigers head coach and general manager, Willi Desjardins.
“He’s really come a long way,” Desjardins agreed. “When he came into camp at 16 he was just a skinny kid that worked hard. He played tough enough and he really had good speed, but he just wasn’t quite ready.
“When he came back at 17 last year, you could really see him developing. He probably missed about 20 goals he could have had when things just didn’t quite go right for him. This year right from the start, after Detroit’s camp, he came back with a lot of confidence. Every shift, he’s dangerous out there. He’s a pretty high-end guy and we’re fortunate to have him.”
Earlier this season, Helm played in his 100th career WHL game. Through 48 games this season, Helm has scored 30 goals and added 26 assists.
While Helm has had some contact with Detroit since the rookie camp, Desjardins has not. But that certainly hasn’t dulled his enthusiasm for Helm’s contributions to the Tigers.
“I haven’t spoken to Detroit,” Desjardins said. “But you know, there just weren’t enough things to talk about with them because it wasn’t like he might stay be staying up. He was coming back to us for sure.
“I do know they were very happy with him at the camp. I think they’re excited about his development, I mean I think they have to be when they watch him play. He’s emerged as a really a top player in our league.”
Hockey’s Future spoke with Helm recently about his season, his teammates, training camp, and more.
HF: How has the first half of the season gone for you? You’ve put up some pretty good offensive numbers.
DH: I’m not sure the team was really expected to do as well as we have. Things are going pretty good right now, we’ve got four good lines and everyone’s contributing. I was expected to put up some bigger numbers and I guess I’ve been able to so far.
HF: Who are your linemates?
DH: I played with Kevin Undershute and Derek Dorsett for about the first half of the season. We played together in the playoffs last year and really clicked. I think we felt good about playing together — great chemistry. But during the second half here it’s been Undershute and Tommy Maxwell.
HF: How is it playing with guys like Cam Barker and Kris Russell, who’ve had the great success at the WJC? Is there anything special they do to help the younger guys?
DH: I guess I kind of just feed off them. They just came back from the WJC and they’ve really been working hard. I just have to try and keep up and work as hard as they are. It’s key for all of us to keep working hard so we can continue to be successful. In the first half of the season, I played with them on the power play. Then they left for the WJC and we tried a few different combinations.
HF: Any contact with Detroit so far this season?
DH: I’ve talked to them once during the first half and my agent told me they’re pretty happy with my play so far. I just have to keep going and keep up with the hard work. I met Mike Babcock and we skated around together for a while. He told me he likes how I skate and wants me to keep working hard.
HF: How was your training camp experience?
DH: I played in the rookie tournament, the rookie camp at Traverse City and then they kept a few of the juniors around for three or four days. When we got back to Detroit, I headed right back to Medicine Hat.
HF: How did your minor hockey career bring you to Medicine Hat?
DH: When I was 14, I played my first year of bantam AAA hockey. Then the next year when I was 15, I played my first year of midget AAA. The first time I went to Medicine Hat, I got released late in the camp, then I got cut from a junior A club back home. I ended up playing junior B with Selkirk Fisherman as a 16-year-old and it really gave me a lot of opportunities, especially on the PK and the power play. It really helped my confidence. I finally made the Tigers here as a 17-year-old.
HF: Any coaches really have an impact on you?
DH: Al Hares in Selkirk really gave me a chance to just go out there and do what I could do and that has helped me to become a better hockey player.
HF: What have you learned in the WHL since your season in junior B?
DH: I think there’s something to be said about just having a willingness to want to play in the WHL. In junior B, some of the players seemed to feel their junior hockey careers were winding down. Out here it seems like most of the guys still feel they have a real good chance to become a professional hockey player. Everybody here plays like they really want to get better.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.