2011 prospects: USHL standout Scott Mayfield looks to lead by example

By Ian Altenbaugh

The 2010 NHL draft saw a record four first round picks selected out of the USHL, headlined by standout goaltending prospect Jack Campbell (DAL) and slick-skating forward Jaden Schwartz (STL).

Going into the 2011 NHL draft, among the top-ranked USHL prospects has been standout defenseman Scott Mayfield. Scheduled to attend the University of Denver next fall, Mayfield has garnered attention since he was playing U16 hockey and drafted into the USHL. However, it wasn’t until his performance at the 2010 NHL Research, Development, and Orientation camp this past summer and later his MVP performance at the World Junior-A Challenge in November that Mayfield started to be considered among the top draft-eligible skaters in the USHL. ISS in December ranked him the second best draft-eligible player in the USHL and eighth among all defensemen.

When not turning heads with his giant swift-moving frame, Mayfield plays his free-wheeling style of defense alongside partner Chris Bradley for the Youngstown Phantoms. With only one goal and three assists through 21 games this season though, Mayfield is far off his 10 goal and 12 assist pace from last season. To his credit, his offensive woes reflect the trouble the 9-17-1 Phantoms have had as the team averages only 2.41 goals per game. The young defenseman realizes dealing with animosity is part of becoming a team leader and well-rounded hockey player.

"I just think always staying positive, we did go through I think it was an eight or nine game losing streak there so that was a little rough on the team. I was actually in Canada for awhile [participating in the World Junior-A Challenge] during it but when I got back, we were kind of down and stuff and I think just staying positive and bringing everyone up. Knowing that we can play in this league and compete with all the teams, I think it brought us up and now we are getting out of it."

The losing streak Mayfield spoke of spanned from October 17th to November 7th. And though the Phantoms did work themselves out of that slump and went on to win four straight from November 24th to December 4th, they do once again find themselves in a seven game rut, going winless since December 10th.

Mayfield sees his and the team’s problems as an issue of proper execution.

"Probably the biggest thing is keeping it simple. Sometimes I try and do a little too much out there and I get away from my game when I do that."

At 6’4 and 200 pounds, the offensively gifted Mayfield brings a full package to the blue line. He possesses a natural feel for the puck that he refers to as "The Sense" but additionally, he is a strong skater with long powerful strides and has the ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone if need be. His poise with the puck is prevalent in every situation he is on the ice for, whether it is quarterbacking the powerplay, transitioning the puck through the neutral zone, or killing a penalty. When describing his game, the humble defenseman reaffirmed what most scouts and people who follow USHL hockey already knew.

"I’m definitely offensive minded. I mean I take pride in the D-zone. I like to block shots and grind it out in the corner. But at the same time, I like to start plays up for my forwards, especially through the neutral zone."

While moving the puck up ice and creating offense from the neutral zone is the part of the game Mayfield is most comfortable with, he is fully aware that in order to be a defenseman who can be counted on for every situation, he has to learn to utilize many of his natural physical assets, namely his large frame.

"Being 6’4, 200 [pounds] everyone wants me to hit and be the physical part. I mean I don’t run looking for hits or fights and stuff but it’s going to happen. It’s hockey."

The 18-year-old native of St. Louis, Missouri is a Blues fan and tries to model his game after one of his favorite players, Erik Johnson.

"When he was rehabbing his knee after getting hurt, the summer before I came here [to Youngstown], I got the chance to practice with him a little bit. He taught me a few new things. Just looking at him on the ice, he’s a big boy, so that’s who I try to model myself after."

Mayfield is currently scheduled to attend the University of Denver next fall where he will frequently see old personal rival and current Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz.

"He is quite a player. I’m looking forward to playing him again next year. [He] was definitely the hardest player I’ve probably played against in this league."

Schwartz, a former USHL standout for the Tri-City Storm opened eyes with Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo. Before suffering a fractured ankle in the second game of the tournament, he posted one goal and two assists.

What does Mayfield think about the prospects of representing Team USA next year in Alberta?

"Yeah, I mean that’s always something a USA kid wants. You want to play for your country and stuff, I was lucky enough to play in the [World Junior-A] Challenge at the start of this year. So, you don’t really think about it too much. USA hockey. If they pick you they do."