Mike Iggulden considered giving up after two difficult seasons of college hockey filled with injury problems. Used primarily as a defensive forward and a penalty killer with the Cornell Big Red, Iggulden has been allowed to flourish with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL in 2005-06, and the 6’3 215-pound pivot as responded in a big way. So much so that the undrafted power forward is no longer an NHL free agent.
San Jose signed Iggulden to a two-way contract last week after he impressed in Sharks training camp in September and then went on to become one of Cleveland’s most consistent performers and top scorers. The unheralded rookie is currently third in Cleveland scoring with 12 goals and 19 assists in 42 games. When interviewed in mid-December, Cleveland Barons head coach Roy Sommer said of Iggulden, “He’s been everything for us. He hasn’t had a lot of bad games for us, he’s been real consistent. He’s got a good shot, he kills penalties, defensively he’s been pretty good.”
Seldom used in offensive situations for Cornell, Sommer has given Iggulden such opportunities at the AHL level, and Iggulden has responded and his confidence has grown.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Iggulden before Cleveland’s Jan. 14 match-up against the Iowa Stars, a game which the Barons won 2-1, and learned that Iggulden’s hard work and determination at paid off.
HF: There was a curious transaction the AHL’s website the other day which said ‘delete Mike Iggulden from standard player contract’ and ‘add on loan from San Jose,’ have you signed with San Jose?
MI: Yep, I signed with them last week. So, I’m pretty excited about that.
HF: After last season, is this as much as you could have expected?
MI: Oh yeah, I definitely think so. I came into training camp and wasn’t really expecting too much. I just wanted a chance to play in Cleveland luckily enough they’ve given me such a great opportunity to play and give me an opportunity on special teams and things have gone so well. I didn’t really expect it coming into the season, so it’s been nice.
HF: How do you feel rookie camp with the Sharks benefited you?
MI: It definitely benefited me. It kind of adjusted me to the increase in speed, how the game is going to be played. Then especially going to main camp and skating with guys like Patrick Marleau, (Marco) Sturm, (Jonathan) Cheechoo, stuff like that, that gets you adjusted pretty quickly to speed and how you’re going to have to play coming into the season.
HF: You also played with Rochester last year, do you feel that gave you an advantage heading into this year?
MI: Oh definitely. It was a great opportunity. I only played six games, but at the same time it was an adjustment period for me and having that last year gave me a little bit of an edge coming into this year.
HF: You’ve scored more with Cleveland already than you scored with Cornell last year, how’s your season going?
MI: It’s going great so far, I just want to keep the roll going. It’s fun playing with an offensive mind again. It’s something I didn’t really get a chance to do at Cornell. Getting a chance to play on the power play. I’m really enjoying hockey right now, having fun.
HF: I understand you had to fight through some adversity with injuries at Cornell, can you describe those?
MI: Yeah, my first two seasons were really frustrating, I even thought about giving up some times. I had abdominal surgery after my freshman year, broke my foot my sophomore year, and then basically had to battle my way into the line-up my junior year. I basically had only two full seasons a Cornell.
HF: You’re doing pretty good this year, do you feel maybe you were misused at Cornell?
MI: I’m not here to talk badly about anything at Cornell. I figure I should have deserved a shot on the power play. I just was happy doing whatever I could for the team.
HF: How does the AHL compare to the ECAC and college hockey?
MI: I like the pro game a lot more. I think it’s faster and I stay more wide open, I think it’s a little more wide open. College, it seemed like, especially ECAC, it was just so defensive oriented, teams trapping, left wing lock. I find you’re able to do more things offensively.
HF: You’re not from Massachusetts, or even the United States, but you did spend some time in the Northeast at Cornell, what was your reaction when you learned that the team was moving to Worcester?
MI: I was kind of disappointed just because all of my family is from around the Toronto area, so we got to play a lot of game in Toronto, Hamilton, and Rochester, which are only an hour and a half away. It’ll be harder for my family to get to as many games. I’m excited about the change and hopefully it’ll benefit the organization, we’ll get some more fans in the seat, and I’m looking forward to it.
HF: What do you feel are the strengths of your game?
MI: I think my speed, just my overall hockey sense, and just probably my defensive game and seeing the ice.
HF: What are some of the areas you’re looking to improve on so that one day you can make the jump to San Jose?
MI: I’m trying to improve my shot, you can always improve your skating, so I’m working on that, and just my overall strength.
HF: I noticed you played at least two years for Ridley College, I’m not certain exactly what that is, tell me about Ridley College.
MI: Actually I played five years there. It’s a prep school in Canada, and we play in the prep school league there. It’s not really on the map as far as the hockey world, but it was a great opportunity for me to get a ton of ice time and it was a good place for me to develop.
HF: How was it you came to go to Cornell from Canadian prep?
MI: I would say two or three guys go Division I every year, and I played Junior B for the Thorold Blackhawks at the same time and was seen by some schools while playing there as well.
HF: Where did you play before you played Junior B and prep?
MI: I played AAA hockey for St. Catherines, the St. Catherines Royals, in my hometown.
HF: Isn’t Sharks defenseman Rob Davison also from St. Catherines?
MI: Yeah, he was two years ahead of me in that same organization.
HF: I understand your dad played NCAA DIII at Middlebury, did that help get you into hockey that much more?
MI: My dad’s had the biggest influence in my hockey career. Ever since I was little kid he also pushed for me to go the college route rather than the junior route. That always had an influence on me when it came down to making my decision. I always worked for that growing up, that was always my go.
HF: Looks like it worked out for you.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.