Lightning Network’s Brandon Hagel Has Been His Own Man When He Returns to Chicago

TAMPA — Sometimes on the road, signees still confuse Brandon Hagel with his Chargers teammate Brayden Pointe.

“Sometimes people will ask, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, Brayden,'” Hagel said with a laugh. “I’ve heard it so many times. If I hear the name clearly, ‘Braden,’ I’ll keep going. But if I don’t, sometimes I’ll come over and they’ll show me the card, and I’ll Saying, ‘No, no, no, that’s not me.'”

He never actually signed any of Point’s cards, but joked, “At this point, I might have to.” He took it lightly. Hagel isn’t a double of Point, but they do look alike.

But on the ice and in the locker room, there’s no doubting that Hagel has been a great player in his first full season with the team after a trade deadline trade last March brought him from Chicago to Tampa Bay. his own people.

He doesn’t have to be one of the oldest or most experienced. Hegel learned that he could lead simply by being himself.

Chargers left wing Brandon Hagel, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Rangers on Thursday.
Chargers left wing Brandon Hagel, center, celebrates after scoring a goal against the Rangers on Thursday. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

After playing mostly a check-line role last season, Hagel was able to shine this year. While the team was without first-line winger Ondrej Palat, Hagel filled in next to Point and right winger Nikita Kucherov. He’s become one of the Chargers’ top offensive weapons, whether using his quickness to create shots in the rush or buzzing the net for screens and grabbing rebounds.

“I give this kid all the credit in the world,” Chargers coach Jon Cooper said. “He just eats up characters, consumes them and makes the most of them, and I think that has a lot to do with his personality and the way he approaches his game.”

Hagel is tied for third with 13 goals and fifth with 27 points Saturday at home against Arizona, both numbers expected to hit career highs. But it’s his all-around game in the frontcourt or his own game, constantly blocking the puck with his stick, jumping into possession battles, and his dedication to defense in penalty shootouts that make him a complete player.

“He won the fight,” Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “He’s not the biggest guy out there, but he’s very smart in the fight. He’s very skilled. He’s a really good player.”

He may be one of the youngest players on the team — only defenseman Cal Foote is four months younger — but Hagel, at 24, has become a lot like center Anthony Cirelli, a player who can get his teammates into battle. player.

“One of the things about Hags is when he came to our team last year, we had a lot of veterans and we were a pretty complete team,” Cooper said. “But he has a personality that goes for it. He’s not the kind of kid who sits around and waits for things to happen.”

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Brandon Hagel (38) celebrates a goal with teammate Steven Stamkos (91) during their Dec. 17 game in Montreal.
Brandon Hagel (38) celebrates a goal with teammate Steven Stamkos (91) during their Dec. 17 game in Montreal. [ GRAHAM HUGHES | AP ]

Hagel returned to Chicago for his first game as a visitor on Tuesday, and he certainly hoped it would be nostalgic.

“I think it’s going to be different, but at the same time, it’s going to be fun and in a way really cool and emotional because that’s where I started everything,” Hagel said. “That’s where I got to where I am today to be able to play. They gave me the opportunity, so, yeah, I’m happy to go back, obviously. But it definitely brings back a lot of memories of everything I’ve been through throughout my career .”

The Blackhawks were the team that signed Hagel as a free agent after the Sabers’ draft rights expired, and the Sabers selected him in the sixth round in 2018. He wants to stay in Chicago after signing a three-year, $4.5 million extension before last season.

Before the trade, Hagel was a scorer with 21 goals in 55 games on 22.3 percent shooting. His scoring efficiency dropped to 8.3 percent with the Chargers in 55 regular-season and postseason games played in Tampa Bay; the Chargers sent a nifty package that included two first-round picks to acquire Hagel .

Brandon Hagel (38) takes the puck with the Predators in a Dec. 8 game.
Brandon Hagel (38) takes the puck with the Predators in a Dec. 8 game. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

“I think my greatest asset is my work ethic,” he said. “It’s a big part of getting people into the fight; I guess you could say I’m just working hard and hopefully someone will come on board. I think my game brings a little bit of energy, so hopefully people see that and move on. “

“I think the great thing about this locker room is everybody here is a leader,” Hagel added. “They make you feel comfortable. So speaking out, saying your character is here is never a weird or awkward thing.”

Hagel is back to shooting 19.1 percent this season. He has 10 points, including six goals in his last nine games going into Saturday. He already has more blocks in 34 games (26) than he did in Chicago in 55 games last season. Hagel’s 47 takeaways led all NHL forwards and allowed him to create 20 rushing attempts, which is seventh in the league.

“He’s a real competitor,” Cooper said. “All these guys, everybody competes, they’re all professional athletes. But some guys have a little bit of dirt under their nails. Haggs is one of them, and it really worked in his favor.”

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