The Grand Canyon State may not seem like a prime destination for Canadian collegiate hockey players, but Arizona State is quickly becoming a pipeline for them.
The Sun Devils' first two recruits of the offseason were from north of the border, and forward Mak Barden from Surrey, British Columbia, has become the third.
Barden split the last two years between the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the British Columbia Hockey League. The BCHL is considered one of the top junior hockey leagues in Canada. It was with the Ice Hawks that he recorded 72 points in 44 games in 2012-13
"Mak is an offensive juggernaut of a player," Arizona State head coach Greg Powers said. "Mak is an extremely polished offensive player that will add some scoring punch and instant offense for us in losing our top four scorers. We couldn't be happier he is a Sun Devil."
Welcome to Tempe @MakBarden ! Mak provides us some big time offense! #instantoffense, #wedontrebuildwereload, #forkem, @ASUD1Hockey— Greg Powers (@asucoachpowers) April 29, 2014
Judging by Barden's reaction, he couldn't be happier to be a Sun Devil either.
"After a long time looking into the school and visiting the University, I just felt like it was the best choice for me," Barden said. "Obviously the success that the team had last year had a huge impact on my decision, so I'm very happy to be part of it."
Barden verbally committed to the team back in December, but made it official this week. Because he knew he was coming to Arizona State, he said he watched and rooted for the Sun Devils at the national tournament.
Very excited to officially commit to @ASUD1Hockey for the upcoming season. Thanks to my family and everyone that made this happen #Sundevils— Mak Barden (@MakBarden) April 29, 2014
"That was very special," Barden said of the national title. "I've been in contact with Coach Powers over the last year, maybe a little longer, so I was definitely anticipating that was the school that I was going to go to."
He was also pleased with what he saw off the ice.
"The team seems like a great group of guys, a lot of good-character guys, definitely a good team atmosphere between the guys," Barden said.
While he said he has been transitioning to the wing recently, he said center was his natural position. Powers also listed him as a center, leading to the belief that he will taking faceoffs at Arizona State.
While senior Liam Norris appears to have a lock on the first-line center job, he is the only one of Arizona State's full-time forwards that is returning. Sophomore Sean Murphy centered at nationals last year, but played on the wing throughout the season as well. Barden should compete for one of the center positions, possibly as high as second line.
No matter which line he plays, Powers said he expects big things from his newest player.
"This kid is legit," Powers said. "Creative, savvy and plays with a swagger you can't teach."