Merrick Madsen, playing between the pipes in California, had always been overshadowed by Boston College recruit Thatcher Demko. Thanks to a tip from an old friend now living in California, Proctor Academy Coach Mike Walsh saw the potential and brought Madsen out to the New Hampshire prep school.
"It's really a great story. He came out here from California where he could never really get into the top two goalies out there. His midget coach, John Devereaux, who I was friends with back in the 80s, told me to consider Merrick," said Walsh.
Madsen came to Proctor with plenty of raw talent, but now has developed his game to the point where Harvard has offered him a spot on its roster for the 2014-15 season.
With Madsen's athletic ability and size, the Acton, Calif. native possesses plenty of upside for NHL teams to consider as they contemplate drafting him. "He's very tall. He has a big wingspan and takes up a lot of the net. He reminds me of [former NBA star] Kevin McHale with his long arms," said Walsh, a former standout at Colgate University. "He's so athletic and coordinated. Physically, you can see why NHL scouts have been so interested," added Walsh.
Madsen came to Proctor last year as a raw talent, but his improvement has been notable according to his coach. "He came here very raw. He really struggled in the first weekend at Belmont Hill and Lawrence Academy."
Since that tough first weekend, Madsen has worked on his game and become a much more developed talent between the pipes. "He's been working with a goalie coach at least once a week. He's just so good we had to redesign some of our drills in practice because our guys just couldn't score on him," said Walsh.
There was some Division I interest following last season, but over the summer Madsen really stood out in some of the festivals and camps he attended. "He had a bunch of Division I interest. He was at the Warren Strelow National Goaltending Camp and the Rochester [Select 17] Festival.
Out of all the interest from college coaches, Madsen and Harvard appear to be a great fit. "He's really bright and has high test scores. He'll be a natural fit at Harvard," said Walsh, who played his prep hockey at St. Sebastian's before moving on to Colgate.
Madsen, standing tall at six-feet-four-inches, wears size 14 skates. NHL scouts have grown more impressed with him since the start of the season as he went from 34th in the Mid-Term Rankings to 26th in the final rankings of North American goaltenders eligible for the draft.
His coach is impressed by Madsen's strengths, but equally boasts of his goaltender's ability to identify weaknesses and improve on them. "He's got great feet. He moves post-to-post very well. He has been working on his glove and getting better on the shots upstairs," said Walsh.
Madsen will spend the 2013-14 season playing for the Des Moines Bucaneers in the United States Hockey League (USHL). In Des Moines he will be replacing Providence recruit Nick Ellis between the pipes. Former Ferris State player Jon Rogger coaches Des Moines, but one of his assistants is Coach Walsh's friend, Devereaux, who recommended Madsen to Walsh two years ago.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey, the American Hockey League and the NHL Draft for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.