Fresh off his graduation from Thayer Academy, Lincoln Griffin was all ready to head west to Wisconsin to play in the USHL for the Green Bay Gamblers this season.
Then came a text message from his mom and later a phone call from Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. Instead of playing in the USHL for Pat Mikesch, he was going to enroll a year earlier than planned and suit up for the Huskies in a matter of months.
"I was set to join Green Bay. I had been traded there from Dubuque. I was comfortable playing out there since [Mikesch] had been my coach in the Five Nations Tournament," explained Griffin. "But, Coach Madigan called me to come in this year. I was real excited."
Jumping into college hockey a year early might be an undue burden and create some anxiety for some players, but not Griffin. He'll be joining the Huskies with two former Thayer teammates, Adam Gaudette and Jon Barry.
"Once I found out I was coming this year, I took a summer class here with Jon and Adam. They're two of my closest buddies. We just have great chemistry together," said Griffin, whose roommate will be Gaudette, his former prep school linemate.
It's yet to be determined if Griffin will be reunited on a line with Gaudette, a fifth round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in this summer's NHL Draft. The two formed a nice duo that the Huskies coaching staff recognized in the recruiting process, but Griffin still prospered last season with his former linemate in the USHL.
"[He] was a linemate of Adam Gaudette's for two years where they had good chemistry together. Lincoln, without Gaudette on his team this [past] year, was the go-to guy," Madigan told GoNU.com.
Growing up in nearby Walpole, Griffin was familiar with Northeastern at an early age because of a family connection. His father John played baseball at the school and took his son to Northeastern hockey games growing up.
"My dad played baseball here. I was around Northeastern a lot growing up. I saw the campus a lot and there was no other place I liked as much," Griffin said, when asked why he chose to play hockey for the Huskies.
On paper, Griffin might appear to be a smaller forward with skill that can produce offensively, but he plays much bigger than his size would indicate.
"He is a guy with a motor that doesn't stop, but he has the ability to make plays and be a cerebral, smart player. There's texture and grittiness to him and he gets into the dirty areas. Lincoln is 5'11" but you wouldn't know it by the way he plays. He makes things happen with his quickness and his ability to never give up," Madigan said on GoNU.com.
Griffin agreed with his coach's assessment, saying, "I'm a grinder with skill. I like to play hard and finish checks."
Griffin, whose prep school coach was retired NHLer and former Boston University standout Tony Amonte, said he learned a lot from his former coach and wants to continue his personal development at NU.
"I learned so much from [Amonte], but the biggest thing was he told me to never stop moving my feet. Always go to the net, look for rebounds and bring grit," said Griffin, who enters his second season of draft eligibility this year.
"I just want to keep getting better everyday, learn from the older guys and do whatever it takes to help the team," he added.
Being a local kid, the Beanpot has added significance to Griffin. When asked what his goal for the team was this season, he didn't hesitate. "The Beanpot. Looking up in the stands when I came to [TD Garden] as a kid, I saw all the fans in the balcony going crazy. I remember one year when Northeastern upset BC [in the semifinals]. I want to experience that myself someday."
Griffin, who has been working out with NU strength and conditioning coach Dan Boothby, said he feels right at home and is ready to get the season underway.
"I'm very happy. I can't wait for the next four years."
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.