When Daniel Maggio was called up to the American Hockey League halfway through the 2012-13 season, every Komets fans knew it was unlikely they'd see him play in Fort Wayne again. He was good enough and young enough that a shot at the National Hockey League seemed inevitable, but that doesn't mean his influence over the Komets was over.
It was the discussions about Maggio which Komets General Manager David Franke had with the Lake Erie Monsters that started the process to setting up an affiliation between Fort Wayne, the Monsters and their parent team the Colorado Avalanche which starts this season. The Komets also sent defenseman Brent Henley and Jace Coyle to the Monsters for short stints over the past two seasons.
Maggio, 23, was part of Fort Wayne's 2012 Central Hockey League championship squad. He still calls Fort Wayne his second pro home.
"It was kind of like Fort Wayne with the atmosphere around the rink," he said about Lake Erie. "It's a lot of fun to play there, and the coaches are great. You get challenged every night you play."
As far as working for the Colorado farm system, Maggio said it's a remarkable experience. There's constant communication and coaching from the NHL team to the farm teams. He said it's common for Colorado Assistant General Manager Craig Billington or Director of Player Development David Oliver to come onto the ice to work with players one-on-one.
"They really work with their players like I've never seen before," he said. "They played the game before and are involved at a higher level, but they treat you just like another human being. They are not talking down to you, but they are always encouraging. It makes all the difference."
Oliver has already said he plans to regularly visit Fort Wayne next season to work with players.
"They are easy to talk to," Maggio said. "It's like having an older guy on your team. You hear what you need to do better, but they also show you on the ice, too. They want to do anything they can do make us better so there's no hesitation when it's come to get called up."
After he got called up to the Monsters, Maggio took on a new role as a tough guy. He was leading the Komets with 149 penalty minutes when he got called up, but he saw a need for toughness in the Lake Erie lineup.
"I learned pretty quick with 12 fights in my first 20 games," he said. "I had to find a technique and rhythm to it, but it's a lot of fun and I enjoy it. I just remember watching (Kaleigh) Schrock and tried to do what he did."
Maggio recently signed a one-way AHL deal with Lake Erie. He still hopes to make the NHL but realizes it's a marathon and not a sprint. There are still parts of his game he's working on to get ready for his chance. The Avalanche told him to work on his hands and shot this summer, and that they might play him more at forward this season. They are encouraging him to be an all-around player and not simply an enforcer.
Last year Maggio attended the Avalanche training camp, but has not been informed yet about this season's camp.
"The Colorado system has a lot of talent, and they have a good young team, too," he said. "There are lots of good young players coming in every year with a lot of skill and speed. We had players coming up a lot last year and they were thrown into the mix right away when they got called up. I'm sure it's going to be the same way with Fort Wayne this year.
"I felt like it was one big family last year. Denver (of the Central Hockey League) was part of it along with Lake Erie and Colorado. Affiliations are there for a reason. They aren't there to get crapped on, they are there to develop players and help each other. These are very good people who are very good at what they do."