Komets’ Dan Maggio having fun playing two positions

Dan Maggio has thrived for the Komets this season despite playing both forward and defenseman. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

When the ECHL is nicknamed as the “Ever-Changing Hockey League” because of call-ups and injuries, a player who can skate effectively at both forward and defense is a coach’s dream come true.

The Komets’ Daniel Maggio is probably even better than that.

Maggio started his career with the Komets as a rookie defenseman in 2012, helping Fort Wayne win a Central Hockey League title. Then he was signed midway through the next season by Lake Erie of the American Hockey League where his transformation into playing forward began. The Lake Monsters wanted to take advantage of Maggio’s toughness, and they’d rather lose a forward for five-minute fighting penalties than one of their six defensemen because it’s easier to adjust with extra forwards.

Maggio came back to the Komets in training camp this year hoping to return to playing mostly defense and possibly rekindling his career. The odd thing is, because of the constant roster turnover, he’s played almost as much on the forward lines as he has on the blue line.

“We knew he was going to play defenseman most importantly for us, but who would have expected this roller coaster of injuries we’ve had,” Komets coach Gary Graham said. “The best thing about Mags is that he’s such a team-first guy. He’s kind of an old throwback when it comes to coaching because he’s such a pro and will do anything you ask of him for the team.

“You just don’t see that a lot anymore. It’s so refreshing when you get a guy like that who is easy to coach and everything is about the team first. Those are the type of guys you want to win championships with.”

The thing is, Maggio is an effective player at either position. Usually, when a forward goes back to play defense in an emergency, they are incredibly tentative which often leads to mistakes. Defensemen moving to forward often hesitate to attack in the offensive zone and sometimes just get in the way. Maggio always attacks wherever he’s at and looked comfortable in either area.

“It’s just the little things you think about before the game,” Maggio said. “At forward, the game comes at you a little quicker so you have to make plays quicker. My process at forward is trying not to turn the puck over and trying to get the puck in deep and then chasing it down. There’s more skating and more high-pace when you are at forward.”

And on defense?

“It’s about shutting down their top guys, and moving the puck to the forwards quickly,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s hockey: skate, shoot and have fun. For some reason, I seem to be producing more points on defense. I just try to find (Shawn) Szydlowski out there, pass it to him and he’ll get me an assist.”

Maggio said he’s never been confused which position he’s supposed to play, even if he gets moved shift-to-shift as happened once so far this season when a defenseman was injured during a game.

“I like to play D, but I also like to play both,” he said. “I’ve been sitting out the past few seasons a lot and whenever I can get on the ice is good for me. I like to play.”