Landon Slaggert, a 2020 third-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks (#79 overall), is currently a freshman at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Fighting Irish hockey team. We recently talked by telephone about his experience at the recently concluded Team USA 2021 US National Junior Team Evaluation Camp, how it felt to be selected in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and the importance of being a well-rounded person and finishing his college degree.
Slaggert, a native of South Bend, Indiana, has represented the United States in the U17 and U18 tournaments in the past two years, and also played for the US National Team Development Program (NTDP).
Slaggert and Team USA
In 2018-19, the 6-foot, 183-pound center played 48 games with the US National U17 Team, racking up 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists). Slaggert also logged 30 games for the NTDP in the United States Hockey League, adding 14 points while playing on a team that included first-round draft picks Jack Hughes, Matthew Boldy, and Cole Caufield, as well as his current Notre Dame teammate Ryder Rolston. In 2018-19, Slaggert and Rolston were part of Team USA at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Last season, Slaggert played 47 games with the US National U18 team, again putting up 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in 47 games. With the NTDP in the USHL, he added 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 19 games. Last November, he was part of the gold medal-winning Team USA at the 2019 U18 Five Nations Tournament in Sundsvall, Sweden. His performance included a hat trick against Team Sweden.
(The following transcript has been edited for brevity, clarity, and to eliminate much of my own rambling and babbling.)
The Hockey Writers: What was it like to get the invitation to camp?
Landon Slaggert: It started back in late June, when I got a call from Coach (Nate) Leaman. I was surprised a little bit, but the camp got pushed back and I wasn’t sure what would come of it. Luckily, we were able to get the proper (COVID-19) protocols to allow us to hold the evaluation camp in October, so it meant a lot to me to see that my hard work paid off and gave me another chance to represent my country and wear the Team USA jersey. Any time you get to put on the Team USA jersey is special.
THW: Can you describe how the days went during camp?
LS: The first couple of days were two-a-day practices, getting acclimated, getting out feet wet with practices. Then we had three scrimmage days. Those were a good time to get back into it. The last time we played games was about seven months ago. Definitely a change of pace, but I enjoyed it, to really compete.
THW: What was the high point of the camp for you?
LS: Just putting on the Team USA jersey — it brings chills to you every time you throw it on. And to play for the first time in seven months, it felt special to be back out there. We really didn’t know when (the pandemic) hit when we would be playing. It felt special to be back out there and really competing for something.
THW: Were there any players at the camp who really stood out in your mind?
LS: Yeah, I think some of the older guys like Cole Caufield, who’s at the University (of Wisconsin) at Madison, he’s a really good player and he really stood out to me. Matt Boldy at Boston College, he stood out. And then even some of our younger guys that I played with, Matty Beniers, Jake Sanderson, Thomas Bordeleau, so I think all those guys kind of stood out in my mind.
THW: Are there guys you’re going to keep in touch with away from camp?
LS: Lots of my old teammates from last year were there, so it was kind of nice to reconnect with them. It was kind of a weird thing at the end of last year, when we went home and thought it would be just for a couple of weeks and then it ended up being the whole end of the year. It was kind of sad at that point to say goodbye to them, but it was nice to have a reunion at the camp. So, rekindling old friendships and also meeting some of the older guys that I hadn’t really had a chance to interact with much. It was just nice to see a lot of good hockey players and some good people.
THW: Let’s talk a bit about the NHL Entry Draft. You were picked at #79. Between 2003 and 2014, nine of the 13 players drafted at that spot have already played in the NHL. That’s a pretty good slot for the third round. Just to toss a name at you, somebody else who was drafted at #79: Brayden Point in 2014. Runner-up for the Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs) this year. Is that sort of what you aspire to, to hold the Cup and then pick up the trophy?
LS: Obviously it’s a dream of mine; it’s a dream of many young hockey players. I do think it’s possible, but I just have to keep working and keep on the path that I’m on now. It’s definitely a possibility, but that’s still a long way away and a lot of hard work has to come before that. It’s definitely a dream of mine, and Brayden Point is an unbelievable player. It’s awesome to be selected at the same spot as him and I think it’s definitely a possibility for me.
THW: What do you expect for the next couple of years? Do you think that you’re going to stay in school?
LS: Yes, school is definitely an important part of my life. My Dad (Notre Dame Hockey assistant coach Andy Slaggert), he’s always said that I need to be a well-rounded person, and that includes school. School came before hockey at a young age, but I think it’s definitely important for me to get my degree here at Notre Dame. On the long path, at some point I’ll make the transition, but right now I’m focused on earning my degree.
Following his performance at the Team USA 2021 US National Junior Team Evaluation Camp in October, Slaggert hopes to again wear the Team USA Jersey at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, which is scheduled to begin in late December and run into January 2021. Current Notre Dame teammates Jake Pivonka and Spencer Stastney skated for the US in the 2020 tournament.
Before that, however, he’ll be playing for the Fighting Irish in the Big Ten. (A Nov. 13 Big Ten hockey start date is currently projected.) And, of course, he’ll be attending classes and working toward earning his degree.
Pete Bauer is both a hockey fan and player. As a columnist for The Hockey Writers, he covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, NCAA hockey, and NHL trends, statistics, and history. He is also the author of over a dozen books on photography, digital imaging, and graphics, including “Photoshop CC for Dummies.”