Unexpected offensive explosion from Bakersfield Condors defenceman Michael Kesselring shows growth in his game

Photo credit:David Moll / Calgary Wranglers
Zach Laing
9 months ago
To really understand Michael Kesselring as a player, you have to roll back the calendar to his days in high school. You see, it’s then where the foundation for exactly who Kesselring is as a player was laid.
Playing for New Hampton School, the now Bakersfield Condors defenceman was coached by his father, Casey, and by watching the towering Kesselring today, you can tell he’s a coach’s kid.
“He was a soft forward with good hands,” Kesselring said with a smile last week in Calgary. “It was awesome having him coach me all of high school and we had a good team. He built a good program for me, and he sacrificed a lot for me as a player, so I look up to him a lot.
“Being a coach son you always pick up on the little things and I think it helps your hockey sense a lot growing up.”
While it’s been a long road to get to where he is, Kesselring is enjoying a career year in his third season of AHL action. Through 40 games, he’s leading the American League in goals by defencemen with 12 with another seven assists added in. The key here: he plays no time on the powerplay — all these points he’s been producing this year come at even-strength play.
“I’m finding myself in good spots,” Kesselring said. “I work on that right dot shot a lot. That’s pretty much the only high-danger chances you get as a D-man. I think I’m just bigger and stronger this year and my skating allows me to get in better spots.
“I took a big leap with my skating coach back home and the extra strength I think just added to it to. It makes a big difference. I don’t get tired as easy and it’s helped me play a litle bit more minutes.”
That offence is something that caught the Condors coaching staff by surprise.
“The offensive production is unexpected from Mike, and we’re really thankful and appreciative of that,” said Condors bench boss Colin Chaulk. “He’s helped our team win. He’s given us a chance offensively on a nightly basis.
“He shoots the puck very hard, keeps it simple as far as getting pucks through. He’s had some good puck luck, but there’s also been some systematical design to it.”
Drafted by the Oilers in the 6th round of the 2018 draft, his strengths as a player have always laid in his big frame, his hockey IQ, and his ability to be a smooth skater — all great assets to have when you’re 6’5″, 220 lbs. It’s led him to playing big minutes this season, but there’s still more work to be done with the 23-year-old’s game.
“I think just being more physical all around the ice,” he said. “Few more hits, some better box outs, and just defending hard and fast all the time. I think I do it with a little inconsistency right now, so the more consistent I can get, the better player hopefully I’ll be.”
And those are the things Chaulk and the coaching staff are hopeful will come.
“For Mike, the focus for him is defending hard, getting the pucks to forwards and being that puck-moving defenceman,” he said, noting “the offence is a little extra, but we’ll gladly take it.
“We want to make sure that we keep him focused on what’s going to get him to be an NHL player.”

More from my trip to Calgary to watch the Bakersfield Condors

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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