IN THE SUMMER OF 2016, before his second stint with the Thunder and before the trade to the Force, Chaffee committed to UMass.
Originally, Chaffee was eyeing Western Michigan. Closer to Rockford and with Barr overseeing the influx of recruits, he nearly became a Bronco.
“I don’t know, just something didn’t seem right there and I was thinking about going there but I wasn’t sure,” said Chaffee. “After Barr transferred here he told me I had to come out here and at least meet the coaching staff and check out the campus and just see if I liked it. So I took a visit out here and I loved the coaching staff, which was one of the top things on my list for college.”
When DeMichiel and Barr joined forces in the Pioneer Valley, they swiftly identified Chaffee as a top priority and “zeroed in on him,” as DeMichiel put it.
In hockey, a power forward is essentially a player than can run you over in the defensive zone and then snipe a shot through the opposing goalie all in the same shift. Think of Milan Lucic of the Edmonton Oilers or Boston Bruins legend Cam Neely; big guys that could light the lamp as well.
At the time, the idea was Chaffee — who now sports the nickname ‘Meat’ — would fill that power forward role for the Minutemen, with more emphasis on the word power and less on forward.
But then, Chaffee began scoring for UMass.
And he didn’t stop.
On a team with high profile players like Cale Makar, Mario Ferraro and even John Leonard, Chaffee had perhaps the most impressive season finishing with 13 goals and 24 points. His 13 goals tied Leonard for the team lead and he emerged as a legitimate power forward for the Minutemen.
His performance caught the eye of the Pittsburgh Penguins who invited him out for its Prospect Developmental Camp this past summer.
“[He’s] basically the definition of a power forward,” Gaudet said. “He could score and he was good in the heavy areas of the game and he works really hard around the net to earn rebound chances and he scores on a lot of those.”
“I don’t think there’s a better power forward in our league,” added Carvel. “I’d be afraid if I was on the ice on the other team. I’d want to know where he is at all times.”
Both Eades and DeMichiel admitted that they saw glimpses of his offensive potential, but he had to improve his feet, specifically, his foot speed, for his offensive game to flourish. Once he addressed that issue, it was just up to Chaffee to trust in his own abilities.
“I knew that I could [score] and playing U16 I knew I could too,” said Chaffee. “A lot of it has to do with being in the right spots and having the right line mates too. We really bonded well and I just found myself simplifying my game more which made everything easier.”
"I don't think there's a better power forward in our league" - Greg Carvel
Chaffee models his game after Mark Scheifele, a prime example of a power forward in today’s game who’s a center for the Winnipeg Jets.
Part of a power forward’s role is to create energy in the offensive zone, whether it’s with a big hit or by simply protecting the puck. As a freshman, Chaffee exemplified the latter as a staple of his game.
“We track something here at UMass called heavy shifts and that’s how often you possess the puck in the offensive zone,” DeMichiel said. “He’s one of the guys on our team that has like the most heavy shifts, game in and game out. More or less, when you’re possessing that puck down low, it’s giving your team energy and sucking energy out of the opponent. That’s what helps us maybe when we need a heavy shift, [Chaffee] is always there.”
“He’s probably a very frustrating player to play against because you can’t get [the puck] away from him,” Eades added.
It’s this ability that allows Carvel the option to utilize Chaffee in virtually any situation because he can scrounge pucks up, and then maintain them.
That and his God-given talent to shoot the puck also make him a weapon, particularly on the Minutemen man-advantage. Last year, he tallied three goals on UMass’ top power play unit.
“I would say definitely a heavy shot,” Mirageas said of the strengths of his game. “He really knows how to shoot the puck.”