Five-star Landon Hafele looking to command ‘bigger role’ with NTDP as commitment window nears

Posted on Cameron Levasseur
Photo: Rena Laverty, USA Hockey

It’s difficult to imagine a sharper contrast in youth hockey experience than what Landon Hafele lived the past three years.

The native Alaskan played in his home state through his U14 season with Team Alaska. Then after a brief pitstop with the Green Bay Jr. Gamblers, moved nearly 4,000 miles away from home with his family to join the Dallas Stars Elite. It’s a dramatic shift, but one that Hafele calls “an awesome move, just for my game and opportunity wise.”

That opportunity led Hafele back somewhere in the middle, now based out of Plymouth, Michigan, with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He’s the top uncommitted 2007-born player (27th overall) in PuckPreps’ rankings, largely owing to the fact that his birthday falls just past Alaska’s Sept. 1 cutoff, so he cannot commit to an NCAA school until Aug. 1 of this year.

But with that date looming, things are starting to heat up.

“I do have quite a bit of visits laid out,” Hafele told Puck Preps. “I’m excited to really start that process. I’ve been in communication with a lot of schools, so it’s been fun that way. We’re just going to see where it takes me.”

Through initial conversations with teams since the contact period began on Jan. 1, the five star forward has narrowed the pool down to “probably four or five schools.”

And unlike his father Kerry Hafele, who played four seasons with Alaska-Fairbanks from 1996-2000, Landon will restrict his search to the lower 48.

“UAF and UAA, they’re great schools, great areas,” he said. “I’d love to be home, it’s just not the route for me.”

But his upbringing on The Last Frontier has given Hafele a unique lens in his college search.

“(The question is whether) I want to find a school that’s super interested and super knocking on my door saying they want me,” Hafele said. “Or do I want to go to a dream school like a lot of kids. Maybe that school hasn’t really been in communication a lot, but you really want to go to that school.

“For me, growing up in Alaska, (I) don’t really have that school. I don’t really have a dream school to go to … I’m really just looking for a school that will be the best opportunity and give me the best development.”

And until he arrives at that school, Hafele will continue to hone his craft at the junior level. His regime this offseason has him on the ice five days a week with workouts sandwiched in between, working on skills “all over the place.”

“Just kind of the basics, getting better,” he said. “I would love to head into next season and try to command a bit of a bigger role on the team.”

A player who’s skating has always been a valuable tool, Hafele says that aspect of his game is a focus that’s only getting stronger in the wake of his first season with the USNTDP.

“We worked a lot on skating and form toward the end of the season during spring training,” he said. “Which I think was very beneficial.”

As for next season, where Hafele will step up with the U18 national team, he’s looking forward to representing the U.S. on the national stage, with an eye on avenging the team’s loss in 2024.

“I’m really looking forward to the (U18 World Championship),” Hafele said. “I’m hoping we can pull off gold, especially with the really upsetting loss last year with our (U)18 team. I think it's going to be a really exciting year and we’re really going to make that stride, make that push for gold.”

Cameron Levasseur