Posted by: Adventures in Pucking | January 24, 2012

Man of the Day 1/23: John-Michael Liles

John-Michael Liles

Born November 25, 1980 (age 31) in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs

He grew up tall and he grew up right, an Indiana boy in those Indiana nights (forgive me, Tom Petty). JM was actually raised in Zionville, Indiana and had played some hockey before he entered Culver Military Academy. While there he played hockey and golf, and after two years the National Team Development Program came calling. He spent two years there on the U17 and U18 teams before heading to Michigan State University, where he was impressive enough in his freshman year that the Colorado Avalanche picked him in the 200 draft. In his sophomore and junior years, he became a leading scorer on the team. He was even part of the 2001 Cold War outdoor game with rival Michigan, and that game set an attendance record for outdoor hockey games. By his senior year, he led the team in points again, was named the CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award!

When his hockey career at MSU was done in the spring of 2003, he signed a two-year contract with the Avs and reported to their AHL affiliate at the time, the Hershey Bears. After graduation he made the Avs roster right out of training camp and scored his first goal and assist against the Minnesota Wild on October 16, 2003. His 34 points in 79 games led all rookies that year and got him on the All-Rookie Team in 2004. He was also the second rookie defenseman to rack up that many points in 19 years! Alas, there came the Lost Season, and JM went to Germany, where he played for the Iserlohn Roosters. He came back to the Avs and gave them such a performance (14 goals in 82 games for a D-man) that they signed him to a two-year extension.

Phil Kessel hug time!

He actually did something very nice when Paul Stastny arrived to the team in 2006 – he gave up his #26 jersey to Paul, whose father Peter wore it when he played for the Nordiques. With his play that year, he became the second D-man to reach 10+ scoring seasons in his first three seasons there! Even though he led the Avs to the postseason in 2008, he fell flat points wise with only six goals in his 32 points. But the Avs signed him to a four-year contract that summer, right before he’d become a free agent. The next three seasons would see him continue his winning ways: he scored his 50th goal on January 29th, 2009, becoming the fifth defenseman in Nordiques/Avs franchise history to achieve that. In the 2009-10 season, he still led in points despite a shoulder injury that kept him off the roster for a while. And last season saw him not only have 40 points in 76 games, his assist on October 24, 2010 gave him assists in nine consecutive games! That not only made franchise history but league history as well.

The 2011 offseason brought a change for JM when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a2012  draft pick. Things were beginning to go well for him until he began suffering from concussion-like symptoms in December. Looks like he’s slowly returning to the roster, as he’s been skating with the team during practice. Leafs Nation eagerly awaits his return!

Those eyes, they're like tractor beams...

– Krista


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