With graduation season upon us for high schoolers, there is no better time to celebrate the Class of 2020. The circumstances this year are tough due to the COVID-19 pandemic: many of these young men and women lost the opportunity to finish out their last school year, go to the senior prom, walk at graduation ceremonies: it’s a truly unprecedented time in this country’s history.
But, there is something we can do. All season long we at MassNZ have been covering this senior class. In fact, we just published our list of the Top 130 MIAA Seniors we saw this season over on the main Neutral Zone site. We don’t want to let the on and off-ice efforts of these young men fall by the wayside as this pandemic has forced everyone to change their daily routines. This series will feature in-depth profiles where these seniors get to tell their own stories on their terms. We want to give them the platform to talk about what this year meant to them and what the future may have in store.
This week we speak with one of the top athletes in the Class of 2020: Wachusett senior forward Kevin Skagerlind. He was recently named MaxPreps Top Male Athlete of 2020 for Massachusetts, largely because of the success he’s had in three sports: hockey, soccer and baseball. Second season success has followed with every team he’s played on: winning a sectional/state championship in three different sports over the course of four high school seasons. These exploits have raised the bar for success for the Mountaineers and sets up the underclassmen to be more successful even after he has graduated. Despite the jam-packed trophy case, Skagerlind’s interview below is simultaneously humble and genuine: a refreshing take for an athlete who truly accomplished it all.
MassNZ: When did you start playing hockey? Do you remember first putting on skates?
Kevin Skagerlind: I started playing hockey around when I was 5. I used to watch my brothers play and love how much fun they had with the game. This drew me to hockey and I started taking lessons and playing for the youth teams out of Worcester growing up.
MassNZ: How would you describe the strengths in your game to someone who has never seen you play before?
Skagerlind: I would say my strengths in hockey are my speed and passing. I was never a great skater or had good hands.
MassNZ: Your hockey career at Wachusett is well decorated: a 2020 Central MA title, a 2019 Division 3 Championship and a 2017 Central MA Finals appearance. What do you attribute the team’s sustained success to?
Skagerlind: The teams at Wachusett have had great success because of the coaching and my teammates. I feel that I contribute by motivating my teammates. We have been a good program recently because of the chemistry in the locker room.
MassNZ: Do you have a favorite hockey memory over your past four years and if so, what made it so special? What will you miss about the boys?
Skagerlind: My favorite hockey memory was winning the state championship in 2019, it was so memorable because we were not the best team that year but still found a way to win when it mattered against great teams. I’ll miss seeing my friends in the locker room every day.
MassNZ: You won a 2018 Central D1 Title and went undefeated in the regular season in 2017 on the soccer team: what position do you play and do you notice physical skills that translate to hockey?
Skagerlind: I play forward in soccer and my hockey skills have helped me incredibly. I have no soccer skill at all but I know how to use my body from hockey and it translated well to the soccer field.
MassNZ: You earned the top seed and got to the 2019 Central D1 Semifinals and won the 2017 Central D1 Title for the baseball team: what position do you play and what was your collegiate recruiting process like?
Skagerlind: I play outfield in baseball and enjoy the game because of how relaxed it is. After hockey and soccer my body is exhausted and getting to play a relaxed sport made me enjoy it so much. I talked to several schools in baseball but wanted to stay in-state and was looking for a good education and that is why I chose UMass Amherst.
MassNZ: What would you say are the main differences between the three sports you play and do you have a favorite among the three?
Skagerlind: My favorite sport growing up was hockey and I loved it because of the bond you form with the team. I knew I could not play hockey forever and started focusing on baseball in high school and have enjoyed it a lot ever since.
MassNZ: The coaching at Wachusett has to be a big factor in the success your teams are having, how has each coach helped you to step up your game each season?
Skagerlind: I had a great time and career at Wachusett because of the coaching and all my coaches have taught me numerous life lessons. My hockey coach Mr. Lane has done the most for me, whether it be in a sport, school, or helping me maturing.
MassNZ: With all of this success, you probably had opportunities to keep playing any of these three sports, why did you choose to continue playing baseball at UMass Amherst? What drew you to the Minutemen program?
Skagerlind: UMass Amherst appealed to me because of the academics and how close it is to home. I am excited to play baseball there for Coach Reynolds and compete with the team.