Monthly Archives: July 2011

“Fearsome Young Sharks” Prospect Profile – Curt Gogol

Photo courtesy of Alexander Zimmermann {@Alex_Z_Sharkie}

On Sept. 21, 2010, San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced the team had signed unrestricted free agent forward Curt Gogol {@CurtG17} to an entry-level contract.

“Curt has made great progress as a player over the last two seasons,” said Wilson in a press release on the Sharks website.  “We are pleased to add him to our organization and look forward to working with him to further his development, which has excelled under Saskatoon General Manager and Head Coach Lorne Molleken.”

Described by hockeysfuture.com as “an aggressive agitator and tenacious competitor who backs down from no one,” Gogol was selected by the Kelowna Rockets in the eighth round {165th overall} of the 2006 Western Hockey League {WHL} Bantam Draft.  Two years later, Gogol earned a spot on the Rockets roster for the 2008-09 season as a 17-year-old rookie and registered five points on one goal and four assists to go along with 144 penalty minutes in 63 regular season games played.

In addition, Gogol helped lead the Rockets to the WHL title that season in an energy role on a line with Mitchell Callahan and Evan Bloodoff.  In the Rockets 22 playoff games, Gogol registered one point on one goal to go along with 30 penalty minutes.

“That was the most fun I’ve had playing junior hockey, for sure,” said Gogol in an interview with Larry Fisher for a Sept. 2010 Kelowna Daily Courier article.  “I actually had a role on that team that I liked.  It was fun contributing in playoffs with that team.  That’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

The following season, 2009-10, Gogol registered six points on six assists to go along with 120 penalty minutes in 35 games played before being traded in Jan. 2010 to the Saskatoon Blades for the rights to forward Colton Sissons and a third-round pick in 2011.  The trade came at the request of Gogol, who was butting heads with Rockets head coach Ryan Huska and the coaching staff due to their request for Gogol to be more of an enforcer on the team to replace Ryley Grantham.

“We had two different roles in mind,” said Gogol in the Fisher article.  “I’m a two-way forward that just likes to go out there and cause havoc, and help out with the odd goal.  If a fight is needed, I will go out there and fight.  But it’s not after every goal I’m going to go out there and fight the heavyweight of the league; I can’t do that.  That’s what I found my role was being in Kelowna.”

In eight regular season games with the Blades, Gogol registered one point on one goal to go along with 29 penalty minutes.  In the Blades’ 10 playoff games, Gogol registered four points on a goal and three assists to go along with 23 penalty minutes.

Despite winning a WHL title and scrapping with all challengers of all sizes, it wasn’t enough for Gogol to be selected at the 2010 National Hockey League {NHL} Entry Draft.

“Any time it’s your draft day, it’s something big,” said Gogol in the Fisher article.  “For a couple of days there, I was out of commission.  I had a couple of teams call me right after the draft and I was pretty mad.”

After discussing his post-draft options with his agent, both agreed that the best place for Gogol to earn a contract and possibly play for one day was San Jose.  Showing up to the Sharks 2010 training camp as an undrafted, unrestricted free agent camp invite, Gogol played in all three games for the Sharks at the 2010 Young Stars tournament, which was held in Penticton, B.C., from Sept. 12-16, and registered 18 penalty minutes.

In the opening game against the Anaheim Ducks, Gogol squared off with Scott Ramsay despite giving up four inches in height.  Less than 24 hours later, Gogol dropped the gloves with Taylor Ellington of the Vancouver Canucks despite Ellington being four years the elder and having spent part of the 2009-10 season with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League {AHL}.  Despite the age and experience difference, Gogol finished the fight with Ellington in decisive fashion with a TKO at center ice.

“I initiated both fights,” said Gogol in the Fisher article.  “Obviously, it’s a part of my game, but I don’t want it to be my whole game.  I don’t want to be a one-dimensional player.  But I do fight and I have to fight to make an impression.  And this is a great spot to make an impression with five teams watching you.  I’m here to impress, not just this team, but the other four, coming in undrafted.  Whatever it takes, I’m going to do whatever they want me to do, whatever they want my role to be.”

Impress is exactly what Gogol did as he was rewarded with an entry-level contract by the Sharks five days after the Young Stars tournament concluded. 

“Curt really deserves this opportunity, he has worked extremely hard and put forth a lot of effort to get to this point, reaching all of our expectations,” said Coach Molleken in a Sept. 2010 interview with the Blades website.

Returning to the Blades for the 2010-11 season, Gogol registered two points on one goal and one assist to go along with 59 penalty minutes in 15 games played before being traded along with an eighth round 2011 draft pick to the Chilliwack Bruins {renamed the Victoria Royals on April 2, 2011} on Nov. 2, 2010, for forward Chris Collins.

“This was a situation where we had an opportunity to bring in a younger forward that we feel has tremendous potential,” said Coach Molleken in an interview for a whl.ca press release.  “We would like to thank Curt for his contributions to the Saskatoon Blades over the past two seasons.”

Serving as an assistant with the Bruins for the 2010-11 season, newly named Regina Pats head coach Pat Conacher knew what a Gogol could bring to the Bruins in the tough B.C. division.  Conacher, a veteran of more than 500 National Hockey League {NHL} games, broke into the junior leagues with Curt’s father, Brent, in the 1977-78 season on the Billings Bighorns in the old Western Canada Hockey League {WCHL}.

That season, Brent Gogol set the WHL record for most penalty minutes in a season with 511, amassing 46 penalty minutes in six games with the Victoria Cougars and 465 with the Bighorns in 67 games played.  Brent also chipped in offensively that season, registering 27 points on 13 goals and 14 assists {one assist was with the Cougars}.  In the Bighorns 20 playoff games that season, Brent registered five points on one goal and four assists to go along with 95 penalty minutes.

“He knew what he needed to be, what he needed to bring every game,” said Conacher of Brent Gogol in an interview with Marc Weber for a Nov. 2010 Province article.  “He was a guy who went out and stood up for his teammates.  He was such a physical player and the fighting just came to him.”

Playing on his third team in as many seasons, the knock on Curt had been his discipline, something he was never aware of.

“I was never told ‘You’re hurting the team,'” said Gogol of his time in Saskatoon in the Weber article.  “But coming here and having Marc {Habscheid} as good a coach as he is, sat me down and told me I have a lot to change and this is a great place to change.”

Change is what Curt did as he served as an assistant captain for the Bruins while setting career highs in goals {four}, assists {eight} and points {12} in 47 games played to go along with 142 penalty minutes.  In the Bruins’ five playoff games, Curt registered one point on one assist to go along with six penalty minutes.

Taking pride in his two-way role, and getting under the opposition’s skin, Curt told Weber it was a “dream come true” to lean on and learn from Conacher.  In addition, Sharks development coach Mike Ricci took Curt under his wing at Sharks training camp and stressed the same message the Bruins echoed upon his arrival in Chilliwack:  Learn to play on the edge but don’t go over it.

“When you’re that type of player you walk that fine line,” said Habscheid in the Weber article.  “He’s all eyes and ears in terms of wanting to improve and he brings that element of sandpaper that I think our group needed.  We have some skilled guys that we thought some teams wanted to take liberties with and we want them to be able to play their game.  Curt is not a lot of fun to play against.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Curt Gogol vs. Matt McCue  {Jan. 30, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Scott Ramsay  {Feb. 22, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Tyler Schmidt  {April 12, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Mike Berube {April 25, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Cole Grbavac  {Sept. 25, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Ryan McNaught  {Oct. 10, 2009}  (Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Cameron Abney  {Oct. 17, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Ian Schultz  {Oct. 28, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Josh Caron {Nov. 7, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Radko Gudas  {Nov. 13, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Brett Ponich  {Nov. 14, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Tayler Jordan  {Nov. 18, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Greg Fraser  {Nov. 21, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Brayden McNabb {Nov. 28, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Cody Smuk  {Dec. 12, 2009}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Ian Schultz  {Jan. 13, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Zak Stebner  {March 7, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Andrew Herle  {March 13, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “HordiBrusk29”}

Curt Gogol vs. Justin Weller  {March 25, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Scott Ramsay  {Sept. 12, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “Shorty25”}

Curt Gogol vs. Taylor Ellingston {Sept. 13, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsdot.com”}

Curt Gogol vs. Jordan Rowley  {Sept. 24, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Darren Bestland  {Oct. 1, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube use “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Joel Edmundson {Oct. 19, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Mitchell Callahan  {Nov. 6, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol s. Klarc Wilson  {Nov. 9, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Brett Lyon  {Dec. 4, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Jesse Pearson {Dec. 17, 2010}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Dylan Willick  {Jan. 29, 2011}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Mitchell Callahan {Feb. 2, 2011}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Jessey Astles  {March 4, 2011}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Matt Bellerive {March 9, 2011}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightplus”}

Curt Gogol vs. Wes Vannieuwenhuizen {March 12, 2011}  {Courtesy of YouTube user “hockeyfightsplus”}

*Videos and information were used from sharks.nhl.com, www.hockeysfuture.com, www.wikipedia.com, www.kelownadailycourier.ca, www2.canada.com, www.whl.ca, www.kelownarockets.com, www.chilliwacktimes.com, www.hockeydb.com and www.youtube.com for this post entry.*

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“Fearsome Young Sharks” Prospect Profile – Colin Blackwell

Photo courtesy of Alexander Zimmermann {@Alex_Z_Sharkie}

On the second day of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks traded their fourth round pick {119th overall} to the Winnipeg Jets for their fourth round {133rd overall} and seventh round {194th overall} picks.  With the 194th pick, the Sharks selected forward Colin Blackwell of St. John’s Prep.

“Throughout my life, it has been peaks and valleys, and it is really rewarding to see your name being called,” said Blackwell in an interview with Matt Williams for a June 27 salemnews.com article.  “Six months ago, I wasn’t even thinking about the draft, so you can see how fast you can progress.  I wouldn’t be here without my parents and my brother.”

After spending two years learning the game through the North Andover Youth Hockey program, Blackwell joined the Valley Junior Warriors program in 2002 as part of the King’s Squirt Minor Elite team.  The dedication by both Blackwell and the Warriors coaching staff {which included his dad Jim Blackwell as an assistant} resulted in a eye-popping hockey resume.

Skating alongside teammates Chris Eiserman, Mike Vecchione and Alex Gacek, the Warriors captured four straight Massachusetts Hockey Select League Championships from 2003-2006 and posted more than 100 straight wins in league play.  However, no victory was bigger than the one earned at the 2005 Bell Capital Cup International Tournament in Ottawa where the Warriors, captained by Blackwell, emerged as grand champions.

“It’s hard to find a kid who not only has the skill and the smarts but also the heart to take his game to the next level,” said Valley Junior Warriors director of player development Fred Devereaux, who coached Blackwell for years as part of the program’s weekly skills development program, in an interview for a 2010 article on jrwarriors.com.  “His attitude is what makes him a complete package and what sets him apart from the rest.”

Attending St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass., for high school, Blackwell rose to the challenge as he became the first freshman player in 13 years to make the Varsity squad.  Elected team captain his junior and senior seasons, Blackwell led by example through his strict, methodical routine of practice where dedication is a 24/7 operation. 

“It’s a 20-game season,” said Blackwell in an interview with Jeff Powalisz for a Jan. 13 Boston Globe article.  “There isn’t enough time in the year to take a night off.”

This past season, Blackwell had a senior year for the ages as he registered 66 points on 33 goals and 33 assists in 25 games played.  In the Super Eight Tournament, Blackwell registered 11 points in leading St. John’s Prep to their first finals appearance in program history {St. John’s Prep lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to Malden Catholic}.

“Colin is one of those players you build your team around,” said St. John’s Prep head coach Kristian Hanson in an interview with Phil Stacey for an Oct. 2010 salemnews.com article.  “I remember seeing him the first time as a 14-year old; you could tell even then he was a special player because he had skills beyond his age.  He’s certainly the most talented player I’ve ever coached.  Colin’s offense isn’t just about scoring goals but he also generates goals through puck possession and with his tremendous speed.  He’s so shifty and quick and it’s really difficult to take the puck away from him.  He has a great knack for finding the open guy when he has the puck and he’s so, so talented coming out of the corners with the puck and making something big happen.”

For this efforts in the 2010-11 season, Blackwell was named the Catholic Conference’s Most Valuable Player, Massachusetts Coaches Association Robbie Ftorek Player of the Year and was the recipient of the ESPN Boston‘s inaugural Mr. Hockey Award, which was chosen by a panel of experts made up of ESPNBoston.com staff, correspondents and high school hockey coaches.

“It’s unquestioned that Colin Blackwell contributed more to his team’s success than any other single player in the state this season,” said Scott Barboza, co-editor of ESPN Boston High Schools in a 2011 ESPNBoston.com article.  “When considering the talent he displayed while taking on the state’s finest competiion in the Super Eight Tournament, in addition to his unquestioned leadership qualities, he is a marvelous role model to what the ideal high school hockey player embodies.”

Even opposing coaches had high praise for Blackwell after playing against him.  “That Blackwell kid, I don’t know how you stop him,” said Weymouth coach Matt Cataldo in an interview with Jake Seiner for a June 30 Boston Globe article.  “Put him in a cage?  He’s just so fast and talented.”

Added Malden Catholic coach Chris Serino in Powalisz’s article, “He’s dangerous even without the puck.  He has speed and he’ll break into open areas.  What I like about him is his tenaciousness; he never stops.  He’s a finesse player, and while finesse players are always a threat to score, he does a lot more than just score.  He’s got a motor that doesn’t stop.”

In addition to an outstanding senior year at St. John’s Prep, Blackwell, who graduated fourth all-time on the Prep’s scoring list with 132 career points, fulfilled a childhood dream when he officially committed to play Division 1 hockey at Harvard.

“It’s always been my No. 1 choice,” said Blackwell in the Stacey article.  “Obviously from an academic standpoint it can’t be beat.  And to play hockey there, to be able to compete in the Beanpot and all…it’s the perfect fit for me.”

Drawing the interest of many Hockey East and Ivy League schools such as Maine, New Hampshire, Merrimack, Brown University and Boston College {head coach Jerry York phoned Blackwell personally}, Blackwell was sold once Harvard head coach Ted Donato called him and said the school was ready to make a commitment to him.

“Getting that phone call was one of the best nights of my life,” said Blackwell in the Stacey article.  “I had visited some schools and narrowed down my choices, but Harvard was always right at the top.  Calling Coach York was one of the toughest phone calls I’ve ever had to make.  It would have been unbelievable to play for him and for a school that’s won two of the last three {NCAA} titles and also plays in the Beanpot.  But any time I’ve ever been at Harvard, I’ve felt most comfortable there.  It’s the best fit for me.”

It was originally thought that Blackwell would play a year of junior hockey, most likely in the United States Hockey League {USHL}, to prepare him for the rigors of Division 1 college hockey.  Blackwell had other plans and sent shock-waves throughout the college hockey realm this past spring when he confirmed he would be heading straight to Harvard to play for the Crimson this fall as an 18-year old freshman along with 2011 NHL draftees Stephen Michalek, Petr Placek and Max Everson.

“The coaches there feel I’ve progressed well and should be able to contribute next season,” said Blackwell in an interview for a March 12 salemnews.com article.  “After we talked, we both agreed that going there right away was the way to go.”

The decision was one that Coach Hanson fully supported.  “Colin can go to Harvard and become a Hobey Baker-type player,” said Coach Hanson in the Williams article.  “I believe that and I hope that for him.  He does so many things well or great.  He handles the puck, has great vision, he’s shifty, anticipates the game well, and he’s the hardest worker on the ice.”

The day the Sharks drafted Blackwell was suppose to be a big night for him and his girlfriend, Devon Wright, as Blackwell had bought tickets for the couple to see Taylor Swift at Gillette Stadium for her birthday.  Not wanting to sit in front of a computer or TV screen all day, Blackwell had just finished up his shower when he learned he had been drafted by the Sharks.

“I was just getting out of the shower, and my girlfriend was watching on nhl.com,” said Blackwell in the Seiner article.  “I heard her scream and went running out and she told me.  It was pretty funny.”

Despite not participating in any combines or anything due to Lacrosse season, Blackwell knew that the Sharks, along with the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning were interested in him.

“I actually met with San Jose locally just a week before the draft,” said Blackwell in the Seiner article.  “They just said they’d seen me play here and there since seeing me at the National Development Camp last year.  Said they saw me in the State Championship game.  It was just a sit-down thing to get to know me and understand my character and personality, what I’m about.  I was hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.  I’m obviously honored.  It’s a dream come true.”

Coach Hanson couldn’t have been happier for his former star player.  “It’s a great example of what you can do when you put your mind to something,” said Coach Hanson in the Williams article.  “So many people think that if you don’t play junior hockey or play out west you can’t make it.  Colin is a kid that spent four years in high school – at the same school – and in the hockey world that’s almost unheard of.”

Blackwell being drafted by the Sharks speaks volumes about the changing landscape of the St. John’s Prep hockey program as no player had been drafted directly out of St. John’s since Jeff Blaeser and Jefferey Kampersal in 1988.  In the 1980’s, St. John’s Prep had eight players selected in the NHL Entry draft, highlighted by 18-year NHL veteran Bobby Carpenter in 1981.

“I definitely think I took the nontraditional route,” said Blackwell in the Seiner article.  “I didn’t have to leave for a prep school or for juniors.  I was in good company with the St. John’s Prep hockey team and organization over the last three or four years.  It’s really turning into a hockey school.  It definitely means a lot to hear your name and to wear that uniform that says St. John’s Prep on it.  It’s been the best four years of my life so far, and this is awesome for them, the coaching staff,for everything they’ve done for me.  It’s been awesome.”

Honored to be drafted by an organization like San Jose, Blackwell knows that his hockey journey is only beginning.

“It’s awesome hearing your name called, but it doesn’t mean anything,” said Blackwell in the Williams article.  “You still have to work hard and never be satisfied.”

HIGHLIGHTS

St. John’s Prep vs. Boston College High  {Courtesy of YouTube user “studio12sports}
In this video clip, Colin Blackwell, number 11, scores two goals in a Jan. 8, 2011 game against Boston College High, including a jaw dropping highlight reel goal starting at the 2:43 mark.

Super Eight Tournament:  St. John’s Prep vs. BC High  {Courtesy of YouTube user “seriovideo”}
Blackwell registers three points on one goal and two assists in leading St. John’s Prep to a 6-1 victory over Boston College High in the Super Eight Tournament.  Blackwell’s goal occurs within the first 20 seconds of the video clip.

Super Eight Tournament:  St. John’s Prep vs. Woburn  {Courtesy of YouTube user “seriovideo”}
Blackwell registers two points on one goal and an on the game winning goal in overtime to lead St. John’s Prep to a dramatic 4-3 victory over Woburn.  Blackwell’s goal starts at the 1:17 mark of the video clip.

Super Eight Tournament:  St. John’s Prep vs. Needham  {Courtesy of YouTube user “seriovideo”}
Blackwell registers three points on one goal and two assists in leading St. John’s Prep to a 5-1 victory over Needham.  Blackwell’s highlight goal starts at the 1:56 mark of the video clip.

Super Eight Tournament:  St. John’s Prep vs. Needham  {Courtesy of YouTube user “The Needham Channel”}
Same game as above but with commentary.  Blackwell’s highlight goal starts at the 0:52 second mark of the video clip.

Super Eight Tournament:  St. John’s Prep vs. Weymouth  {Courtesy of YouTube user “seriovideo”}
Blackwell registers a five points on a hat trick and two assists in leading St. John’s Prep to a 5-1 victory over Weymouth and into the Super Eight Tournament finals.  Blackwell’s jaw-dropping goals start at 1:43, 2:22 and 3:59 respectively.

Super Eight Tournament:  St. John’s Prep vs. Malden Catholic  {Courtesy of YouTube user “seriovideo”}
Blackwell registers two poins on an assist and a goal that was later credited to him in St. John’s Prep heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Malden Catholic in the Super Eight Tournament Finals.  Blackwell’s goal occurs at the 2:22 mark.  Be sure to watch the end of the video to see Blackwell.

Boston Globe Super Eight Tournament coverage  {Courtesy of YouTube user “callumborchers”}

Boston Globe Super Eight Tournament coverage  {Courtesy of YouTube user “callumborchers”}

*Videos and information were used from sharks.nhl.com, www.salemnews.com, www.jrwarriors.com, articles.boston.com, espnboston.com and www.youtube.com for this post entry.*

“One-on-One” with San Jose Sharks prospect Lee Moffie

Lee Moffie walks up the tunnel at Michigan Stadium after a Dec. 10, 2010 practice before the "Big Chill" game against Michigan State. Photo courtesy of John T. Greilick of detnews.com

Before I begin, I would like to thank Lee Moffie for answering all these questions.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ljmoffie and check out his “Fearsome Young Sharks” Prospect Profile post by clicking HERE.

How did this year’s San Jose Sharks Development Camp compare to last year’s?
“It was good.  I learned a lot of new things to work on.  Having attended Camp last year, I was more comfortable and knew what to expect in terms of the camp structure and how it was going to be run.”

What did this year’s Sharks Camp help you with that you will take back to Michigan for the upcoming season?
“Definitely the defensive things they preached were new to me.  I’m going to implement those the most this upcoming season.”

Did you have a moment when you knew you wanted to be a pro hockey player?
“When I was younger I knew that’s what I wanted to be.  I think when your younger and playing, its a dream that you hope comes true one day.”

Were you a Sharks fan growing up and if so, who was your favorite Shark?
“I never really had an NHL team.  I’m a big Boston fan but not a Bruins fan which is weird.  But I like the Bruins over the Rangers.”

Did the grind of being a “5-and-a-half-dayer” at Avon Farms ever get to you mentally or physically?
“Not at all.  I lived close to the school and it was nice to come home on Saturday’s for a break.  It was more a good thing than a negative.”

How much did your season with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League {USHL} help prepare you for the collegiate game?
“HUGE!  The players they have put out is very impressive and it prepared me for the next level with the game schedule and the competition.”

Why was playing at Michigan a childhood dream?
“My family was a big football family and I attended the hockey camps at Ann Arbor.  I just fell in love with the town and its where I wanted to be.”

What have you enjoyed the most about playing at Michigan?
“I love the school.  It’s the total package from the academics to the fun stuff to playing for a top program and one of the best hockey programs in the nation.  It’s a fantastic place to play at.”

Why do you wear #13 at Michigan?
“When I was at Avon Farms, I was the last one picked and the only number left was 13 so I embraced it and now I like it.  I don’t want another number.”

What has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“To keep working hard and try to be the hardest worker on and off the ice.”

What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?
“I’m pretty good with the puck and can improvise.  I need to improve my defensive play and skating a bit.”

California or Michigan weather?
“Michigan winter’s are brutal but I do like the seasons.  California weather is nice and would like to enjoy it for more than a week.”

I saw on Twitter you located the In & Out Burger for the last day of Sharks Camp.  What is your favorite item at In & Out?
“I ended up not going {laughs}.  I haven’t been there yet but am looking forward to it.”

Xbox360, Playstation 3 or Wii?
“I don’t do a lot of it as I’m not a big game guy but I’ll go with Xbox because I’ve played more of it.”

What can Sharks fans expect when the day comes you take the ice at HP Pavilion?
“Hopefully I’m fortunate enough to make it there as it would be a dream come true.  Fans can expect a high energy player who is physical, responsible and can score some points.”

“Fearsome Young Sharks” Prospect Profile – Daniil Sobchenko

Photo courtesy of Alexander Zimmermann {@Alex_Z_Sharkie}

***Author’s Note……This research article would not have been possible without the help of Alessandro Seren Rosso, who not only sent me the Russian transcript of his interview with Daniil Sobchenko but also helped me with the English translation of the interview after Google Translate left me bewildered with their translation.***

With the 166th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the San Jose Sharks selected forward Daniil Sobchenko of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League {KHL}.

Described by hockeysfuture.com as “a versatile forward whose strengths are his excellent passing game and hockey sense, paried with above average skating and soft hands,” Sobchenko is the first Sharks draft pick from a Russian team since defenseman Andrei Zyuzin in 1996.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Sobchenko was a two-sport athlete growing up, playing both hockey and soccer.  However, Sobchenko didn’t realize how much he loved the ice until he was away from the game for too long.

“My grandfather coached the soccer team in Kiev and my father got me to Dynamo Kiev Soccer Academy on a tryout,” said Sobchenko in a 2010 interview with Alessandro Seren Rosso for sports-planet.ru.  “After the first workout, they told me that I was good enough to play for them.  So I started playing for their main team {Dynamo has one team in the elite tier league and one in the second tier}.  I played soccer for about a month but then I realized I liked hockey more.”

Sobchenko’s hockey talents were first noticed by Yaroslavl when he was 10 years old after finishing as the leading scorer in a tournament.

“Immediately, they called me at home and invited me to play in Yaroslavl,” said Sobchenko.  “But my parents told me I had to stay home for another year.”

At age 11, Sobchenko had a tryout with Spartak-90 in Moscow and was asked to come to training camp in July.  A few days later, Sobchenko got a call back from Yaroslavl and was asked to tryout with the 91 team.  Having to make a tough choice, Sobchenko decided to play for Lokomotiv due to the fact there were a couple of coaches there from Kiev and there weren’t many options for hockey in his hometown.

“At first, it was a bit hard, but then I got used to everything and everything was alright,” said Sobchenko.  “Yes, I’m happy and do not regret the path I chose.”

In Sobchenko’s first season with Lokomotiv’s junior farm team in 2007-08, Sobchenko registered 10 points on six goals and four assists in 14 regular season games and had three assists in Lokomotiv’s eight playoff games.  In addition, Sobchenko skated for Russia in the 2007 U17 World Hockey Challenge where he registered four points on three goals and one assist in four games played.

The following season, 2008-09, Sobchenko torched the league for 87 points on 44 goals and 43 assists to go along with 53 penalty minutes in 66 games played. 

Expected to become a star of the Russian Minor Hockey League {MHL}, the relatively unknown Sobchenko sent shock-waves throughout the Russian hockey realm when he earned a spot on Lokomotiv’s KHL team for the 2009-10 season after a solid pre-season.

“I think there is nothing unexpected,” said Sobchenko.  “Yes, it is quite possible that I could play in the MHL and show good results there, but you need to grow, progress and strive to play at the highest level.  However, I am glad to play for our youth team and am always ready to help them.”

In 35 games played with Lokomotiv’s KHL team, Sobchenko registered six points on five goals and one assist to go along with six penalty minutes before being sent down to Lokomotiv’s MHL team, Loko Yaroslavl, for six games, where Sobchenko recorded four assists.

This past season, Sobchenko split time between Lokomotiv’s KHL team, where he registered two points on one goal and one assist in 16 games played, and their MHL team, where he registered 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists in 14 games played.  Sobchenko rejoined Lokomotiv’s KHL team for their playoff run and registered one assist and 16 penalty minutes in 11 games played.

In addition to playing with both Lokomotiv teams, Sobchenko helped Russia win the Gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships this past winter.

Having never made the national junior team in past years due to conflict with former head coach Vladimir Plyuschev, Sobchenko showcased his talents by registering seven points on four goals and three assists in seven games played while centering the top line alongside Maxim Kitsyn and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Sobchenko plans to stay with Lokomotiv for the time being while improving upon his speed and shot.  When the time comes for Sobchenko to bring his talents to the Shark Tank, Sharks fans can expect someone who is hard-working and can fend for himself, just like his hockey role model Sergei Fedorov.

HIGHLIGHTS

Daniil Sobchenko goal against Canada 12/26/10  {Courtesy of YouTuber user “Nemo20781”}

Daniil Sobchenko goal against Norwary 12/30/10  {Courtesy of YouTube user “Nemo20781”}

Daniil Sobchenko 2nd goal against Norway 12/30/10  {Courtesy of YouTube user “Nemo20781”}

Daniil Sobchenko goal against the Czech Republic 12/31/10  {Courtesy of YouTube user “Nemo20781”}

Post game interview 12/26/10  {Courtesy of YouTube user “Oslya19”}

Post game interview 12/31/10  {Courtesy of YouTube user “Oslya19”}

Post game interview 1/2/11  {Courtesy of YouTube user “Oslya19”}

*Information and videos were courtesy of sharks.nhl.com, www.hockeysfuture.com, www.sports-planet.ru, www.dobberhockey.com, www.russianprospects.com, www.eliteprospects.com, www.wikipedia.com, www.hockeydb.com, blogs.mercurynews.com and www.youtube.com for this post entry.*