Editor’s note: The wonderful Managing Editor of Jewels From The Crown, Sarah Avampato attended this year’s World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, and was kind enough to interview Ducks prospect Blake McLaughlin on behalf of Anaheim Calling. Below is the transcript from that interview.
Please note that several of these questions were asked by an unknown interviewer who worked alongside Sarah.
How do you feel about being drafted by the Ducks, knowing their reputation as a bigger, more physical team?
I’d say being drafted by a more physical team suits my playing style, especially growing up in like northern Minnesota, where we like to play a little bit more physical so, I don’t know, I really like that.
So you had your first year of college hockey this past season, what was the transition like coming out of the USHL, where you were pretty much one of the best players on the Steel, to playing college?
The adjustment, just like finding your role, where you fit in on the team, and then like physicality and the speed of the game changes a lot. The guys are older, stronger, so just getting adjusted to that and playing style.
For Ducks fans who haven’t seen you play very much how would you describe your game? And then maybe what’s something about your style of play that is underrated or that people might not know about you?
Growing up I guess I was kind of always more of the offensive guy in high school. So I mean, transitioning into junior hockey and college I started playing more of a defensive 200 foot game and I think that kind of got blown past a little bit just because of high school. Like when you’re drafted for the NHL, they kind of just look at ... I was just more of a playmaker and stuff like that. But I think I’ve changed my game more to be just a role player and playing a 200 foot game.
What are you looking forward to most about next season?
Getting back on the ice with my team. It’s been a while, just playing with a lot of other guys in the summer. You’re working out every morning together. So just finally playing a game with the new freshmen and just becoming more of a team.
Where are you training this summer?
Minnesota, I live down there.
Yeah, I know you do. But I just didn’t know if it was at the U or somewhere else.
Yeah, well, we call it Minnesota, so yeah, I do. I do live at the U.
How are you a better hockey player now than you were at this point last year?
Um, I think my weight. I think I can start throwing around my weight a little more. I put on a few pounds thanks to our trainer at Minnesota. So I just play a more physical game now.
Do you have an idea of how much?
I do, it’s like 18 pounds.
Yeah, I can tell you were a lightweight last year. Was that part of like your eye opening experience at Minnesota, because they play a hard heavy game too, especially with Motzko at the helm now.
Yeah, I was small last year. Yeah. That was definitely, they kind of sat me down and he goes, “surprised we took you in this year, just considering you’re 158 pounds.”
So I think I proved myself a little to him, but I think just putting on this weight and playing a heavier game is going to help.
When did that conversation happen?
Start of last year.
Yeah, like right at the beginning. And you were kind of injured at the start of last year, too.
Yeah, it was funny because I was going into corners that first practice after he told me that. I had Brinkman, the other freshman coming in, he’s like 215 and he just hit me and my ankle gives out and I sprain it, so. I think that sort of--
That really sent home the message.
Yeah, so I kinda got it.
In terms of your development as a player, maturing into this 200 foot game, what is it that you like about your new skill set that you feel can make you a special player?
It’s weird to say. I like blocking shots. Just like it’s kind of like scoring a goal for your bench. I mean, a lot of people, just like fans don’t really know the excitement of a guy blocking a shot. But I think everyone knows on the team that it’s huge. And just selling out for your teammates shows that you want to be there. I think that’s just a new skill set that I kind of found lately in my game. Where do you think you could fit into this team? This team, I think I’m just going to be a role player obviously. I can’t even tell you how many first rounders we got, but I’m definitely not one of them. I’m gonna try to find my role where I can.
What would it mean for you to make this team?
It’d be unbelieveble. My brother wanted to make this, unfortunately, he never got the chance to come out here. So I mean, you grow up watching it every Christmas with you family. So I think it’d be pretty special for me and my family.
And then last question for me: what is it that you want to accomplish this year in your development at Minnesota? Whether it be something personal that you want to work on and focus or even just how you contribute to the team.
Personally, I like to just develop my speed and my stride. I think it’s a little choppy and definitely could be more fluid, especially skating with some of the guys here where they have really good strides and their speed. And then for my team I think that obviously win a national championship, but that starts two months ago rather than when the season starts, so hopefully we got on to that.
And then even just your role on the team.
Role on the team, I mean, that’s up to Motzko (Minnesota head coach). We got a lot of freshmen coming in that can play the game, so we’ll where I fit when the season comes.