On his baseball career and the trip to the Michigan state final: Baseball was always a big part of my life. It was kind of my release from hockey. I was able to play at Farmington and we had a great program there. We were kind of the dark horse, even going into just the regional finals and getting and to the districts and getting past there.
We were able to kind of ride our two best players and they pitched every game for us, and then when it came down to it, they were all out of gas and they needed me to pitch in the state final championship game, and I was just a sophomore at the time, and it was unbelievable and I ended up going in and I did well the first inning and then I actually plunked a guy right in the head. He ended up stealing second, and then I gave up the game winning hit to lose the game. So it's kind of a tough memory for me to relive. But it was a great experience for me, especially being so young.
On thinking about his baseball career: I've thought about it, and to be honest, I miss baseball a lot. I'm hopefully going to join a softball league this summer just to get out and do something like that again. But I've never really thought, you know, what if I pursue baseball instead of hockey, because hockey was always first for me. And it was always my dream. But like I said, baseball was always a release for me.
On his Honeybaked coach Rob Kroll comparing him to Paul Coffey: That's a pretty good compliment, that's for sure. Yeah, Coach Kroll, he did a lot for me. Really just explained the game to me better than any coach that I've had before. You know, the X's and O's, he was great at that. And I had Pat Peake there, too, and he was a really big influence on my life. He told me since day one that he thought I could be a special player and he had all those little tips that he picked up from the NHL, playing with the Plymouth Whalers, and he taught me all those things. And I have to give a lot of thanks to that coaching staff, because they helped me out a lot.
On being recruited by Notre Dame at 14: How the game has developed over the last few years, the NCAA has had to start recruiting younger, and I was a part of that. There were guys around me getting recruited, and it was really a learning experience for me and my family, just because I'm the oldest in my family and we have never really had to go through something like that at such a young age.
But I have to mention how good my parents were at handling all of the situations. Because we had a lot of stuff coming at us. We had a lot of NCAA schools. We were talking as well to OHL representatives. But for us as a family, we just wanted to gather all of the information first. We didn't want to hop into any situation. I pretty much fell in love with Notre Dame as a school, and coach Jackson and me developed a great relationship over the year and a half or couple of years that we were talking, and I visited the school and I loved the campus, and after that, when I was committed to going to the NCAA, like I said, I was 14, so I was young, but Notre Dame was a school for me, and so that's why I chose it.
On the next step in his career after Honeybaked: Well, after that, I went to the U.S. national team development program, and I played well there and had a great couple of years. A lot can change from when you're 14 years old to when you're 18. And for me, it was just kind of the realization that I could potentially have a future in the game. Just sitting down and talking with my family and my advisor, we realized that we needed to make a hockey decision because that was what I wanted to do and that was the goal that I wanted to pursue.
Just having that discussion, we realized that Windsor was the place to do that, and the Ontario Hockey League creates a lot of good NHL players. And with the coaching staff in Windsor, they have all been there, they have all played in the NHL, they can all help my game and elevate it to the next level.
So it was just simply a hockey decision, and I've still kept in contact with the guys that went to Notre Dame and Coach Jackson a little bit. You know, I wish them all of the luck. They have a great program. It's nothing personal, and I don't think they took it as anything personal, either. But it was just a hockey decision for me and I haven't looked back ever since.
On U.S. hockey and the great group of young U.S. players: It's unbelievable. And ever since I got to the program when I was 16 and I was on the under 17 team, we just lived and breathed USA Hockey. We were at the rink and from two to six every day, we were practicing and lifting, and I think that's what USA Hockey instills in all their players. They want that work ethic, and because they know that it's going to pay off in the end.
We basically worked for two years for that one tournament, the U 18 tournament. We got the chance to play in Fargo, which was great. They had just had that flood, and the city kind of rallied around us, which was an unbelievable sight to see.
We ended up winning the gold, and to be honest with you, it might be the best hockey feeling I've ever had because, I worked hard with those guys for two years for that one moment, and when we were on the blue line and we were all joined hands and singing together, really just gives many he chills now thinking about it, because I worked so hard for that moment, and then a main part of that team had the privilege to play in the U 20s - a higher stage just because there's so much pressure and so much hype, and you know, not to take anything away from the 18s.
But that was an unbelievable moment, too. We had two epic games with Canada, which I'll never forget and I have them TIVO'ed at home so I can watch them whenever I want and get that feeling back again. And just a really great moment for me and just got to attribute it to all of my coaches and my teammates who helped me out along the way, and we were able to get two gold medals out of it.
On the moment Carlson scored the winning goal at the World Juniors: I see, first of all, Jack Campbell makes a great safe, and can't forget about that. I see we have a three on one, and my heart kind of sinks because it's Carlson, he's been one of our best players of the tournament. He's been clutch, and I just have this feeling, I know he's going to shoot.
I know that he wants that goal, and he had the hot hand, he had scored already that game, and I kind of lost sight for a second but then I saw the back of the net move and I looked over and I saw my teammates going crazy, and I instantly, you know, unbuckled my chin strap, I threw my gloves everywhere and I went and tackled him pretty much and then we all just formed a dog pile. I can still see him scoring that goal right now clearly in my mind.
On his new superstition: I was rooming with Ryan Bourque at the World Juniors and for me, my hair, never really been a gel guy and one day I saw him gelling his hair and I said, ‘Hey, what if I started flowing my hair back and gelling it back, do you think I would look good?’
He said, ‘Yeah, I really do, I think you would look like that guy from the Hangover.’
And I said, "Well, okay, I'll give it a shot." So I took a shower and then I was just staring at myself in the mirror for 15 minutes and made sure everything was good and went on the team bus and got a really good reaction from the guys. So ever since that day, I've been slicking my hair back for games, and I think it was kind of my lucky superstition for the gold medal.
On being part of USA Hockey: Yeah, I just remember being young and watching the Chelioses and the Tkachuks at the Olympics and these are really just pioneers of the game, especially for USA Hockey and they really just boosted that program to where it is today. And now we have Patrick Kane and Parise, these young guys who are really stars in the NHL, and they are going to be stars until they retire one day.
And I think it's a great thing for USA Hockey to have stars in the game like that, where they can kind of carry the USA Hockey tradition on their shoulders, because you know, they are those caliber of players and that's what I'm hoping to be one day. I've been around USA Hockey for a long time and I've put my work in, and so now it's up to me and I've just got to keep working for it.
On the best hockey gift he’s received: The best hockey gift I've ever received was when actually my dad gave me the famous Bobby Orr picture. Bobby Orr, he was always an idol to me and to my dad and my dad has told me a lot about him. Obviously I've never been able to see him play, but he got an autographed picture of that. He got it at an auction and I think he was just as excited to give it to me as I was to get it from him. So it was a great moment for me and him.
On his favorite goal celebration: Oh, man, my favorite goal celebration, I really like, for some reason, when I was at the program, a lot of guys started sweeping the ice and then they jump into the glass, and I think whenever you score a big goal, that's great to do.
For me, I'm not real flashy like that. If I score a goal, I might throw my hands in the air. Or if I score a spectacular goal, not really sure what I would do. I would have to just kind of let the moment sink in and then see what comes after that. But I always like the sweep of the ice.
On the NHL Entry Draft: Oh, man, it's going to be unbelievable. Really a moment that me, my family, my friends, all of the people that have supported me for so long, have been looking forward to, and I think it's great that it's in L.A., for that city and for the team that's really on the rise, I think it's great for them to promote the game and the STAPLES Center is a great venue for that.
I know that I'm definitely going to have a lot of people coming and a lot of people supporting me and really looking forward to it.