On growing up in Boca Raton, Florida: I was about seven years old and my best friend started skating, and they asked me just to tag along one day and ever since then I just kind of stuck with it. Playing minor hockey in Florida, we did a lot of traveling. I was very lucky that my dad was a pilot and so I got to fly for free and everything. It's great, you get to go to the rink and it's cold and as soon as you step outside, it's warm again. It's fun.
On the miles he travelled to play hockey: Probably thousands, I mean, I was up in Toronto, Detroit, Boston, I was everywhere growing up.
On memorable tournaments in minor hockey: There's the big tournament when you're in Peewee in Quebec, and we went were one of the first Florida teams to do that. We did real well. We finished 16th, which I guess was high as there was a lot of teams, and I did the OHL Cup just like every other OHL player usually did. I did pretty well there. It was a feel of how the OHL would be. Before I entered the OHL I did the Junior Memorial Cup which I won and I got MVP and that really helped with my rankings and everything.
On his minor hockey teams: It was the Florida Junior Panthers, we just entered AAA when I first started. We got a lot of exposure to northern hockey. I played on Team Illinois for a year where I really learned the finer points of the game and how intense everyone is up north about hockey. I played hockey with the Toronto Bulldogs which is a mixture of great players in the springtime and I played with great players like Matt Duchene.
On playing for former NHLer Uwe Krupp: Uwe was a great guy and he really helped me with my hockey sense and where I had to be on the ice. Growing up in Florida, we didn't have the best staff for that kind of thing. So to have a pro to really help me out really helped me. He wanted me to go to the OHL because of my size. His son was going to the OHL and when I connected with him, we talked about it and he introduced me to a lot of the great advantages of being in the OHL for the NHL Draft and that kind of thing.
On the growth of hockey in southern states: Well, when I first started in Florida, the hockey wasn't too big. But once I started into the Pee Wee age, we entered AAA to B Teams and we started to pick up the scouting staffs that would come to Florida and actually watch us play. We hosted a couple tournaments in Florida when northern teams would come and there's a camp in Illinois called Bad Boys Hockey Camp, which my dad took over with John Murphy up there. And they came down to Florida and actually had like some of the greatest players in North America come down for my age, like Cam Fowler, all of those players came down and we just had a great time down there. That really exposed hockey in Florida and opened it up.
On being a Panthers fan: Oh, yeah, I love the Panthers. They are my favorite team. When I first started getting coached by Uwe Krupp, and I found out he scored that game winning goal (in the Stanley Cup Final), I was kind of mad, I gave it to him a little bit, but it was a great goal. That's basically it. My first game I watched was Florida versus the Bruins, and my dad told me that this guy named Ray Bourque played for the Bruins. I didn't know who he was. I had no clue. I had never watched hockey before and when I watched him play, I was just amazed. My dad was telling me how great he is and how big of a legend he was and I was just really amazed by that.
On being far from home: Well, my hometown still is Florida. All my family lives there. I don't think we'll ever move out of there. We love it there. So I get to come up here in the season, spend some cold days out here and go back home to the warm weather. We have a great training staff down there. There's a lot of great players my age that are playing junior hockey in the USA. I do fine down there.
On training in the summer: Actually we have a really good training staff down there. I have guys like Rob Tallas and Peter Worrell who know what it takes to get there. Ray Sheppard, he helped me out down there. There's a lot of physical trainers in Florida. Everyone loves their bodies down there when they go to the beach and they help me out with that kind of thing. There's a lot of football players; I train with a lot of football players over the summer, Daunte Culpepper used to work out in my gym and a whole bunch of big name players.
On big moments in his career: This is one of the biggest things I've ever done, I have to say (Top Prospects Game). This is the first event I've been in where it's very highly scouted and there's a lot of NHL teams here. I think maybe my first ever playoff run with the Windsor Spitfires my rookie year, when I got to play against Steven Stamkos in the first round. I watched the guy score nine goals in four games and I was in awe how great he was.
I think playing with Mickey Renaud, he passed away in my rookie year, but he was a role model for me and I learned a lot from him. Stuff like that, just meeting new players and now playing in events like (the Top Prospects Game).
On tough times in his career: Yeah, well when I was a rookie, I was a bigger slower player. They really wanted me to work on my speed and so after practice every day I would have to do extra skating and run around the stairs, and learning how to like work to get more ice time, it taught me a lot. I always had things handed to me being in Florida and stuff like that, and when I got traded from Windsor to Erie, they gave me more ice time and I got to show what I had and show my skills and stuff like that. Now it's another step, I have to work on my defense like most players do in our league and hopefully I'll make it to the next level.