Danny Kristo wasn’t the biggest player taken at the 2008 Entry Draft, but he sure plays a big-man’s game.
Kristo, a 5-foot-11, 172-pound right wing, was taken in the second round (No. 56) by the Montreal Canadiens in June’s draft. He realizes that while he probably isn’t going to get taller, that he can -- and has been -- adding muscle to his frame.
"I don't think I'm going to get taller, but I've added about 15 pounds in the past year and I can add some more weight, and get stronger," Kristo told the Montreal Gazette.
Kristo was born in Eden Praire, Minn., but grew up in Indiana -- a state not particularly known for producing hockey players.
Growing up in Indiana didn’t offer Kristo a plethora of hockey rooting options, but since Kristo’s dad had connections to the University of North Dakota, Danny was a fan of the Fighting Sioux growing up, and it’s where he’ll play his college hockey in the 2009-10 season, after a season with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.
"Growing up I lived in Indiana until I was about 13," he told McKeen’s Hockey Prospects. "I didn't have a hockey team to grow up watching. My dad had some connections to the Sioux so growing up I was always a fan. When the time came to choose on a school which I thought would fit me, I thought everything about it was what I wanted."
Last season Kristo played for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad, where he was second on the team with 18 goals and fourth with 31 points in 47 games. In the season prior to that, Kristo played for the Under-17 NTDP team and had 16 assists and 28 points in 59 games.
Kristo’s offensive prowess is derived from his speed, soft hands and vision. He realizes, however, that he has to be more consistent to make it to Montreal.
"He has a real top-end level offensively, he could be a top-two line guy in the NHL someday and he's going to play and be successful."
-- NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee
"I would describe my game as an up-tempo, speed game," Kristo said. "I think my strengths as a player are my speed, hands and vision. I would like to improve on playing more consistent and improving in the weight room."
NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee was impressed with Kristo’s speed, strength, playmaking and finishing skills. "Danny is a strong kid, but not a very big, physical kid," Barzee said. "He has very quick feet and he's very smart. He's clever with the puck, he can set people up and he can finish. Sometimes he can take himself away from his best assets -- thinking and skating and using his hands -- and he tries to knock big guys down and he physically can't, but he's got that bite to his game. He has a real top-end level offensively, he could be a top-two line guy in the NHL someday and he's going to play and be successful."
Kristo proved himself internationally at last spring’s Under-18 World Championship. He had three goals and six points and a plus-5 rating for the U.S. as they won the bronze medal.
The pressure at the Under-18 World Championship is going pale in comparison to what Kristo will feel if he makes it to hockey-mad Montreal. The pressure for Kristo might be heightened since the Canadiens traded their first-round pick to Calgary for Alex Tanguay, meaning Kristo was their first choice.
But if Kristo can continue to play like a big man and become a bigger man physically, he could find the going in Montreal far easier.