Moore's skating is his strength

Tuesday, 02.17.2009 / 10:19 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By John McGourty - Staff Writer

Good players combine many skills, but none is more important than skating. That's why the Chicago Steel's John Moore is the best draft-eligible defense prospect in the United States Hockey League.

Moore was ranked No. 8 among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, to be held June 26-27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

The 6-foot-2, 189-pound native of Winnetka, Ill., is second in the USHL scoring lead among defensemen with 31 points. He's also second among the league's blueliners with 12 goals and fourth with 19 assists, and also ranks in the top 10 among league defensemen in power-play goals (5), power-play assists (10), game-winning goals (3) and shots (90).

"What separates John from the rest is that he's tremendously skilled, a great skater, better than anyone else in the league," said Steel coach Steve Poapst, a 14-year NHL pro who played for the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. "He's head and shoulders above anyone at this level in his puck-handling, skating, ability to score. He's getting chances because he's at a different level.

"With his work ethic and mentality and his approach to the game, I see him being a professional hockey player. He has things to learn and improve, but I see the potential for the NHL. Where he is rated is warranted.

"He's been an unbelievable leader here, our captain now after Mike Walsh had season-ending shoulder surgery. He's a local kid we took on as a seventh defenseman last year when we lost a player to the OHL and he finished the season as one of our top-four defensemen. Then he grew four or five inches and put on 25 pounds. He has room to keep growing and he hasn't lost any skills or quickness."

Moore had been playing with the Chicago Mission, an excellent Chicago-area development program.

"Chico Adrahtas was the head coach and Steve Smith, who won Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, was the assistant coach," Moore said. "They were definitely huge parts of my development. They fostered a lot of my skating strength and molded me into the player I am today. They taught me to use my skating to move the puck and to be able to jump to spots to support the offense. They were great coaches and I was lucky to learn from guys like that."

Moore has been methodical about his hockey development, working each offseason to improve deficiencies in his game, like his size, conditioning and nutrition.

"I devoted last summer to working out and putting on weight while keeping speed and agility," he said. "I developed a routine and saw good results. I was 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds at the start of last season and finished around 165 pounds (and) I put on about 25 pounds since last summer.

"I was always a short kid and I grew much later than everyone, a late bloomer. When I was smaller, I relied on my skills, skating and puck-handling, so when I grew, those skills were magnified with my size."

Moore had an instant love for hockey, and those who have had a hand guiding his development love the intensity with which he pursues his goals through hard work.

"My dad grew up playing hockey and my mom is from Lewiston, Maine, so they were both familiar with hockey." Moore said. "I just loved hockey from the day I was born and they fostered that love. They sent me to Rafe Aybar, who teaches power skating at the Winnetka rink, and he had a pretty big hand in teaching me to skate effectively."

"You can't help but want to help John because he's always smiling, always cordial, dedicated, hard working and doesn't show anger toward coaching," Aybar said. "He's not a 'go along to get along' kid. He says he'll put in the work and time and if they single him out, so be it. You don't get many of them.

"He came here with a great amount of desire and concentration and had good natural ability, but he was undisciplined in his skating. I worked with him on balance, edges and puck control and he's been elevating himself, year by year, and rising above the crowd. ... I saw in him his willingness to work and his intelligence to work through the 'garbage.'

"He uses what he's taught to see what works for him and what doesn't and that has led to his ability to control what he does on the ice. John is incredibly unselfish and he weathers the psychological blows well. He understands that the more he works to better his technique, the less effort it takes to accomplish his goals. With John, it's all structure, speed and stability."

Aybar has worked with Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo, an NHL player Moore greatly respects.

"Joe Corvo spends time around Winnetka in the summer and Tom Preissing (an Arlington Heights, Ill., native) went to Colorado College, where I'm going," Moore said. "They're great players and I love watching them, especially Corvo with his skating ability and the way he plays. They're guys I can look up to. Corvo, you look at him and know he's good offensively but he's good defensively, too, and that's something I need to work on. For that reason, I really like watching Carolina games."

"He is learning the emotional ups and downs of a long season and he's getting much better," said Poapst. "He needs to continue to understand that part of the game in order to play at a consistent level. He was having some trouble handling that earlier, but he's been doing very well since we explained it to him. John was trying to make up for mistakes on his next shift and that would set him up to fail again and then he'd be really upset with himself and rattled. He's gotten beyond that; he can let it go and still be a dominant player."

Moore said each step adds to his growing maturity, including his first international experience, this past November at the World Junior A Challenge. The U.S. lost its first game, to Germany, but then won its last four -- beating Russia, Canada East twice and Canada West -- to win the championship.

Moore had an assist in the 5-1 semifinal victory against Canada East and an assist on Lee Moffie's opening goal in the 7-1 gold-medal victory against Canada West.

"That was my first international experience with Team USA and we were definitely nervous against Germany," Moore said. "It was a combination of everything, being thrown together with guys you never played with, and nerves played a role. It took a couple of games and practices and we got more relaxed.

"We became a team for Mark Carlson, the coach of the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, and got more and more relaxed. I thought my game got better as the tournament went on."