For Kevin Shattenkirk, this week has been three years in the making.
Ever since he was selected by the Avalanche in the first round (14th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Shattenkirk has been working towards his goal of one day becoming a regular NHL defenseman.
After a solid three-year stint at Boston University – where he won a national championship in 2009 and totaled 78 points (18g/60a) in 121 games for the Terriers – Shattenkirk is in Denver this week to participate in Colorado’s rookie orientation camp, which serves as a precursor to training camp for the young players in the Avalanche’s organization.
We sat down with Shattenkirk on the first day of rookie orientation camp to get his thoughts on turning pro, the adjustments he’s made to his game and his feelings heading into his first professional training camp.What made this the right time to begin your professional career?
“I think just in talking to coach (Jack) Parker back at school, he said he felt it was time to go. And I knew myself that it was time to go. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity, but you don’t want to rush it. You don’t really know when it is, but I just kind of felt after the season that this was the jump I wanted to make. Hopefully it will turn out for the best.”This is your first true professional training camp. You’ve been to development camps with the organization, but have never been in a camp where you’re competing for a job. What is your mindset heading into camp?
“I know a lot of guys here that I’ve met through development camps, but it’s a different mindset. You have to know that you’re competing against every guy from top to bottom, and you just have to have the mentality that you have to beat the guy next to you. Once you’re on the ice you can’t really have any friends. It’s a job now; it’s not as much a pleasure as it was at school. I think I really need to focus on that.”Specifically, what are you trying to show the Avalanche staff or prove to them?
“You definitely want to show your strengths. That’s what got me here and that’s what I was noticed for. You want to display your strengths as much as possible. For me, it’s also about proving that I can be a great defender. That’s kind of been my knock for the past couple years. I feel it’s come a long way, and hopefully I can prove it this week.”Do you feel that knock was fair or unfair?
“I definitely think it’s fair. I struggled back at the USA program a bit with my defensive game. When I made the transition from there to BU, having coach (David) Quinn at BU was a huge help. I think my defensive game has gone much higher in the past couple of years. Sticking to simple things is what I need to do there.”How was your short stint in Lake Erie at the end of last season? You were only there for a few games, but what did you take out of it?
“The locker room and the atmosphere of the games is completely different. In college you’re playing a 30-40 game season. Obviously at the pro level you’re playing many more games than that. For me it was pretty easy to get myself psyched up and ready to play. Playing in games the speed was a lot higher, but at the same time the players on your team are all great players. That makes things easier as far as making decisions and making the right pass, because everyone is in the right position.”Do you think you’ll be forced to adjust the way you play to be successful as a pro, or do you believe your game will translate fairly well?
“I think it will translate pretty well. Obviously, everyone needs to make adjustments. It’s a huge jump no matter where you’re coming from, whether it be juniors or college. I think that’s going to be my adjustment, adjusting to players in the defensive zone. Obviously there are going to be guys that are a lot bigger or stronger than me now, and you’re playing against 30-year-old men instead of an 18-year-old freshman. It’s going to be a big adjustment there, but as far as everything else goes, my offensive play, that’s going to be something that I stick to and hopefully lets me help the team.”Sometimes athletes fall too deep into their “comfort zones” in relation to the way they play, and then struggle when they are asked to play a different way. Have you tried to avoid this pitfall over the course of your career by adding different elements to your game?
“Something I try to do every year is set personal goals to push myself, and really make sure that I’m playing outside of my comfort zone. It can be something as far as a plus/minus goal or making sure I get at least two sticks on a shot or something like that. There are so many little things in the game that you can work on and make sure you’re really bringing it to the table and pushing yourself to get ready every day. Just coming out here a week early and skating with guys who are proven NHL players has shown me that even they are pushing their limits and trying to get better every day.”Coming into camp, are you looking up and down the Avalanche’s roster and trying to see where you might possibly be able to fit in, or do you come into camp just worried about playing well, and hoping that everything else takes care of itself?
“That’s my plan right now, to just worry about myself. You can’t really worry about what spot might be open. You really have to stick to your strengths and try to prove that you should be on the team. Hopefully the coaches and everyone else sees that.”Any nerves at all?
“There’s obviously a little bit of nerves, but I find it better when you have nerves. If you’re not a little nervous about playing a big game or something, then there’s something wrong with you.”