The youngest member of the Blackhawks, defenseman Nick Leddy made a big impact in his first full pro season, playing important minutes all the way through the team's Stanley Cup Playoff appearance. Leddy talks with chicagoblackhawks.com to reflect on his first season with the Hawks and his plans for the offseason.If you could describe your first pro season in one word, what would it be?
Excitement. It was my first pro season, and I got to play with a lot of the guys who I’ve grown up watching. It was a good season – we didn’t go as far as we would have wanted, but it was good.
You started up in Chicago when the season began, went down to Rockford in the middle, then came back up for good in January. What was the biggest difference between your first and second NHL stints?
I’d say there was probably a little more confidence the second time; I was used to the style of play, and I had seen some of the players in the NHL. I just had another level of confidence in my game.
You spent considerable time partnered with Duncan Keith, especially late in the season. Would you say he’s had a big influence on your game?
Definitely. He’s one of the players who I watched a lot even before I came to Chicago, so it was great to be paired with him and to have him and Chris Campoli and all of the other guys to learn from. They’re all really good defensemen – you have to include guys like Soupy and Seabs, as well. I think I played with all of them at least once, and I learned a lot from them.
Was there anyone who would say really showed you the ropes off the ice, how to live like a pro athlete?
Ryan Johnson was a big help. I met him in Rockford when he was down there, and then we both got called up about the same time. We talked a lot because we were both staying at the same hotel for a while, so I got to know him. We drove together and he really showed me the ropes. It helped a lot.
Being the new guy, and a rookie especially, did any of the vets try to play pranks on you?
My first time back in Minnesota, Sharpy tried to get me to go onto the ice before a game without my helmet, which I never did. He also tried getting me to go first out of the dressing room, so I would do the first lap by myself. I was warned, I think by R.J. (Ryan Johnson), that it’d happened before, so I had it in the back of my head.
It was also your first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. What was that experience like for you, and did it live up to your expectations?
Anything can happen on any given night… that’s hockey for you. I thought that the playoffs were an unbelievable experience for me. I’m glad that I got the first one out of the way, and I will feel more confident in the next ones. I was pretty nervous to start out.
What was the biggest lesson you learned as a hockey player in your first full pro season?
I think the biggest thing was how much of a grind the season actually was. I’d heard about how long and tiring it gets, but to actually experience it, you definitely appreciate it a lot more.
What are some of the things you’re going to be working on this offseason?
Probably working on my upper-body strength, and just getting stronger in general. I feel like now that I have one season under my belt, it will prepare me to do a lot better next season.