MONTREAL - Winger Jack Gorniak made the jump from high school to the college ranks last season, putting up 15 points (4G, 11A) in 37 games in his freshman campaign for coach Tony Granato's Badgers. Now, he's getting his second year of collegiate hockey underway with fellow Habs prospect Cole Caufield now in the fold. We caught up with him at development camp earlier this summer to find out about his first year in the NCAA, playing for Granato, and more.
How's your second development camp been going?
JACK GORNIAK: I think it's been great. It's nice to get back here and see all the guys from last year and the new guys too. It's good to skate at this level, to really know what the program is all about. It's been fun.
Last year, you were coming here after your last year in high school. Does it feel different now that you've had a year of college hockey and that environment behind you?
JG: Yeah, I think I took a big step forward, just coming from high school and then playing my first year of college. I think I made a big jump. Just having the ability to work with the coaches at the University of Wisconsin has helped me tremendously. That's been a big factor. And then just that experience, too, of playing at a higher level has been really nice.
Do you feel like you've taken on a bit of a leadership role with the younger guys at camp?
JG: Yeah, just talking to some of the younger guys, because they're in the same shoes as I was last year and the guys who were with me last year, so I'm just getting to know them. That's a big part of it. Whether that's getting to know them at the hotel or eating lunch with them here at the rink, I think that's played a big role too.
NCAA rules prevent you from taking part in any other camps with the Canadiens (i.e. rookie camp). Does that change your approach at development camp and what you're hoping to take out of it?
JG: No, I think it's just about the same: just coming here and showing the coaching staff the kind of player you are. The big part is just learning and knowing what it takes to play at this level. That's the big thing I'm trying to take out of it. And then I'll be going back to Madison to put in the work to get to this level.
You have a new teammate at Wisconsin here in Cole Caufield. Did you know each other at all from before? It's only 2 hours away by car. Did you ever cross paths?
JG: In youth hockey we played against each other and played with each other growing up. It's really cool to have him here. He's one of my good buds. It was very cool.
Have you gotten to know each other even more now that you're both Habs?
JG: We haven't seen each other in awhile, since he was over at the [US National Team Development Program] and I stayed the high school route. But now that he's coming into Wisconsin here, we've gotten to catch up and get to know each other more.
Has he asked you any questions about what to expect, or for any tips or tricks?
JG: Yeah, he's asked plenty of questions, and I'm happy to give him information. I think he's in a really good spot where he is, attending that university. So I'm just helping him out and any questions he has, I'm happy to answer.
What's some of the advice you've been giving him?
JG: The main thing I've told him is to just come to the rink each day and work hard. That's really what the coaches are looking for. And they're also looking for good character guys. So, just have a good attitude, be nice to all the staff around the rink. Those are the two big things.
You mentioned the coaching staff. What's it like getting coached by someone like Tony Granato?
JG: Coach Granato is unbelievable. He helps you on the ice, off the ice. He's there whenever you need him. He's just been terrific.
Has he been able to prepare you for what to expect at the NHL level?
JG: I've been working a lot on the ice with him, just working on skills. And he showed me a lot of video, of what I need to do to take that next step to the next level.
What are your personal goals for next season?
JG: Just to be a more impactful player on the ice. I'll keep working on my speed, my puck handling and shooting skills, and then just being able to control games.