Like most other 18-year-old high school hockey players, Kevin Quick's days involve classes, plenty of studying and a fair amount of time at the rink. With his sights set on playing Division I college hockey next fall, there is one thing that makes the senior defenseman at Salisbury School in Connecticut stand out amongst his class - he's already been drafted to the NHL.
As the Lightning's 2006 third-round draft pick (78th overall), the scouting reports on Quick talk of a smart, young defenseman who has great hockey sense and is one of the most mobile skaters in his age bracket. What makes Quick someone to keep an eye on is that he has shown his talent to be well above that of the prep school level.
In the hockey world, fans are accustomed to players getting drafted out of juniors or college partially because of the notion that the leagues have stronger competition. Although Quick has chosen to stay at the prep level, that doesn't mean that the young defenseman isn't learning skills that could benefit his game down the road. The sports programs at Salisbury pride themselves not only on athletics, but also on the education they can provide to their students.
"The difference is we can build the whole player here," coach Dan Donato said of playing in Salisbury versus juniors. "We have our own Olympic-size rink right on campus, we have plenty of ice time, but also the kids are receiving a tremendous education. They're around good people who value the education side and they're on a team with really good players as well.
"Hockey's really important obviously [but] we want to have kids go on and have great college careers, and if they're able to have an NHL career, that's terrific," Donato said. "I think that's the difference - we're able to build the whole person here and I think for the NHL level that should be more attractive as well."
Last season Salisbury proudly sent seven players to Division I hockey schools and they expect to send another six or seven this year. In addition to Quick, who has signed a letter of intent with the University of Michigan, Salisbury has had students commit to Harvard and Boston College this season.
In terms of hockey, Salisbury also provides a unique experience for players like Quick. With four teams sharing the ice, (a varsity, junior varsity, thirds team and a recreational team) it means that Quick benefits from two hours of practice on a daily basis, and those two hours of practice come on an Olympic size rink. Not only has this helped Quick to continue developing his skating ability, but it has given his coaches the opportunity to help him develop his overall hockey sense.
"Kevin is a tremendous skater and I've done some work with him, but for the most part he came in as a really good skater," Donato said. "What we've been able to focus on with him in particular is game sense and hockey sense, playing away from the puck, supporting his partner as a defenseman and just overall hockey intuition. Guys are bigger and stronger at the next levels and it's a lot more crowded, so you really need to have that game sense to play at the next level and I think Kevin is really benefiting from the Olympic sheet that way."
In addition to honing his overall hockey talents Quick is able to use the larger ice surface to develop his abilities as a skater. The natural skating talent that Quick's coach talks about is also what helped catch the attention of the Lightning scouts and management.
"At the time that we drafted him (Quick), Jake Goertzen, our chief scout, made that comment that he might very well be the best skater available in the draft," Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. "In that year's draft, and the way the game is going, this is just so important."
The importance of mobility on defense, and a solid first impression, are key reasons why Quick has been ear-marked as someone to watch.
During the summer in which Quick was drafted, the Lightning hosted a conditioning mini-camp for its new draft picks and younger prospects. Members of Tampa Bay's management, scouting and coaching staffs were on hand as the players participated in a variety of drills and scrimmages. As players were evaluated and tested within the style of the Lightning's system, it was Quick who stood out as one of the most impressive skaters.
"One of the things we saw with him the week that he was here for the conditioning camp was that because he skates so well, even if he makes a mistake he's able to get back and clean that up because he skates so well," Feaster said. "The other thing that was very impressive, and it was impressive because it caught the attention of John Tortorella as he was watching, is he has very good hockey sense. He understands and thinks the game very well and that's one of the big things, particularly for a defenseman in our system.
"We felt just from him - in a limited period of time - watching our system, being taught our system, that he picked it up very quickly and he was doing some things that as far as we were concerned, were a little bit advanced in terms of [playing] within our system. Those are two things that bode really well for him."
Set to embark on his collegiate career, Quick will finally be able to test his skills at the next level when he begins skating for the Michigan Wolverines in the fall. Playing under their legendary coach, Red Berenson, Quick will have the opportunity to learn the game from the most successful NCAA hockey coach of the past 15 years (444-145-48).
Since 1990, Michigan's program has made nine Frozen Four appearances, won two NCAA Division I championships and has seen more than 60 players drafted to the NHL. Such a competitive and winning atmosphere is sure to help build the drive of a player like Quick who will arrive in Michigan with a full set of skills.
"The great thing about Michigan is that it's such a big-time program," Donato said. "It's so big-time that it's a great step towards the NHL. You're going to have big crowds and loud arenas. I just think there's a lot of bonuses and benefits. Kevin will be around some really big-time athletes, even outside of hockey. I think it's going to be really nice and beneficial for Kevin to see how hard even the football team at Michigan works to achieve success."
Although Lightning fans will have to wait a few seasons to see Quick in action, it doesn't mean that Tampa Bay's management doesn't see a bright future for the young man. Quick's natural talents have made him a player who is looked at as having the potential for a solid future in the NHL, one that they hope will last many years in a Lightning uniform.