Brandon Hynes loves to shoot the puck. Always has.
He's a natural-born sniper raised in the tiny town of Norris Point, nestled under the mountains of picturesque Gros Morne National Park on the west coast of Newfoundland.
With little traffic on Norris Point's lone street and a population of less than 1,000, Hynes -- now a right wing for the QMJHL's Victoriaville Tigres -- grew up with older brother Michael firing pucks on the street outside his house.
He still does to this day.
"I spend 95 percent of my off-seasons shooting pucks," Hynes said. "Sometimes I might shoot 800 or 900 pucks a day. Ever since I was 11-years-old, I'd go out with a net and a bucket of pucks. I can just shoot for hours and hours, and until I break a window, I don't give up."
During the season, he shoots for hours and hours until he finds the back of the net. Hynes, one of the QMJHL's top forward prospects for the 2010 Entry Draft, fired 215 shots on goal in just 60 games. He led the league's rookies as well as the Tigres in shots, and he finished with a solid 18 goals and 11 assists.
This season, he leads the league with 152 shots in 32 games, and his 20 goals are tied for fourth in the league and already more than he scored all of last season.
Hynes needs to continue to show he can score to offset one really big knock on him -- he's just 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds.
"I need to show my all-round game, but most importantly, that I can put the puck in the net," Hynes said.
There already are detractors. His offensive ability isn't questioned, but his small stature and lack of speed could hurt him, according to Chris Bordeleau of NHL Central Scouting.
"He's got good hands, he passes the puck smart, he knows the game ... but he doesn't have the speed he needs to compete at the next level," Bordeleau said. "You have to have superior speed in order to compete at the next level. It's going to be tough for this kid."
Bordeleau said there are so many bigger players who can skate that it works against smaller players such as Hynes.
Hynes, who is the only hockey player from Norris Point to reach the top level of junior hockey, trained heavily in the summer -- at least when he wasn't enjoying Gros Morne's "outrageous" fishing and scenery -- to prepare for his draft season. But after 16 weeks of heavy conditioning and a good start to the 2009-10 season, he admits he's feeling the pressure of being scrutinized by scouts.
"I try not to think about it, but it's impossible," Hynes said. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it. … And it crosses your mind in the rough times more than the easy ones."
But Hynes is eager beat the odds and prove detractors wrong. He watched Brian Gionta
play in the NHL preseason game and believes his style is comparable to that of the undersized Montreal Canadien sniper.
"I'm going to pay attention to him more often," said Hynes. "He's not a big guy, just like me. It shows small guys can make it. I want to try and make a statement as a small guy."