Vincent Trocheck will be the first to admit that there’s not a whole lot going on in his life other than hockey.
But as the OHL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player of the Year, it’s hard to complain.
Trocheck, who just recently celebrated his 20th birthday, was one of the most noticeable presences at July’s Florida Panthers development camp. The 5-foot-11 Center had a phenomenal year, splitting the season between the Saginaw Spirit and the Plymouth Whalers, recording an incredible 50 and 59 points respectively for each team. And in the middle of all that, he swung by the World Junior Championships to help Team USA capture a gold medal.
“It was a long season,” Trocheck laughed to media during development camp.
He acknowledges that he’s grown a lot in the past year, and attributes it to a mindset that won’t take no for an answer.
“I think it’s just an effort thing,” Trocheck said at the camp in July. “I’m always working to get stronger, to get faster.”
And that effort has paid off, so much so that coaches and players alike are branding Trocheck based on his hard work.
“You give him something to do, and boy oh boy, he’s going to do it,” said director of player development Brian Skrudland. “It’s guys like Vinny that are going to help the (Nick) Bjugstads, that are going to push the (Aleksander) Barkovs, believe it or not when I say the ‘Trochecks’, that’s my gut feeling that he’s that type of leader.”
With that type of hype, the Pittsburgh native is starting to get some notoriety as a future great, but says he doesn’t let it get to his head. After all, that might interfere with his dream of playing in the NHL.
“I kind of just do my best to stay away from anything with my name in it, try to stay humble,” Trocheck said. “A lot of guys in the past who let success go to their heads take a downfall.”
He’s so determined to play in the NHL, it’s hard to imagine that at one point his dad envisioned a life where his son would hold a baseball bat in his hand rather than a hockey stick. His father was a baseball player, it’s only natural to pass that on to his son.
But Trocheck was stubborn and knew hockey was his life, so he made that clear.
“He always put a baseball bat in my hand and I’d shoot the ball with it instead of play baseball with it,” Trocheck said. “So he figured he might as well put me in skates.”
As a Pennsylvania native, Trocheck grew up during a hot streak for the Penguins, developing his passion watching them win the Stanley Cup with his dad on TV as hockey took Pittsburgh by storm.
But at the moment, he’s a fan of a different team. If you ask him whether he’s a Penguins fan, he’ll simply say, “I was.” Now, all sights are set on the Panthers and improving his game where his team’s leaders want him to.
“They just told me to work on every aspect of my game, you know you can always get better at everything,” Trocheck said. “But more strength, trying to get faster, both of those things more than anything.”
There are parts of his game that he does think he has a handle on, though.
“You can get better at everything but my hockey IQ is something I use to my advantage because I’m not the biggest guy in the world,” said Trocheck.
As a 5-foot-11 center competing with guys like Bjugstad, Barkov and others, who are all well over 6-foot, he definitely isn’t the biggest guy. But Skrudland has one response to questions about Trocheck’s size.
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“You can’t measure the size of a heart, we’ve always said that,” said Skrudland. “You can’t measure that heart.”
Trocheck says the most memorable moment of his hockey career is the 2013 World Junior Championships where he helped Team USA capture the gold medal. In the championship game he had an empty net goal and an assist as the United States beat Sweden 3-1, in addition to his two other goals and assists in the five previous games.
“I got out there and worked as hard as I could, “ said Trocheck. “Whenever you’re out there representing your country you’re doing whatever it takes.”
Although he doesn’t have a lot going outside of hockey, one thing he does have is his family, which is one of his main priorities this summer.
“I just like hanging out with my family a lot, you don’t get to see them a lot during the season so whenever the summer comes along, you want to hang out with them as much as possible,” he said.
His family includes his two younger sisters, but he says they aren’t as big into hockey as he is.
“I don’t think they would (follow my footsteps),” he laughed, adding that they are more interested in dancing and less so in hockey.
Besides spending time with his family, the summer is about gearing up for the season, which he’ll spend either with in the minors or the Cats. Heading into next year with the pros on his mind makes the work ahead of him this summer different, but just a little.
“I guess my mindset is I’m coming here to try to make the team,” Trocheck said.
“And I’ll do whatever it takes to try and wear that jersey.”