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Young Gun Q&A: Erik Gudbranson

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

The Panthers young gun defenseman discusses his progress in his first couple of years in the NHL, advice from the elder statesmen on the blue line, what he likes to do on his off days and more.

You’re in your third pro season. How has the transition from juniors to now gone?

Gudbranson - I felt like I’ve gotten better every year. I think there’s been progression. Obviously I have a lot more to learn. I think as a young defenseman it’s tough to step in and really make a huge difference right off the bat but nonetheless I’m very fortunate to have the d core that I have here and be able to learn.

This year especially I felt as though instead of thinking the game more or less like my first year, this year I’ve just gone out and played the game. It’s become more instinctive to me and I’ve really just simplified it and the transition is going well.

You talk about that d core with Ed Jovanovski, Mike Weaver and Brian Campbell, is there anything in particular that they instilled in you or told you to focus on?

Gudbranson - There’s tons of stuff that I’ve learned from those guys. You learn so much from just watching them. On and off the ice they’re all professionals and they’re great guys to have in the dressing room. In terms of on the ice, we’re all different players I think and that’s why we work so well together. We tell each other what to work on, what we see out there and what we think we can do better.

I’ve learned just to stay calm. My game is intense. I play physical but with the puck, making those decisions, being in the correct defensive position is all about being calm, being patient and being aware of your surroundings and reading the play so they definitely help me with that.

Taking a look at the last couple of weeks and having to wear that mask, how has that been?

Gudbranson - Obviously it’s not the ideal situation. It is what it is but it keeps me safe and that’s the plus. I’ve gotten used to it as well as I can. Now it seems like it’s been there for a while and I’m comfortable with it so that’s not to discount the fact that I’m excited to take it off.

When do you think it will come off?

Gudbranson - Hopefully just before the Olympic break. That’s the plan.

Just talk about playing with these other young guns and growing as a core for the Panthers, what’s that like being a part of the core?

Gudbranson - It’s awesome. I think we have a huge opportunity here to start off the right way, start our careers the right way and learn and grow together. It’s not going to be all roses. We have to learn from those hard times and move forward. I think when we all get to a certain age, 24, 25, 26, these mistakes that we’ve made now as young players, if we learn from them correctly, that won’t happen and we’ll grow into a very strong force in the NHL.

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 22: David Jones #54 of the Calgary Flames skates against Erik Gudbranson #44 of the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 22, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHL via Getty Images)

Going back to the 2010 draft and up until now, what would you say is your favorite Panthers moment (draft, playoffs, first game?)

Gudbranson - There’s so many things. Definitely the one that stands out is my first NHL game. You put a lot of work into to making the NHL. There are so many things throughout your lifetime that prepares you for that moment and being able to step onto the ice and actually play a game is an unbelievable experience. There’s so much work behind where we are now and so much commitment from everyone and I think playing that game in New York and against the Islanders, it was amazing for me to be out there, it was amazing for my parents and my family to see and that really stands out.

I can’t take away from the playoffs (against New Jersey) though. That’s also a moment that doesn’t come around often because it’s very difficult to make to the playoffs and that Game 7. What a game. It was hard fought and could have gone either way. That was definitely exciting.

Ok. What would you rather have, a big check to change the game or a big goal? Why?

Gudbranson - Either or. Any way that you can have a big impact in the game whether it’s a hit or a goal. I think it’s more likely for me to have a hit instead of a goal but obviously if you can score a big goal at a big time, there’s really nothing better.

Do you have a favorite TV show?

Gudbranson - Nowadays, I just finished Suits. I’m back onto Season 6 of Sons of Anarchy. Son’s is my road trip show. At home we’ve been watching the Following, which is pretty wild. It’s been interesting.

You have an off day, how are you spending it?

Gudbranson - It all depends on whether we’re playing the next day or not. Obviously I think going to the beach and just relaxing. I like to take my days off and use them to get the best out of it. We have a couple of days in between games, three or four days maybe I’ll go out for a round of golf but for the most part it’s just getting the body back to normal and trying to feel good for the next day.

What’s your favorite spot in South Florida?

Gudbranson - To eat is the Whales Rib in Deerfield Beach. That’s a great spot. It’s just a little dive place but I absolutely love that kind of stuff. The food is second to none. It’s incredible.

Did Brian Skrudland turn you on to that place?

Gudbranson - I went there because I heard of it from him but for sure it’s nice on an afternoon to go and sit there and have a good bite to eat, enjoy the sun and the area.

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