When goaltender Jeff Zatkoff reported to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton training camp at the Ice Rink at Coal Street last week after signing a two-year contract with the Penguins organization earlier this summer, he was blown away by the franchise’s professionalism.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Zatkoff, who had spent the last four years with the Los Angeles Kings organization – the team that drafted him in the third round (74th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft – before coming to Pittsburgh.
“It’s not what I expected; not what I came from. We’re treated like NHL players here. Everything is first-class, from the setup in the locker room to the way the coaches approach practice. It’s been great.”
Zatkoff, 25, sees playing for WBS as a great opportunity to show what he’s capable of doing between the pipes.
He’s coming off a season where he posted a 21-17-1 record, 2.49 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in 44 regular-season games with Manchester of the American Hockey League (AHL), which earned him a berth to the AHL All-Star Game.
Zatkoff wants to build off that solid season and continue to further his own development in Wilkes-Barre, but he’s also focused on giving his team a chance to win every time he gets the start in goal.
“That’s the biggest thing for me,” he said. “I want to be the best that I can be down here. Everyone wants to play up, but you can’t worry about that. You have to worry about the now and taking care of business here. If you do that while you’re down here, then you’ll get that opportunity.”
How would you describe your playing style?
I think the biggest thing for me is my athleticism. I’m a pretty standard goalie, a butterfly goalie. I try to read (the player’s) release and stay up when I can, but I like to use my athleticism and come out of the box and just compete for every puck. I try to keep it basic out there and help the D make easy plays so they’re not getting crushed. I don’t try and do too much.
Who do you model your game after?
I loved watching Ryan Miller. He’s a college boy and a Spartan, unfortunately (laughs) [Zatkoff grew up a Michigan Wolverines fan and played hockey for Miami of Ohio]. But he’s a great goalie and he’s built similar to me, tall and skinny. I always liked watching him play.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
When I was young, I always liked watching Felix Potvin for the Maple Leafs. That’s kind of what got me into the sport.
Who was your favorite team growing up?
The Red Wings.
What got you started in hockey?
I started playing when I was around 8. Being from Michigan, you’re exposed to it a lot. You always get Hockey Night in Canada on every Saturday on CBC. I think one day we just decided to go get some gear and the rest is history.
What’s an interesting fact/something people don’t know about you?
I have two dogs and I’ve been engaged three years. My great-uncle played football at the University of Michigan and played for the Detroit Lions back before there was a Super Bowl. When they won it I think it was just called the championship. My dad grew up playing basketball. I come from a pretty athletic family. I was fortunate.