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Wings Encounter: Meet Zach Nastasiuk

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Zach Nastasiuk will play his first full pro season in Grand Rapids this season. He is the son of former CFL tailback Paul Nastasiuk, who helped Toronto win the 1991 Grey Cup. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – With early exits in the last two OHL postseasons, Zach Nastasiuk had more than a cup of coffee in pro hockey with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

But this fall, the son of a former pro football player, will compete for a full-season role with the Red Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate.

The 20-year-old Nastasiuk just finished his third development camp in northern Michigan, where he worked on helping the young prospects assimilate in their first experience with the club.

“I just expect to come in and be a leader and work on my leadership and get all the systems down and fine tune the details,” said Nastasiuk, who was team captain for the past two seasons at Owen Sound. “I want to show them that I can play at the next level.”

The Red Wings’ former second-round draft pick, in 2013, Nastasiuk permanently turns pro following four seasons in Owen Sounds where he produced 89 goals and 187 points in 256 regular-season games for the Attack.

Nastasiuk played a combined 21 regular-season and playoff games for the Griffins, registering one assist with a minus-5 rating in the past two years.

“That was a really good experience, working with Blash (Jeff Blashill) and the older guys there, seeing how they do it there,” Nastasiuk said. “It’s really good for young guys to come in early and learn how to work with the organization.”

Now, let’s get to know more about this 20-year-old prospect:

ZACH NASTASIUK

STATUS: Red Wings second-round pick in 2013 NHL draft. Winger is expected to play his first full American Hockey League season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2015-16.

DOB: March 30, 1995, in Barrie, Ontario.

FIRST HOCKEY MEMORY: “Probably winning the house league championships when I was about five years old.”

HOCKEY HEROES: “Joe Sakic, I loved watching him when I was growing up. Mats Sundin too. My dad made me love him. I loved his leadership and I loved that he showed up every day. He was a great role model for young kids.”

HOW MUCH OF A ROLE MODEL WAS YOUR DAD: “He was huge. Being any pro athlete, I think, being at the highest level of their position, they’ve gone through the drafts, the interviews, the camps, it really helps. He shares all of that knowledge and wisdom on to me so I can be prepared and more ready for those times when adversity comes my way.”

YOU EVER PLAY FOOTBALL: “No, he would never let me.”

LAST BOOK READ: “It might have been ‘Lord of the Flies’ (a 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding). Yeah, it was ‘Lord of the Flies.’”

CURRENT CAR: “A 2014 black Jeep.”

FIRST JOB: “Hockey, I guess.”

GREATEST SPORTS MOMENT: “Might be winning goal with Canada at U18s. Getting drafted, obviously, was right up there.”

MOST PAINFUL MOMENT: “Probably getting cut from any team I’ve been cut from. I got cut from Team Canada a couple times. You know, it’s a humbling experience, but it only makes you stronger.”

FAVORITE UNIFORMS: “The Toronto Raptors, I guess.”

FAVORITE ARENA: “I don’t know. I’ve only been to a few. The ACC, I guess.”

CLOSEST HOCKEY FRIENDS: “Probably Chris Bigras, played with him in minor hockey and then we both got drafted by Owen Sound and we played our four years in Owen Sound together. We’ve been through it all together, so it would probably be him.”

FUNNIEST HOCKEY PERSON KNOWN: “Probably Tyler Bertuzzi. He’s never a dull moment.”

TOUGHEST COMPETITORS FACED: “Chris Bigras. He wants to win every day, and he basically let you win. That’s why it was awesome to grow up with him. He was always teaching me how to win and he was always competing and always pushed you.”

MOST MEMORABLE GOAL: “Oh geez, probably one of my playoff goals in Owen Sound in my second year. Scored a goal in Plymouth that was pretty good, my last goal of the season.”

FUNNY HOCKEY MEMORY: “I don’t know, there’s probably a lot that I couldn’t tell you.”

FAVORITE PLAYRS TO WATCH: “Obviously Pavel Datsyuk, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby. Just the way they present the game and just how they slow the game down and the plays they can make. You can’t just not watch them.”

FAVORITE SPORT OUTSIDE HOCKEY: “I would have to say golf or basketball. I play both. I just enjoy playing sports.”

PERSONALITY QUALITIES ADMIRED IN OTHERS: “Humble. Hard working. Respectful, but determined. Stuff like that.”

FAVORITE MOVIE: “I’m gonna have to go with ‘Fast and Furious 7’ maybe.”

IF NOT A HOCKEY PLAYER, WHAT: “Geez, probably trying to play another sport for sure. If I couldn’t than maybe trying to be a musician, playing the guitar.”

HIDDEN TALENTS: “I don’t play guitar. I just play sports, really.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE: “Chocolate Chip cookies.”

YOUR MOST-ATHLETIC TEAMMATE: “Probably Andreas Athanasiou. He’s good at soccer, I’ve seen him play baseball, I’ve seen him play basketball, I’ve seen him play hockey (laughing). He runs, he jumps, he’s good. He’s pretty athletic.”

DO WHAT AFTER HOCKEY: “Hopefully stay in hockey somehow, scouting for sure or something like that.”

NICKNAME: “Nasty.”

PREFERRED JERSEY NUMBER: “I wore 27 in Owen Sound because my dad wore it in the CFL, and here it’s whatever they give you. But 27 would be preferred.”

OFF DAYS: “Workout if I’m not on the ice. Definitely get outside and enjoy the weather. Do something active and definitely get together with some friends and do something active or something that won’t waste the day.”

MOST FAMOUS PERSON IN PHONE: “I don’t know, my dad or Bobby Orr maybe. He’s my agent.”

FIRST THING PURCHASED AFTER SIGNING FIRST CONTRACT: “The Jeep.”

GUILTY PLEASURES: “I love the show ‘Friends’. I can watch every episode. I love it.”

ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO/HAVE BEFORE EVERY GAME: “Drink water, eat, just the good pasta, chicken, the veggies, the greens and stuff like that.”

MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL: “A bit of both I’d say.”

IF YOU COULD BE SOMEONE’S TEAMMATE FOR A DAY, WHO: “Jonathan Toews. He’s just a winner and his leadership is pretty good too.”

GO BACK IN TIME MOMENT: “Probably bad to the 80s to see how all the things came together and got changed and invented. I think that would be pretty cool to see.”

WHAT SCARES YOU: “Scary movies.”

MOST EMBARRASSING CHILDHOOD MOMENT: “Oh my, I think my dad left me in a grocery store once. I was cry because I wanted a chocolate bar and he wouldn’t get it for me. He just left me there and all the mums were saying, ‘How could you do that?’ and yelling at him.”

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