Goaltender Jason Kasdorf, who just signed his first professional contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, has given a lot of credit to Seth Appert, his coach for the entirety of his career at RPI, for helping him become the goalie he is today.
Appert a former goaltender himself at Ferris State University, chatted with Sabres.com on Tuesday to discuss the team's new netminder.
Before we talk about Jason Kasdorf, the goaltender, what have you learned about him as a person that he'll bring to the Sabres dressing room?
Realistically I've been involved with him now for six years. There was a two-year recruiting process and then six years of coaching him so I know him really well. As good a goalie as he is – and he's a great goaltender – he's a better human being. He's just one of the best people that I've ever had the privilege to coach.
He's very unselfish, very caring, great work ethic, character and compassion for other people, real strong religious beliefs and strong faith that he and his wife share … just a really, really quality person.
Talking to him for the first time today, there seemed to be a really genuine excitement from him about being here. Have you spoken to him and has he conveyed that to you?
For sure. He and I are very close, and yeah, he was talking to me through the whole process and then I went and had coffee with him and [his wife] Stacy on Monday morning. He's really excited. Again, he had options. He could've graduated and left and tried to be a free agent this summer. He could've come back for his fifth year and tested the same thing. He did have other options.
I think the fact that he took the opportunity with Buffalo shows how much belief he has in himself and also shows how much excitement he has to be a part of the Sabres organization.
Obviously he has the big body and the height. What else can you tell us about his skills as a goaltender?
I think a couple of things are key with him. One is that he's not a blocker. A lot of 6-foot-4 goalies that I see in the NHL are a little bit of blocking style of goaltender. He's an athlete that plays goalie, he just happens to be 6-foot-4. He's not a blocker by any stretch, he makes save in there without just relying on his size. But at the same time he's gained a great understanding of the technical aspects of the position to utilize his size when necessary.
I think the other thing about him is he's probably as good as I've ever worked with from a goalie perspective at taking learning situations in practice and then applying them to games. And that's a really, really unique skill.
When you say that, do any specific instances come to mind?
I remember the first game that he ever played here which was two months into his freshman year. In junior hockey, he was more of an athletic, competitor goalie that was kind of all over the place and over-aggressive. You know, typical of young goalies.
And then I remember when he went in relief and we were playing Union, which is our biggest rival. And we were on the road, it's a sold-out game – I'd been working with him on being calmer with less movement in the net. In a nervous situation for most people, he went in and had a real calm presence.
I remember him saying afterward, 'That was everything we worked on and talked about in practice.' For a 20-year-old kid at the time to feel that way and own that feeling in a sold-out building, coming off the bench against your biggest rival, it just showed he could apply those things in hard situations.
On that same token, he was here for some time over the summer at Development Camp. Did you see him bring back anything that he picked up and took into his final year?
I don't know if I'd say it was definitely from Buffalo or not. He and I talk about goaltending all the time and in don’t believe that I'm the only person that can coach goalies, so I'm always trying to learn from other people. Jason and I will watch NHL goalies and try to steal ideas from them, when he goes home in the summer to Winnipeg or Buffalo last summer, it's the same thing.
Something that we gained from this summer, and it may have specifically come from Buffalo, was using the paddle-down situation more in some of the battles around the crease and things like that. I think that's something that he implemented into his game real well on scramble plays in front of the crease.
If you give him real strong logic for something that will help his game and then you show him how to work on it, he's going to work on it. His work ethic is tireless. He's going to work on it and he's going to apply it, he has that special ability. And he will not be outworked.
What do you think will be especially valuable for him to learn over these next three weeks?
College hockey is very good, but the NHL is better. We've got guys on our team who are certainly going to play in the NHL, but seeing a whole team of NHL-caliber shooters every day at practice, every day at goalie session, that will be invaluable.
Also gaining familiarity and starting to build a relationship, a bond of trust, with the goaltending coach and starting to understand things that Buffalo wants to see in him. And then I think what's most valuable from every guy I've coached that's gone to the NHL is just being around great players, great veterans, and learning how to be a pro. Not skill, not talent, but how they handle themselves.
Their attitude, how they come to practice, all of those things that make pros 15-year pros versus guys that just see the NHL. Saddle up the guy with Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta and guys that have been able to carve out long careers, and you just sit back and admire and appreciate how they go about their business.