Last night Sens prospect Chris Driedger made his NHL debut against the New York Rangers when he came in in relief of Andrew Hammond near the end of the second period. Driedger's first professional season has been a bit of a roller coaster so we spent some time to look back on everything he's gone through this year.
Coming in to this season with Evansville, what were some of the areas of your game that you were looking to develop?
I wanted to just improve every aspect of my game and get to the highest level of professional hockey so going to Evansville, I didn't really know what to expect. Obviously, I wanted to have a successful year and play as much as I could while getting as many games under my belt as possible. I was hoping to see a lot of pucks and get acclimatized to the speed at the professional level...that's what I was thinking going in to this season.
Obviously, the IceMen aren't haven't the season you probably hoped for but as a goalie do you think it helps your development to see as many shots as you do each night?
There was a point where I was leading the Coast in saves for most of the year before being called up to Ottawa the first time. There's been no shortage of rubber. I think it helps, you're making more saves, the repetition. You're getting better with every save so that makes a difference. At the same time, it's a bit of a challenge to stay on top of it when you're on a team that's struggling. I think it was a test for me mentally and of my goaltending ability to be getting peppered every night. I took it as a learning experience.
With no goalie coach in Evansville, what are some of the things that you've been doing to help continue your growth as a goalie?
Rick Wamsley came down twice I believe for the back-to-back games in Elmira. He's always good to point out habits that I've strayed from. It's pretty easy to form bad habits when you're on a team that's not doing to well so it was good to have him get me back on track and point out some things that I have been improving on. I also try and look at the video from my games and do some self-assessments.
It took a weird set of circumstances, but were you surprised when the team called you up to back-up Andrew Hammond?
I wasn't really expecting to get called up at all to the NHL this year but things happen. When I got called up, I was obviously pretty excited and I've just tried to learn as much from the opportunity because I don't really get the time with Walmsey down in Evansville like I have been up here. I'm just trying to take that in as much as I can.
What's it been like to get a first-hand look at what Andrew Hammond has been able to accomplish over the past 6 weeks?
I've got a pretty good view of what he's been doing and it's been unbelievable to watch. Just his focus is something that I've been trying to learn from along with his mentality towards the game. I know he's set a few records now so clearly what he's doing has been working. I've known Hammy for a couple years and I've always known that he's been an unbelievable goalie so to see him take advantage of the opportunity that he was given has been really fun to watch.
What was it like for you to finally get in to an NHL game?
I was pretty nervous to be honest but once I got in there I just did what I do and tried to stop pucks. The guys started to play pretty well in front of me as well so I didn't have to make too many saves. I just tried to have fun with it. It was a blast getting in there.
Do you remember much about the first save you made?
I think I may have blacked out for the first one. (laughs) It was a bit of a sinker too. For that shot, I just tried to get my whole body in front of it because it dropped quite a bit. I tried to just not think about the pressure and just stop the puck.
What are some of the perks that you're taking advantage of being with the Ottawa Senators?
I try and stay in the net as long as I can to take as many NHL shots as possible. Even in warm-ups, I try and stay out there. Basically, the whole experience is good to get used to at a young age in my first year pro. I know most guys who are in their first professional season don't get lucky enough to see this. It's worked out pretty well for me and I think it's going to help me a lot going forward.
Through 42 games (40 in Evansville, 2 in Bingo and 20+ minutes in Ottawa) is this what you expected of your first pro season?
I wasn't really sure what to expect but I don't think it was this (laughs). I just try to take everything in stride and go with the flow. No matter where I was I just wanted to constantly be improving my game and preparing for my future at the professional level.