Managing Editor Mike Doyle spoke with prospects at this year's Wild Development Camp. Throughout the summer, these question and answer sessions will be posted on Wild.com. This week is a conversation with Kurtis Gabriel, the Wild’s third-round pick in 2013. The 21-year-old talks about his motivation to play hockey, the mental aspect of the game and eating tons (not literal) of food.
I overhead you talking about the JJ Watt quote. How’d you see it and why did it connect with you?
Carly Peters (Wild Media Relations Coordinator) sent it to me. I don’t think I’ve read anything that’s more perfect as to exactly how I think as a view on professional sports. And for a guy who’s at the top of his game it’s pretty cool that he thinks that way, and I think the same way he does.
Did you always have this kind of mentality or was it developed? What was your process to getting in this mindset?
I think I’ve always had passion for things I like, so if it’s something I enjoy I’m going to go all in. At 15, I wasn’t as good as I am now, so I think it’s a bit of a developed attitude. Seeing some of the success I’ve had from it allows me to keep continuing what I’ve been doing.
Switching gears a bit, one of the things you’ve done at Camp is spoke with a sports psychologist (Hans Skulstad from the Center for Sports and the Mind). After he gave his presentation, you spoke with him after class. Is that something that interests you?
Absolutely. We train our bodies so much, but everyone says 90 percent of the game is mental. I’ve done my own bit of work back home with a family friend who has picked up the trade. Any time you can work with one of those guys is great.
What kind of stuff did he talk about?
Today was about getting into your optimal performance zone. How do you get to that perfect mentality before a game, not being too tense over not being nonchalant so that you’re overconfident. I think any player wants to be in that zone, that’s when you’re playing at your best. The best players are in that zone more often than not.
Is that something you’re still developing as a younger player?
I think every player, that’s what makes those guys good, what that feels like and how to get there and how to keep it going. As a physical player, for me, it’s either giving a hit or taking a hit early. That’s kind of the wake up call in a game. Generally, it’s what triggers it for you and how to stay in that zone.
So I’ve noticed you eat a lot. How many meals do you eat a day?
Every three hours. I’m a lean guy and I want to keep up that playing weight, I eat every three hours even if I’m not hungry.
Is that something that you monitor as well? Do you keep your calorie level above a certain amount?
I don’t count that much. I just know that every three hours I’m going to eat a certain amount of something like a complex carbohydrate. It’s a general idea. I’ve worked with several trainers and picked up a little bit from each guy. I’ve talked with (Wild Strength and Conditioning Coach) Kirk Olson about how much I need to eat and that’s what I try to do.
Especially at a thing like Development Camp, you guys are going all day. You must burn a ton of calories.
Exactly. When you’re doing workouts at home, you have a little more time to coordinate. But here, we’re doing things all the time, so you have to stuff it in even if it’s an hour or two before you skate.
Looking ahead to next season, you got a taste of pro hockey at the end of the season in Iowa. How did that go and how did it prepare you heading into the summer?
It actually started at (Wild Training) Camp last year when I got a chance to skate with the pro guys. I probably would’ve gotten a couple of games if not for an injury, but I took the confidence of that with me (back to junior hockey). Then in Iowa, the adrenaline of the first couple games, was like, “Wow, this is awesome.” Then the next three games, it kind of hit me, I’m playing against men. You go into a tough building and maybe have a rough game. Then it comes back to not getting too high and not getting too low, and the last two games in Oklahoma City I thought I played awesome and felt like I was playing in the OHL again. So I though the transition from one to eight games was huge for me and I’m coming into (Training Camp) trying to make this team.
And that’s your main goal for next season?
Absolutely. Make the Minnesota Wild.