Currently sitting just behind John Tavares in OHL scoring is Kitchener Ranger center Justin Azevedo. Azevedo, a 5’8, 178-pound fire hydrant was not drafted in his first two years of eligibility despite scoring over a point-per-game in both seasons. His short stature and knock-kneed appearance must have weighed heavily on the minds of scouts.
But Azevedo is having a breakthrough year as a 19-year-old, scoring 16 goals and 53 points in 23 games playing alongside Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk. Azevedo has filled out nicely and uses his short, powerful legs to reach top speed as quickly as anyone in the OHL. Because of his quick acceleration, his lack of great speed is irrelevant over short distances. Add to that his thick frame, wide shoulders, aggressive style and all-world puck skills and you have a slower version of Theo Fleury with a weaker shot but better puck-handling.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Azevedo prior to Game 3 of the ADT CHL/Russia Challenge on Nov. 22 in Kitchener, Ontario.
HF: You look a lot heavier than your official weight of 165 pounds.
JA: Yeah, I think now I’m about 178.
HF: Because of the numbers you’ve put up so far do you think you’ll be drafted this year?
JA: I have no idea. I’m not really thinking about it.
JA: Yeah, I’m just going to focus on playing. You know I didn’t get drafted my draft year but I ended up going to a camp anyway (Atlanta’s prospects conditioning camp). I’m just going to play it out and see how everything unfolds.
HF: How was that?
JA: It was alright. It was okay. I didn’t have the camp I wanted to have, but next time I think I have some idea of what it’s like so I think I’ll be a lot better when I go back, if I do go back.
HF: What part of your game do you have to work on?
JA: I think everything always needs some work. You know my shot, my skating and if anything I think playing in my d-zone. Making sure everything’s going well back there and my offense will fall into place, hopefully.
HF: What’s your main goal for this year?
JA: To win the OHL and then go to the Mem Cup and hopefully win that.
HF: Do you have any players in the NHL that you look up to?
JA: Yeah, (Martin ) St.Louis. He’s a small guy but he gets the job done. He’s a great player. There’s one guy right there for sure that I look up to. He’s got a lot of heart and he’s a good role model for a bunch of kids.
HF: Are you tired about the constant questions about your size?
JA: No! Not me. I’ve always had it. It’s something that doesn’t bother me. You just get used to it. You’ve just got to learn to not let it faze you.
HF: How was it playing the Russians last year in the ADT Challenge? Was it a very different kind of game?
JA: They were a quick team and they’ve got a lot of offense. Unfortunately I had some bad luck last year. I sprained my ankle which wasn’t good but they were a good club. Very fast.
HF: This year’s team is bigger and a lot more physical. Are you ready for that?
JA: Yeah, I think we are. In the summer (Canada Russia Junior Summit Series) they (the Russians) had some bad luck. Canada really dominated and I think they’re going to be ready to go. That’s something that we’re expecting.
HF: Were you annoyed that you didn’t get invited to the Summit Series?
JA: You always think about it, but it’s part of the game. Stuff happens and you can’t really do much about it.
HF: Is this series really important for someone undrafted like you? If you have a really good showing against this team it could really help you?
JA: I think so. For sure. I think anybody in that room can turn some heads. I just want to go out there and play how I like to play.
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