Q&A with Drew Schiestel

By Mike Kamrowski

The Buffalo Sabres selected Drew Schiestel in the second round (59th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he’s been a mainstay on the blueline for the Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) while adding considerable size and strength to his game.

He continues to improve his play with every passing OHL season, his numbers included. The 2008-09 season was no different, seeing Schiestel rack up 48 points (10g+38a) in 63 games. His steady play helped the Ice Dogs reach the post-season, as the club gets set to face the Ottawa 67’s.

With this most likely being his last season in juniors, Hockey’s Future had a chance to talk to Drew prior to the playoff series against Ottawa.

Q: How do you think Niagara played this season?
A: I think it’s been pretty up and down. We had a streak where we lost six or seven in a row and we’re in a little bit of a slump right now, but we had a streak where we played really well, too; I think we won seven or eight in a row. But like I said, it’s been up and down. We’ve had some injuries, some key guys out of the lineup, what with [Alex] Pietrangelo at the World Juniors and things like that. With the acquisition of Jeremy Smith, it helps a lot. But if we can all play well – we lost a lot of guys up front last year, but we’ve had forwards step up this year and score some goals – [Chris] DeSousa, [Andrew] Agozzino, guys like that. I think in the playoffs we can make a good run if we all play well and all play together.

Q: Can you talk a little about your play this season?
A: I think my year was kind of the same, up and down. I hurt my shoulder a couple months ago and that was frustrating, and even when I came back it didn’t feel so comfortable. But for the most part I’d say that I’ve done well and that I’ve done a good job.

Q: How have you developed your game since the 2007 NHL Entry Draft?
A: I’d say that I’ve definitely improved. You always want to improve and I’ve heard good things from my agent and the scouts from Buffalo and everything. They’ve been positive and helped me out along the way. I think that I’ve improved and that’s as much as I can ask for.

Q: What about your strength, an area that you needed to focus on?
A: Yeah, that’s something that I’ve really worked on over the summer, especially working out and training with Buffalo. I’d say that that goes back to my first few years in the league – that was an issue as it is with a lot of guys coming into the league, but once I was drafted I was taught how to train properly and that has helped out a lot.

Q: What is you contact with Buffalo like right now?
A: It’s been great. I see them often enough, it’s only twenty minutes down the road so every home game they usually have one or two guys here. Staying in contact with them is really, really easy and that’s only to my benefit.

Q: What aspects of your game does Buffalo want you to focus on?
A: I’d say defensive play – that’s always something that I work on and I can always improve. As a defenseman these days you want to be the best all-around player that you can be and I think that I’ve got the tools, the physical tools, to take myself a long way as long as I pay attention to detail and work on the small parts of the game.

Q: Buffalo has been known to have a young squad – how would you fit in with their club?
A: They do have a lot of young prospects, and they have a couple of guys – Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera – that are good, young skaters. I think that I could match up, maybe not this year, but in the future, with those types of guys and I think that I could do a pretty good job.

Q: This is your last season in the OHL- are you going to be heading to Portland (AHL)?
A: There’s nothing concrete but I’d say that after a junior player plays his four years in the league and he’s lucky enough to sign a contract and move up, that’s everybody’s plan ultimately, and that’s what I’m looking to do next season. I’d say it’s likely.

Q: What did you improve on this season?
A: Being one of the older guys, you learn to lead by example and help out the younger guys, so I think that leadership and communication, I really improved on this year along with my confidence. When you’re an older guy you need to have the confidence to make plays that you might not make as a younger guy.

Q: What do you plan on working on this summer?
A: The same things I’ve been working on since I’ve been drafted. As long as you’re improving and you know what you need to work on, that’s what you have to do.

Q: What do you think about playing in the OHL?
A: There’s a lot of good players in this league. Every single night there’s someone you got to look for, and that’s the whole fun of it.