Jamie McBain is a leader on the blue line for a very competitive Carolina Hurricanes entry in the 2009 Traverse City Tournament. He is is +2 and tied for the lead in scoring among defensemen with two assists in two games. This is familiar production for McBain, who last season finished second in the NCAA in points by a defenseman (37) with the University of Wisconsin. He also won the WCHA Player of the Year award, and earned a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top performer.
McBain provides the complete package on the blueline: size, skill, skating and smarts. In a 10-game stint with Albany the end of last season, the 21-year-old managed just a goal and an assist, but his poise and ability to play in every situation surely made an impression.
McBain decided to turn pro following his junior season and could force his way into the Hurricanes line-up as a rookie this fall with an outstanding training camp.
Hockey’s Future spoke to McBain after practice on Monday in Traverse City.
HF: You guys have had a good start. Do you feel like you’re a contender for the tournament?
JM: Yeah, absolutely. You look at the guys in the room, we’ve got a lot of talent. We got a feel for each other [in the first game]. Hopefully we can keep that going and yeah I think we’ve got a real good shot.
HF: Is the tournament what you expected?
JM: I really didn’t know what to expect. I just came in looking forward to it. So far it’s been a great experience, just being able to get your feet wet a little bit here before training camp. Meet some of the guys, get back to game speed.
HF: How would you compare the level of play here to college hockey?
JM: It’s pretty similar, but you’ve got some different systems. The players from top to bottom on your team — there’s more depth as far as skill level. Overall it’s still the same game but the pace is maybe half a second faster.
HF: How important is this tournament for you personally because this is a big training camp for you.
JM: Yeah, I’m trying to make sure I get myself into the best shape possible to come into main camp the best I can. This is good for me to get the bugs out from summer hockey and get back at it — get a few games under my belt before training camp starts.
HF: Do you feel you have a realistic shot at making the team?
JM: I’m just going to go in there with an open mind and play my hockey, and let the chips fall where they may. Let my play speak for itself.
HF: But you wouldn’t be unhappy in Albany all year.
JM: No, it’s part of the growing process, getting adjusted to pro hockey. I’m just going to try to get better each day.
HF: Typically when guys forgo their senior year, they think they have a chance at the roster, was that your thinking?
JM: Yeah, for the most part I accomplished everything on a personal level that I wanted to get out of college. I just wanted to make that next step and whether it’s in Albany or Carolina, I’m going to move forward.
HF: What did you learn in your 10 games in Albany that you were able to put into your training over the summer?
JM: My strength — I kind of realized that at this level guys are bigger and stronger and a little bit faster. I put that into my training. Make sure every day that I went into the weight room with the right mindset to get my body in the best physical shape it can be going into training camp. It was nice to get my feet wet in Albany, to feel what it’s like to play at the pro level and the different pace.
HF: What did you specifically change in the gym?
JM: I didn’t take any day for granted, didn’t take any day off, and made sure I accomplished what I wanted to. I make sure that coming into camp I gave myself the best chance.
HF: Where do you train? At Wisconsin?
JM: I was back in Minnesota at Shattock-St. Mary’s. They have a great weight room and a lot of the pro guys come back.
HF: Do you have a plan for finishing your degree? How many credits do you have left?
JM: I’ve probably got about a year and a half left as far as credits. Through the summers and whatnot I’ll probably slowly take some classes here and there. It shouldn’t take too long hopefully, within the next couple of years, I’m hopefully planning to finish that degree and make sure that college did what it could for me.
HF: Did you take any classes this summer?
JM: This summer I didn’t take any classes. I focused squarely on hockey and training and made sure I was the best I could be.