Undrafted in 2008, defenseman Brian Lashoff was signed by the Red Wings last fall as a free agent and has improved his stock since that time. He probably would have been taken in 2009 draft if he had not been locked up by the Red Wings.
With the OHL Barrie Colts, Lashoff had 13 points in 25 games last year, before being traded mid-year to the Kingston Frontenacs, where he had 19 points in 35 games and a much greater opportunity. With Kingston not making the playoffs, he joined Grand Rapids at the end of the year. In 14 games with the Griffins, Lashoff scored 10 points.
The first game of that AHL stint was played at left wing. Lashoff is quite versatile in fact — at the recent 2009 Traverse City Tournament, he played a few seconds of goaltender, stopping a shot in front of his team’s empty net, and then went down to the offensive zone where the scored his own goal. He totaled two goals and one assist in the four-game tournament.
Lashoff will return to Kingston this fall for his 19-year-old year. The mental game is critical for Lashoff, who, although trying to lead as a captain, is naturally shy and acutely aware of his shortcomings.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Lashoff in Traverse City during the prospects tournament.
HF: Last spring in the AHL, you were scoring at a higher rate than in junior. How did that happen?
BL: I think I was playing with a lot of confidence. The coaching staff gave me a lot of confidence by putting me in some key situations. Being as young as I was, playing in that league, confidence was definitely a big part of it. And I was playing with some really good players, world-class players, on the power play, so I think that helped.
HF: Who was your partner?
BL: I played with (Garrett) Stafford a lot.
HF: Do you think your game is also more suited to the pros?
BL: Yeah, I think. I try to move the puck well out of the zone, get it to our forwards as quick as possible, join the rush occasionally, and try to contribute on the offense and I think when you’re playing with players like I was last year, with (Ville) Leino, (Darren) Haydar, and (Justin) Abdelkader, it’s easier to make things happen.
HF: Also the fact that guys are in position more and not running around?
BL: Yeah, exactly. I think when you have guys who are always looking for you on the ice, it definitely makes things a lot easier to produce offensively.
HF: What did you learn in Grand Rapids that you were able to put into your training this summer?
BL: I was playing against men, I think that’s the biggest thing — strength. And the speed of the game. I focused on getting stronger and staying quick.
HF: How did you specifically change your training?
BL: Upper body strength is a big thing, lower body, and trying to stay flexible through my legs. Skating a lot for speed.
HF: Did you work out at the same place as normal?
BL: No, this year I worked out at a place near home. I used a skating treadmill. That was something I hadn’t done before. I think that’s helped my speed on the ice.
HF: Who suggested that you should use the treadmill?
BL: It’s a new thing in our area. A power skating coach that I skated with when I was younger, Ron Kuhl, he pointed it out to me that they had it up in my area so I decided to try it out this summer. I could definitely tell in the [Red Wings] summer development camp and into this camp that it’s helped my speed.
HF: Did you clear it with the Red Wings before starting?
BL: Yeah, I talked to (director of player development) Jiri Fischer about it. He said if it’s going to help you, and it’s not going to hurt your stride or anything, go for it. [With Kuhl] I was focused on the structure of skating and getting the most out of my stride.
HF: How long had you worked wiIth Kuhl?
BL: I did some summer skates in minor hockey and every once in a while since then. He works on fundamentals. A lot of pro guys in my area use him.
HF: Looking back, why do you think you weren’t drafted (in 2008)?
BL: In my draft year I got injured a couple times, but when I did play, I think I wasn’t demonstrative enough, didn’t put myself out there enough. wasn’t aggressive enough. But I think at the same time, I showed some things that I thought should have gotten me drafted. But I just used it as motivation coming into this year — show everyone what kind of player I was and prove everybody wrong.
HF: Just based on bloodlines, you brother is good and you play very much like him.
BL: I mean, it’s a good question. But I just use it as motivation. It’s something I’m going to have with me my career, that I wasn’t drafted. I’m always going to try to prove people wrong.
HF: What role do you see yourself playing in the future? Do you think you can still be an offensive defenseman in the NHL?
BL: Yeah, I think I can. I think I’ve proved in the American League that I can move the puck well and join the offense, but at the same time, I’m reliable in my own end.
HF: You seem like a bit of a shy person, is that true?
BL: Yeah, little bit (laughs and nods)
HF: How was your role in Barrie vs. Kingston different? What amount of ice time were you getting?
BL: In Barrie I didn’t think I was playing near enough as I should have. I was kind of bottom-pairing defense. Power play but no penalty kill. I felt like I was in a rut. I think a change needed to be made. When I went to Kingston, I was playing first power play, first penalty kill, against other teams’ top lines, up to 30 minutes a night. I think that was the best thing for my confidence as a hockey player and for my career, especially going into the American League. I learned how to not do too much. Playing a lot, you need to keep it simple. That’s a big thing for the pro level.
HF: Now you’re playing with (2010-eligible Erik) Gudbranson, what’s he like as player?
BL: He’s a really good player. He’s a big kid. When he fills out, he’s going to be even more dominant than he is right now. He’s a great skater, moves the puck really well, has a big shot, good in his own end. He’s going to be a pretty dominant player this year for his draft year and I only see good things coming for him.
HF: Do you think you’ll be a pairing this year?
BL: Yeah, I think we may be a pairing. That will be good for us, we feed off each other pretty well in our styles of play.
HF: Are you excited about Tyler Beskorowany (DAL) coming to Kingston?
BL: Yeah, I think that’s a big move that we needed to make. I talked to (Kingston coach) Dougie (Gilmour) — you need good goaltending to win in the league. He’s a great goalie and that’s going to be key for us. He’s going to make some big saves.
HF: It sounds like you personally could have a really big year too — are you looking for that?
BL: Yeah, I think this year is a big year for me. It’s my fourth year in the OHL, and I want to try and dominate. I want to try to be one of the main guys on the team. The big thing for me is going to be leading our team, because I’ll be the captain. Kingston has been though some rough times as far as not making the playoffs, so I’m going to try and lead the team, play my best every night, be consistent and have the best year possible.