If Jason Gregoire were cloned and made up all the lines of a roster, it would be a winning team. The left winger can score goals, play defense, and do all the little things necessary to win. It’s not a stretch to imagine him moving seamlessly to the NHL at whatever point he choses as well.
But despite all of this, he remains remarkably under the radar, even playing on the top line for the storied University of North Dakota. A third-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2007, Gregoire played two years of junior hockey for the Lincoln Stars. He scored 37 goals and 32 assists in 54 games his final year, and was named USHL Player of the Year.
Now in his sophomore year at North Dakota, Gregoire has eight goals and seven assists in 20 games. He will be 21 at the end of February.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Gregoire at the Shillelagh Tournament.
HF: You’ve been on quite a hot streak lately, have you been doing anything differently?
JG: I think our team’s kind of coming together, our record might not show it, but we’re kind of rolling, so it’s been a team effort, it’s obviously no a one-player game. My linemates are playing well, getting me the puck, and I’m just seeing the ice out there.
HF: You’re back to your goal-scoring ways this year — more goals than assists — any reason for that?strong>
JG: I dunno, talk to my linemates (laughs). We’ve been moving the puck real well. Me and (Chris) Vande Velde have been together quite a bit and Corban Knight lately. My dad always says ‘if you’re getting the chances it’s a good thing.’ As long as I’m getting the chances, I’m pretty happy.
HF: Would you say that goal-scoring is one of your greatest strengths?
JG: It think it’s something I pride myself in. You’re not going to win a hockey game if you don’t score goals. But I take pride in my defensive play and puck-moving ability too. But there’s nothing else like scoring a goal in front of 12,000 fans back home at North Dakota.
HF: So if they told you that you were supposed to specialize in goal-scoring, you’d be cool with that?
JG: Absolutely (laughs). I’m not a guy who likes to steal the limelight, I’m not a flashy player, but certainly scoring goals you’re being seen. It’s nice to be recognized, but I guess I pride myself in little things that don’t always get the limelight. If they want me to score goals, I’ll score goals.
HF: Not everyone can do it.
JG: Absolutely, and it gets tougher and tougher every league. It’s good to be back to my old ways as you say. It takes a little time to get used to college hockey, it’s a real good league and a lot of good players. To be scoring means a lot.
HF: So do you feel like last year you were adjusting and now you’re just rolling?
JG: Yeah, I feel like I’m in more of a groove. I’m a little more confident in my abilities, puck carrying and everything. Coach (Hakstol) has shown tremendous trust in me, playing me in important situations and that also helps too.
HF: Are you starting to get your ‘man strength’ yet?
JG: I’d like to think so. I’m almost 21. That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose college hockey, you get a couple extra years to get your man strength, as you called it. I still need to get there, I played with Joe Finley last year — 6’8, 240. I’m 5’11, 195, something like that. I’m getting there. Still got a little ways to go, but I’ve put on some pounds in the right places.
HF: What do you think is going to be your ideal weight?
JG: At this height, probably 195-200. I wouldn’t want to be much more than that. The muscle’s got to be in the right places.
HF: Is it making it easier out there as you get stronger?
JG: Definitely a little bit, but they always say hockey is 90 percent mental. People who don’t know hockey might think that’s just a saying. But it’s pretty darn true. If you think about it, a player has his ability one night, goes and scores three goals, and the next night he’s not very good. Obviously his ability didn’t change, his size didn’t change. It’s all mental. A lot of guys train their muscles, but you’ve got to train your brain. One thing I’m trying to focus on is confidence — I work on it quite a bit with my dad.
HF: Do you also watch NHL games to see how the game develops at a higher level?
JG: Surprisingly I don’t like watching NHL games. We went to a Blackhawks game and had a blast there, but as for watching on TV, it’s not for me. I get game tapes of our games so I watch that. I go have a drink with my dad once in a while and he’ll show me things. I just get so much hockey during the day and then with homework, I don’t want to sit around and watch more hockey.
HF: Islanders summer camp, how’d that go for you this year?
JG: Really good. I’ve gone the past three years. David Toews went with me, obviously that’s pretty neat — same NHL team, same college team, both from Winnipeg. The camp is a blast, it’s great to meet the guys, the organization and you can compare yourself to some of the high-end guys and see how far off or how close you are to the NHL. Which is huge for a player like me who is potentially two, three years away from making that jump. It’s fun, it’s neat. I love getting up there.
HF: Did they tell you anything in particular to work on?
JG: They always give you little things to work on and size and strength is one of them. Footspeed, that’s always been something I want to work on. I don’t want to call it a weakness — people don’t always see it and it will come out every once in a while. I need to be more consistent with it. Not end to end but maybe blue line to blue line, quick bursts with the puck. Then also work on the shot. All those things are coming along nicely at the college level. I see myself improving leaps and bounds from when I left juniors.
HF: Have you decided on a major yet?
JG: I think I’m going Finance. It’s not set in stone yet, but I’m thinking that road. My dad has some friends who are actuaries in the Minneapolis area and say it’s a great way to go. Numbers interest me for whatever reason. I’ve been going the accounting way and going into finance is the best plan.