Nate Condon is having a solid year in the USHL, his last in the league before heading to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, where he’ll surely be a fan favorite both for his offensive ability and his entertaining personality.
Condon’s game revolves around speed, his jersey flapping in a tell-tale sign that he’s really moving. The 19-year-old has 30 points in 36 games for the Fargo Force.
Condon was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the seventh round in 2008 out of high school in Wausau, WI. The 6’0 center says he now weighs 185.
Named to the 2010 USHL All-Star Game, he was Player of the Game for the West Division, scoring one goal on a wrist shot. He also captained the team.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Condon at the All-Star Game festivities. He was still bearing battle marks under his mouth and nose from being elbowed in the face the previous weekend.
HF: How do you feel your season is going personally?
NC: I think it’s going a lot better. It’s my second year in the league and I feel like I’ve stepped up into more of a leadership role on the team as well as a scoring role, being one of the top-line players on the team.
HF: Your production going up, do you think it’s a product of ice time or what is it?
NC: It could be ice time, as well as all the experience I got last year. It just comes much easier for me.
HF: Is some of it confidence then?
NC: A lot of it’s confidence, and knowing what to do against certain people, knowing what my strong points are. What I can do out there.
HF: Have you been at center all year?
NC: Yes I have. I’ve played center ever since I was a freshman in high school. It’s all I know how to play (laughs). Last year coach tried me at wing and I was a little confused on what to do (laughs).
HF: Do you think once you move to Minnesota you’ll still be able to play center?
NC: I believe so. Talking to Don Lucia and the Gopher coaching staff, they envision me as a center, but if they need me to play wing I can always give it a shot.
HF: Do you consider yourself a goal scorer?
NC: Yeah, more of a goal scorer than a playmaker, especially on the team this year I feel like I’ve been in the spot to score more than maybe in the past.
HF: Do you think you’ll be able to stay a goal scorer as you move up the ranks?
NC: I think it’s always the way I’ve been. I can be a playmaker or a grinder if they need me to be, but it’s always the role that I’ve filled and done a pretty good job with it.
HF: I noticed that last year your plus/minus was good and this year it went down (+16 versus -2). I have to ask why.
NC: It’s about even right now and I’m looking to get it back up. I’m not very proud of it right now. I think it could be a lot better. I have to do a better job in the D-zone. In our system it’s the centers who are down low and a lot of responsibility falls on the center. So it’s more my fault than anyone else.
HF: Have you put on weight since last year?
NC: I actually have. Everyone told me to bulk up a little bit. I gained about 10-15 pounds in the offseason — most of it being muscle (laughs).
HF: You still look like you could stand to put on more.
NC: Yeah, I could still put on quite a bit of muscle. But it’s an ongoing thing. During the season it’s a big struggle because it tears down quite a bit.
HF: Did you take any classes this year? You already graduated from high school.
NC: I graduated two years ago. I didn’t take any classes actually. The housing family I’m living with, they have a family clinic and I work there for them.
HF: What do you do there?
NC: (laughs) I’m a file clerk. I am the go-to guy. I do whatever they ask.
HF: Are you a good file clerk?
NC: I am. I am excellent, when I actually show up. It’s just, with road trips and everything, I miss a lot.
HF: How many hours a week do you work?
NC: Fifteen or 20. I make a little money on the side. It’s nice to get away from hockey for a little bit, do something different.
HF: Are you worried that your school skills will deteriorate?
NC: (laughs) I was worried about that the other day. I was having a talk with Blake Doerring on our team and I felt kind of stupid (laughs). I’ve been out of school for two years and I don’t know, it’s a whole different experience. Going back to school next year is going to be a bit odd for me. Maybe I’ll starting taking up reading books again. I haven’t read a book in the longest time. I always did well at school though, so I’m not too worried about that. I went to a pretty good high school. Hopefully it’s like riding a bike.
HF: Are you going to go to Avs summer camp this year?
NC: Yeah, I’m going to go. Should be fun. I’m excited for it. And I’m kind of worried for it (laughs), going against some of those big guys. It’s intimidating.
HF: So you’re saving up your file clerk money?
NC: (laughs) Yeah, I don’t know if that will quite add up. That’s not very much.
HF: Tell me about your teammate Eamonn McDermott (2010-eligible).
NC: About a week and a half ago during practice, a one-on-one drill, Johnnie Searfoss just kind of stepped into him and he bent his wrist and broke it. I think he’s out for like 8-10 weeks. It’s tough because he was our top d-man and he played probably 30 minutes a game. It’s hard for us to fill that void right now.
HF: That’s tough because it’s his draft year too.
NC: Yeah, that’s tough on him. I hope he can bounce back from this — come back for us in the playoffs and still get his exposure.
HF: What’s he like as a D when he’s playing?
NC: Eamonn is one of the quickest defensemen I’ve ever seen. He’s really good at making plays and also brings a physical aspect. It’s funny — Seth Ambroz is 6’3, 230, and [5’10 McDermott] just killed him last time we played Omaha. Demolished him. It’s funny because looking at the two you’d never think it would happen. He’s a pretty solid kid for his size and brings quickness and playmaking ability. He always does the (Nic) Lidstrom play, which is to shoot from the point off the nearside board and it pops out in front. It’s one of those things not many people do, and he’s very good at.
HF: And Nate Schmidt, how’s he doing?
NC: He’s going to the Gophers with me next year, he’s a great kid. He’s got one of the best one-timers I’ve ever seen. He’s got a cannon. And he’s a pretty solid kid too — plays a physical game. That’s his thing.