Jay Bouwmeester, an excellent young defenseman from the Medicine Hat
Tigers of the WHL, took the time out of his busy schedule to conduct an
interview here at Hockey’s Future. Bouwmeester anchored the Tigers’ defense
for the past two seasons, scoring 14 goals and adding 39 assists for 53
points in 61 games this past year, including 44 penalty minutes. Projected by
many to be the top selection in the 2002 Entry Draft, some have labeled the
Edmonton native as the next Bobby Orr. Although comparing a 17 year old to an
NHL legend is a little too premature, Bouwmeester has NHL scouts drooling
over his potential.
The Medicine Hat Tigers saw a lot of potential in him from the get-go,
drafting him 1st overall in the 1998 WHL Bantam Draft, ahead of many other
high regarded players such as Dan Blackburn, Duncan Milroy and Matthew
Spiller, among others. A 6’4 214 pound defenseman, Bouwmeester is only one of
four players to play for Team Canada at the Under 20 World Junior
Championship as a 16 year old, the others being Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros
and Jason Spezza. Jay will make one NHL team very happy to call his name come
Hockey’s Future: When did you realize that you had the talent necessary to even consider becoming a professional hockey player?
Jay Bouwmeester: Probably when I got drafted to come to Medicine Hat, I was drafted pretty high and I played a few games when I was 15. Sorta realized than, if I keep working on it and maybe give it a shot.
HF: Was this a goal your whole life, or did it just start out as a game for you?
JB: When you are little, it was fun and it still is. Every kid growing up wants to play hockey for a living, play in the NHL. So obviously its been there all along.
HF: On those nights or games where nothing goes your way, what keeps you coming back to keep playing?
JB: Just if something doesn’t go right, you just come back and get it right the next time. You are going to have good nights and bad nights, so you just got to go with it and have fun.
HF: What would be your self-described strengths and what do you think you need to improve on?
JB: My strengths are skating and moving the puck, bringing a little offense to the game. You got to work on everything, I got to get stronger and get better defensively.
HF: Any particular player that you try to emulate or pattern your game after?
JB: I don’t know about that, there a bunch of guys to look up to and see what they are doing and try to resemble what they are doing.
HF: Who are some of the pros that you like to watch?
JB: All sorts of guys, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Chris Pronger. Guys along that line of player.
HF: Have you had the chance to think about any of your goals, personal and team wise, with the Tigers this year?
JB: Well for the team to make the playoffs. We haven’t been in the playoffs for awhile, and once I do that I can hopefully do some damage.
HF: What have you been doing this off-season?
JB: Working out a lot, playing a little golf.
HF: At the time, did you feel that there was a lot of pressure in becoming the youngest player ever to be named to the team?
JB: No, I had nothing to lose at that camp. I Felt no pressure and went out played hockey and did what I can do. Luckily I made the team!
HF: How do you feel about Jason Spezza and Stephen Weiss’s decisions to bypass the Junior Orientation camps?
JB: That is their own decision. They got their own NHL teams to worry about. For me I had to be at the camp, not drafted yet or anything, so it doesn’t really bother me that much.
HF: To ease the monotony of the constant travel on the road, what hobbies or interests do you have that helps you to pass the time? Do you have any particular favorite music?
JB: I don’t have too many hobbies, I sleep a lot on the bus! I like country and a little bit of the old stuff.
HF: How do you handle the fame and attention that has comes along with the title as the top prospect for next years draft?
JB: Well it hasn’t really gotten too bad yet, I don’t know if it will. Here in Medicine Hat, you don’t see that much of the pressure as you would in Toronto. I think I will be able to deal with it just fine.
HF: Have you had a chance to talk to any of players that were drafted last year to get some advice?
JB: Yeah, I talked to a bunch of guys! They said it was a pretty neat experience and I would have a lot of fun with it
HF: Would you be disappointed if you don’t go first overall?
JB: I don’t know if I would be disappointed. The bottom line is it really doesn’t matter where you get drafted, it is what you do after the draft. If you get to get first, that’s great. But if not, then you just keep working and hopefully things will work out.
HF: What do you think you have to continue to do this year to become the top pick next year?
JB: Just go out and play as hard you can every night, do the things you can do the best and hope things work out.
HF: What has been your proudest achievement or fondest memory you have so far in your career?
JB: The two national junior teams, those are both big highlights. We didn’t win a gold medal, but the bronze was pretty special.
HF: Some players buy their parents a brand new house and others buy a new car, while some get some tattoos. What do you plan on doing with your first big NHL paycheck?
JB: (laughing) No…I will think about that one when it happens!
HF: Thanks a lot Jay, and good luck with your season and next year in Toronto
JB: Anytime and thanks.
Hockey’s Future would like to thank our German Correspondent Oliver Janz for setting this interview up.