If the Dallas Stars are looking to add a little fire to their lineup, they could do worse than to keep their 2000 1st round pick, LW Steve Ott, in their lineup next season. Ott has starred for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL for the past 3 seasons, providing equal parts skill and toughness on a consistent basis.
Ott led the Spitfires in scoring this season, notching 88 points (43G, 45A) in 53 games. In addition to his fine offensive work, Steve also cemented his image as a tough player, picking up 178 PIMs during the 2001-02 season. In his 3 seasons with Windsor, Steve accumulated 237 points, as well as 473 PIMs.
Steve’s good work this season did not go unnoticed, as he was named an OHL 2nd Team All Star. In addition to this award, Ott was also a member of Team Canada’s entry at the World Junior Championships, where he and his teammates earned silver medals. This was Steve’s 2nd appearance at the WJC.
This past season will in all likelihood be the last of Ott’s junior career. He has already signed a contract with Dallas, and will most likely get his pro career started with the Stars’ farm club in Utah.
I interviewed Steve prior to a recent playoff game, with the transcript of that conversation being presented below.
HF: Let’s talk about the playoffs first, I guess. You guys are down 2-0 in this series (vs. Erie, which the Otters eventually won), but other than that, you’ve had some success up to this point. What do you need to do to get past Erie in this series?
SO: Collectively, we had a meeting a couple nights ago to get our focus back. We have to look in the mirror, and look at each other, and wonder if we’ve been giving our best game. Obviously, we think we haven’t. We’ve keyed on our hard work, and our tenaciousness out on that ice every game; that’s what has got us this far, so I think we’ll have to go back to that to beat Erie.
HF: You mentioned the word "tenaciousness". Is that what this team is built on?
SO: It’s all about the hard work, for sure. The work ethic is key for us. I think we underachieved at the beginning of the season. We’ve started coming on since Christmas, and I think we’ve been one of the top teams since Christmas. Obviously, we’ve relied on that work ethic, and we pulled it together then and said "let’s go!" when we were out of a playoff spot, then moved up to 6th place. So, obviously we’ve been riding on that.
HF: Was the Jason Spezza trade a turning point for your team?
SO: I think it was 2 things. It was bringing in the goaltender, Cory Campbell, an overage. He’s been exceptional, probably our most valuable player up to this point. Obviously, bringing in a new face with Kyle Wellwood, he’s obviously an exceptional hockey player. He’s also been a key to our success.
HF: How do you feel you have done personally this year? Are you meeting the expectations of Dallas, for instance?
SO: I think I’ve been meeting expectations somewhat, for sure. Every year, I think I’ve grown significantly, but I think this year was more of a rollercoaster year. I was pretty sick midway, almost to Christmas. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, but things have settled down, and right now, I’m feeling really good.
HF: You took part in this year’s World Junior Championships as a member of Team Canada. How was that experience?
SO: It was pretty amazing. This year was kind of different than my first year, since I took on more of a leadership role. I was looked upon to step up in the dressing room and on the ice, and I think Stan Butler taught me a lot in that department of my game.
HF: Did you get more ice time this year than in last year’s tournament?
SO: I think it was pretty consistent. I was more of a 3rd and 4th line player in Russia, and this year I was more of a 2nd and 3rd liner, and more of a penalty killer. So, I got a little more ice time this year, but it was good just to be on the team.
HF: Is that a big adjustment for you guys, as far as going over to Europe to play on the bigger ice surfaces?
SO: Oh, for sure. Since I’m more of a defensive type, obviously the angles and pinching off the different players is a little bit tougher since you’ve got 10 extra feet on each side.
HF: Are you from the Toronto area?
SO: I’m a military kid, so I kind of grew up all over the place- Winnipeg, then I resided in Toronto for about 6 years and played my Triple A hockey there. Then, I came down to Windsor and started playing, and got drafted there.
HF: Since you’ve moved around so much, did you have a favorite team growing up?
SO: Actually, I followed wherever Wayne Gretzky went. He was my favorite, so it didn’t really matter about the team, it was more the player. Lately, probably the last 5 years, it’s probably been the Detroit Red Wings, just because of their success.
HF: Is there a player you model your game after, or do you play your own way, and not worry about that so much?
SO: I think I try to model after Mike Peca. He’s a smaller type of tenacious player. He throws big hits during a game, scores big goals, and he’s obviously a great defensive player. I think I try to model myself after him, and he’d be a great prototypical player if I could be like him.
HF: You’ve been through a couple NHL training camps. What are your impressions so far of NHL competition?
SO: It’s pretty tough. I remember my first exhibition game with Dallas vs. Chicago; I didn’t even know where to go. It just seemed so fast and such a big step. So, I think my game needs to change a bit, really.
HF: Are there any parts of your game that the scouts or coaches ask you to work on, or do they pretty much leave you alone while you’re in juniors?
SO: Oh, no. They’re always helping me out, for sure. Les Jackson and Tim Bernhardt from the Dallas organization have been helping me out all year. One small thing is they kind of want me to calm down a bit, and stay out of the (penalty) box. Obviously, I can’t be in the box so much, because it’ll hurt the team.
HF: What would you say your greatest strengths are?
SO: I thrive on my determination and work ethic. I think I’m a decent hitter, and I can pop in the big goal, too. So, I think I’m more of a complete player, in that sense, and I just try to work hard.
HF: It’s almost game time. Thanks for your time, and good luck in the future.
SO: Thank you very much!