In their inaugural NHL draft (1999) the Atlanta Thrashers used their eight round pick (217th overall) to select defenseman Garnet Exelby. Exelby was drafted out of major junior hockey in the Western Hockey League. He played most of his career for Saskatoon and played his final 22 games for Regina.
In 189 WHL games over three years he amassed a modest total of 13 goals, 29 assists and 42 points. Exelby’s 331 penalty minutes over three WHL seasons is proof that the 6’1” defenseman is not afraid to throw his weight around.
Exelby turned professional prior to the 2001-2002 season and he was assigned to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. In his rookie season Exelby scored 7 points and racked up 257 penalty minutes in 75 games. Exelby was a top four defenseman for an AHL club that caught fire in the playoffs and went on to win the AHL Championship.
With the assistance of the Atlanta Thrashers, Hockey’s Future had the opportunity to ask Garnet a few questions during the Thrashers Prospect Camp held last week.
HF: How would you describe your style of game to someone who has never seen you play in person?
GE: Well I would have to describe myself as a physical defenseman who likes to throw the body around. And get in a couple of scraps here and there, just play a simple game, moving the puck out of my own end and stay on the plus side of things.
HF: Heading into this least season did you have any personal or team goals?
GE: All I really wanted to do was come into Chicago and get myself a chance to play. To get some icetime to get better to improve on almost everything: moving the puck, my overall sense for the game, and to get that experience that in the end is going to help me the most.
HF: Who has been most influential person in assisting you during your hockey career? Parents, coaches, teammates?
GE: Well, there’s been a couple. I mean everybody’s influential in their own way, I guess. But I had a coach in junior by the name of Brad McCrimmon, who played a number of years in the NHL, I think it was something like 18 years. He helped me with little tricks, learning [how to play] in my own end–moving the puck better–just overall things to make me more prepared, so that when I face these situations in games they would come more naturally to me.
I also have to mention my Mom and Dad who has supported me a lot throughout my career and have given me a chance to play where I am right now.
HF: Other than being drafted by a NHL team, what has been the highlight of your hockey career so far?
GE: Well, that’s tough to say. I’d have to go with a couple years ago when I got an invitation to the Canadian World Junior Camp in Toronto to tryout for the Canadian National Junior Team. Going into the season it was something I never expected to happen, but I ended up starting the season very well and got the opportunity to go try out. In the end I didn’t make it, but the overall experience was fun and just to have the chance to tryout for your country was pretty exciting for me.
HF: Do you have any pre-game superstitions?
GE: Not a lot, I’d have to say maybe the only one I do have is during the anthem before the game I don’t like to stand on the blueline. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. I like to stand maybe a foot or so back of the blueline, and just listen and wait for the game to start.
HF: Have you ever faced any times of adversity during your career, such as a severe injury?
GE: Oh, yeah I think everybody goes through a little bit of adversity here and there. As far as injuries go, I think the worst was when I had a broken wrist a couple of years ago. I ended up playing with a cast on my left hand for three and a half months, pretty much half the season. I think it turned out almost better for me because I learned how to play with this cast so if I ever face something like this in the future it will be a lot easier for me.