Ian White wasted little time in making a name for himself at the 2003 World Junior Tournament in Halifax. With two power play goals in Canada’s opening game victory against Sweden, White established himself as a fixture on a power play unit that would enjoy a significant amount of success throughout the tournament, and lead the Canadian side to within minutes of Gold.
White’s play was a revelation to most viewers in Canada, except for his fans in Swift Current, who have grown accustomed to White’s proclivity for finding the back of the net skating for the town’s Western Hockey League Broncos. As a 17 year old, NHL draft-eligible defenseman, White scored an astounding 32 goals, and led the league in scoring amongst defenseman with 79 points. This season, White is back to his old tricks, registering 48 points in 48 games, after contributing 6 points in 6 games to Canada’s cause in Halifax. For all his feats and scoring prowess, NHL scouts and experts have been slow to warm to the diminutive White, who, at 5-9-1/2 and 177 pounds, fails to fit the mold of modern NHL defenseman. White was ranked as just the 151st best North American skater for last year’s draft by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, despite outscoring top-ranked defensemen Jay Bouwmeester by 18 points.
The Leafs’ new Director of Amateur Scouting, Barry Trapp, was familiar with White from his days working for the CHA, scouring for talent in the remote outposts of the WHL for Canada’s National Junior team. As a result, when it came time for the Maple Leafs to select a player in the 6th round last June, Trapp had no problem suggesting White’s name to GM Pat Quinn. White has taken all the rankings and projections in stride, having gotten used to it throughout his brief career.
“There aren’t that many small players in the NHL, let alone defensemen that get drafted that high, so I figured I’d get taken down that late. It’s not a big deal. It’s been kind of an upwards battle all of my life with my size and all, so I figured I’d just take it as it comes and go from there”
HockeysFuture.com recently had the opportunity to talk to Ian White about his experience representing Canada at the World Junior Tournament, and his current season with the Swift Current Broncos.
Name: Ian White
Hometown: Steinbach, Manitoba
Acquired: 6th Round, 191st Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft
HockeysFuture: Could you describe what kind of player you are?
Ian White: I see myself as a smaller offensive defenseman that can read the ice pretty well. I’m a decent skater and have a decent shot.
HF: When and where did you start playing hockey?
IW: I started playing hockey in my hometown of Steinbach, Manitoba. I was 5 years old when I started, and I’ve been playing defense since Day One.
HF: What were your impressions of the World Junior Tournament?
IW: It was a phenomenal experience. Everything about it was first class. Me and 21 of my teammates had the time of our lives down there. It was incredible: from the fans to playing the games. Everything we did off-ice was a real memorable experience.
HF: The process of making the Canada’s junior team is a long one. At what point in time did you think you had a pretty good shot at making the team?
IW: Well, I think starting in the summer camp you get to go to that. When they invited the guys back to the winter camp in December everyone had almost an equal chance to make the team. So as soon as I got the invite in December I thought I had a good opportunity to make the lineup. I went there with all intentions of making the team and I did my best to turn the heads of the scouting staff, and fortunately enough, I did.
HF: One of the big roles you played on the team was quarterbacking the power play. Can you talk about your role on the team?
IW: Coming in I didn’t know what to expect in terms of playing time the first game. They decided to put me on the power play and spot me in sparingly where they could. I went out there on the power play where they asked me to help them out, and I think Carlo (Colaiacovo) and I kind of set the standard for play and I think we did pretty well.
HF: Did you have much experience playing with Carlo before?
IW: We didn’t have too much experience playing together before. We had never really been defensive partners before, but we read well off of each other and understood each other’s game and where to be out there on the ice so that’s what helped us.
HF: You are one of the few guys (Marc-Andre Fleury is the other) who may have the chance to come back next year and play for Canada. What do you think you would do differently to turn silver into gold?
IW: To be honest, I think we’d have to play the same style of game as we did this year. The game (against Russia) went down to the final minutes, so it was not like we were that far off. The team would have to go in with the same mentality and the same drive. I don’t think personally for this year you could have asked for much more. I think if we do the same things next year, we’ll be in the running for a gold medal again.
HF: Growing up, did you have a favorite NHL team or player?
IW: I was always a fan of Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. After he retired, I was a Colorado fan; a Joe Sakic fan.
HF: Going into the NHL draft, did you have any idea where you were going to end up?
HF: Not really. You see the rankings that I was projected to go in the 6th round, so I was fully expecting to go then. As for teams, I didn’t have any real idea where I was going to go, but I knew Barry Trapp kind of liked the style of game I played. Me and him had talked quite a bit before so I thought that there was a small opportunity I’d get drafted by the Leafs.
HF: You were ranked 151st in the CSB rankings, after having scored 32 goals as a defensemen in the WHL. Is that a little frustrating?
IW: It’s kind of been that way my whole life. When I went into the WHL draft, I got drafted 5th round. I had a pretty good season last year. It is kind of a downfall of the location out here as well. Swift Current is in the middle of Saskatchewan, so there is not a lot of scouting compared to places like Calgary and other major centers. I’m a smaller player as well. There aren’t that many small players in the NHL, let alone defenseman that get drafted that high, so I figured I’d get taken down that late. It’s not a big deal. It’s been kind of an upwards battle all of my life with my size and all, so I figured I’d just take it as it comes and go from there.
HF: How are the Broncos doing this year?
IW: We’re 2nd in our division. Probably the way it’s going to finish up. I think we’re 20 points out of 1st, and 3rd place is 20 points behind us. It’s kind of locked in that we’ll finish 2nd. We’re having another solid year. I think we’ve always consistently been one of the top teams so it’s looking pretty good for the play-offs.
HF: What are the strengths of your team this year?
IW: We just have to play with a lot of energy. We have enough skill on our team and enough guys who know how to put the puck in the net. We’re solid on defense. We have to put it all together for game nights. Some times we don’t do that. Sometimes we only have our forwards going, some night only our defense. If we put it all together as a total package, I think we’re one of the top team in the league if we do that.
HF: How was the transition returning to Swift Current after playing for Team Canada?
IW: It’s a pretty tough transition. The caliber of hockey in Halifax was top notch. We were the people’s players down there as well, so coming back, especially to a small town like Swift Current, there’s not a lot of attention from the media.
HF: One of your teammates, and a fellow Leafs prospect, Todd Ford, was dealt over the Christmas holidays. Can you describe what happened there?
IW: We had two goalies who were capable of being the #1 guy (20 year old Jeff Harvey being the other). To Ford’s credit, I think we could get more for him in a trade then for the other goalie. So that was probably the reason the team dealt Ford.
HF: You are really starting to get going yourself this year, and are enjoying a lot of personal success. The last time I checked you were 2nd in scoring amongst WHL defenseman. Is this something that’s important to you?
IW: Definitely. I think it always shows what kind of player you are, if you can compete in the scoring race. I won it last year, so I figure I may as well try to win it again this year. It’s not a major focus of mine, but it’s always nice to put up numbers and send a message to whoever’s looking that a smaller defenseman can actually play the game.
HF: As a smaller defenseman, what are the things you think you’re going to have to work on to succeed at the professional level?
IW: Personally, I have to get a lot stronger, work on my positional game defensively and work on my speed and quickness. Those are the major things that will have to get worked on before I can play in the professional ranks. The main thing is to keep improving steadily and see where it takes you.
HockeysFuture: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! Good luck with the rest of your season!
Ian White: No problem at all.