Alberta born Kyle Brodziak was a seventh round pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Some might find it hard to believe that a seventh round draft choice would be among the leaders in WHL league scoring this year, but Brodziak has been at or near the top of that list since October. Others would then wonder how it is possible that such a talent was still available so late in the draft at all.
The reason for that is because to many teams and pundits around the NHL, any player who has already gone through the draft once isn’t likely to become much more of a player further on down the road.
That’s a concept the Oilers clearly disagree with.
“That’s another bad myth in hockey,” said Oiler VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast. “That we should give up on 18-year-olds if they haven’t been drafted their first time around.”
Oiler scouts, beginning with Lorne Davis, took notice of Brodziak last year during a 62-point season. Eventually Brodziak made is way onto the team’s “must see list” and Kevin Prendergast made Brodziak a priority for his scouts to see.
“I went to see him play three games on a trip at the end of the year because Kevin Prendergast ask me to go and see him,” commented 11-year Oiler scout Chris McCarthy. “I said to myself ‘How the hell did this guy go through the draft?’”
The Oilers are very pleased with Brodziak’s rapid development and are enamoured with his natural born talents.
“Kyle had a good knack for moving the puck smartly, reading the play well and playing well without the puck,” said McCarthy. “I’m surprised he’s done as well as he has as far as getting all the points, I knew he could score but I didn’t know he could score this well, so he’s been a pleasant surprise and we’re thrilled.”
“Here’s a guy who’s got some size, can skate very well, he’s got a natural touch in front of the net,” continued McCarthy. “You can’t overlook guys who, when they have the puck they know what they want to do with it — almost like an instinct. Instead of getting the puck and then having to think about what to do with it, it’s like he knows.”
Not only has Brodziak been a scoring dynamo this year but also he also recently represented the WHL against the touring Russia Selects for two exhibition games. Then only just last week Brodziak was added to the short list of players who will try to earn a job representing Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championships.
Hockey’s Future was able to catch up with Brodziak in the morning a few hours before the WHL All-Star team faced off against the Russian in Calgary.
Q: The Oilers Media Guide lists you as being from St. Paul, AB but I’ve often heard it said that you are from Vegreville, AB so which is it?
A: I was born in St. Paul and I lived there until I was in grade 2 then I moved to Vegreville and have lived there ever since.
Q: Before we talk about this year or the draft… I’m told that you chose not to opt in for your first draft eligible year. Looking back now was that a good decision on your part?
A: Actually I did opt in and just didn’t get drafted. I didn’t expect anything the first year but my agent thought that maybe something would happen so I decided to opt in and then nothing did happen. This year I guess I was just automatically entered into the draft.
Q: Edmonton drafted you in the seventh round. Were you surprised that you were still available then?
A: I didn’t really know what was going to happen, I didn’t expect anything or want anything in particular I was just hoping something would happen and when I found out it was Edmonton, I was really excited being that it’s so close to home.
Q: Was Edmonton the team you cheered for as a kid?
A: Yeah but I was kind of a back and forth between teams. I was a bit of a bandwagon jumper (laughs).
Q: So which other teams did you like then?
A: I was a big fan of the Islanders for a while and when I was younger I liked the Canadiens.
Q: But when you were younger the Islanders were terrible!
A: I remember the last year the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, the Islanders beat the Penguins in Game 7 of Round 2 and that was when I started liking them.
Q: Getting back to the draft, when you were still available in the seventh round, were you getting nervous that you might not be selected at all?
A: I wasn’t listening to it at all or anything like that; I was fishing for the weekend! (laughs) When my mom called me and told me it was the seventh round I was pretty excited.
Q: Did you have any idea that the Oilers had an interest in you?
A: No, no idea at all. No interviews or anything like that.
Q: Does being a late round selection give you any extra motivation in any way?
A: I don’t really use that as motivation, the only motivation I use is trying to get to the next step in my hockey career.
Q: Tell me what the mini-camp experience in June was like for you.
A: I was actually pretty nervous. It was almost the next day after the draft and I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know many of the guys so I went in just taking it step by step. I had a lot of fun at that camp and it was a good experience overall.
Q: Speaking with Zack Stortini recently, he commented that those of you who were drafted just a few days before had that as a bond and you clicked together because of it.
A: Yeah they’re good guys for sure and I did hang out with them a bit. I knew Dan Baum and Doug Lynch too because we played in the same league so those guys were a little easier to talk to I think. That was the bond I found was for guys who played in the same league.
Q: What did you take back from that camp that has benefited you the most?
A: Seeing other guys my age and what their level is and how hard they work, I just realized what it’s going to be like in the future.
Q: Did the Oilers give you some ideas of what they want you to work on?
A: I know what I need to work on. I need to get stronger and bigger and I thought I played well on the ice in the summer and the fall camps but there is still a lot of off-ice stuff I could do to improve myself.
Q: It was your first NHL camp this past September; I imagine you were nervous for that.
A: Very, very nervous. I knew sort of what to expect but because it was my first camp I didn’t know everything so I just dove in. I was really nervous though and was hoping I would just play my best. It was a really good experience and it helped my confidence for sure.
Q: I thought the day where you stood out the most was in the game against the University of Alberta. What was your best day to you?
A: I think that was when I felt the best out there, that’s for sure. It was that “last impressions” thing that I could leave them with so I just went out there and tried giving it my all.
Q: Did you know that was going to be your last day in camp?
A: I assumed but I didn’t know. Our league was starting in a few days and so I figured that was what was going to happen.
Q: What were your goals for this year prior to the start of the season?
A: I didn’t really set any personal goals in terms of statistics or anything like that. I wanted to become a more consistent player and that’s the main thing.
Q: To what do you attribute your hot start to the season and are you maybe even a little surprised at how many points you are accumulating?
A: Yeah I’m pretty surprised! I guess you could always look at my linemates because they’re pretty phenomenal. I think we’ve really clicked well this year and that’s been a big help.
Q: Is anything but a Memorial Cup appearance for Moose Jaw considered a failure in your eyes?
A: I don’t see that as a failure for a team. Last year, as an example, we made it to Game 7 in Round 2 and I didn’t take that as a failure at all. We came out hard every night but that’s the way it goes with playoff hockey. Our goal right now is to get into the playoffs and everyone on our team is expecting to do that. Then once we get there we’ll take it game by game and if we give it our all every night then I guess we’ll be happy with that.
Q: How big are you right now and how much bigger do you want to get?
A: About 6’2″ 195lbs. right now but I’d like to be about 210 lbs.
Q: You have one more year left of Junior eligibility; do you intend to play that out to the end of next season?
A: My goal for next year is to be playing pro somewhere but if that didn’t work out I would be happy to come back to Moose Jaw. But, I definitely want to play (professional) next year.
Q: Your line is logging a ton of ice time this year, are you feeling fatigued at all yet?
A: Nope! It’s still early in the season. There are nights where you come out and you are pretty tired but then you get a day off and that helps you out for sure. Like I said, it’s still early in the season and I came into the year in pretty good shape so that’s helped me so far.
Q: What does playing in the WHL/Russia series mean to you?
A: It’s exciting to be in this and it’s definitely an honor considering who all the other guys are in the locker room. It’s my first experience with it so I’m just taking it all in right now.
If Brodziak is successful in making the Canadian Junior team then he’ll gain a lot more international experience in just a few weeks. Already the Oilers are eager to see how much better Brodziak can get over the rest of the season and an appearance at the World Junior Championships in Finland would be a huge boost to the young player’s development.
Whether Brodziak will play professionally next season or return to Moose Jaw as a 20-year-old will be determined next fall. The Oilers are already licking their chops though.
“I think we stole this kid late,” said McCarthy with a wink, a smile. “Considering where we got him, if he turns out to play it’ll make the staff look like geniuses!”