Kevin Doell is a first year pro out of the University of Denver, now leading the ECHL rookie scoring race with 33 points in 31 games. The 5’11″ 190 center plays a smart and creative two-way game for the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators and leads the team in scoring, game-winning goals (2) as well as plus/minus, at +10. Doell attended the Traverse City rookie tournament and training camp with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2003 and is under contract with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. He spoke to Hockey’s Future following practice this week.
HF: What is the Traverse City tournament like from a player’s perspective, especially one who isn’t with that organization?
KD: It was definitely a pretty awesome experience. It was first class all the way, from the plane you take there to the hotel you stay in, everything was unbelievable. I wasn’t really expecting much so I was kind of surprised how well we were treated. It was pretty grueling, four games in five days I think we played, especially coming from college. I’m used to playing two games in a week. It was definitely a little tougher than I expected. But it was good, a great experience for sure.
HF: At Thrashers training camp, it seemed like you played with more of an edge than you might with the Gladiators, was that something you were thinking about?>
KD: Yeah, I mean, once you get up to the next level anybody can score, anybody can do everything, so you pretty much just have to whatever extra thing you can bring to the table and hopefully that makes you stand out. Try and be a little feistier stuff like that. I definitely did play a little less offensive. It’s a lot tougher to score, and they already have guys who do the scoring. If you show you can do other stuff too, it improves your chances that much more.
HF: Can you describe how you see yourself fitting in with the Gladiators now? You bring a lot of offense.
KD: Yeah, offense I guess just comes with my line. We’re usually up against the top line for the other team. We play good defense. When you’re playing against top offensive players, sometimes they lack in the defensive area so that’s where we get our opportunities. We just play solid D until we get our chances, and once we get them we try to capitalize.
HF: Describe your linemates and how your line works in terms of chemistry.
KD: We’re more of a crash and bang line. We’ve been scoring. Mainly just power forwards. Blue [Bennefield] and Cam [Brown] are big guys, strong guys that I wouldn’t want to mess with. They go muck it up in the corners and I kind of follow their lead. Things have been working out so far and I hope we can keep it going.
HF: You really like to set up from behind the net. How did you get started doing that?
KD: That just comes I guess, naturally, from practice on. Obviously you have to work hard down low and you can use the net as kind of an extra player out there, use it for setting picks and stuff. It creates a lot more room out there so I try to use it to my advantage.
HF: You seem to really surprise people the way you sneak out from behind.
KD: Hopefully [laughs], that’s what I’m going for.
HF: Gwinnett is in an unusual situation of having an NHL team in the same city. What is that like from your perspective?
KD: I think the Thrashers being here gets people knowing more about hockey and with us coming in this year, it’s another team that they can go watch. I think it’s good for both organizations, and sparking more interest in the league and it’s a win-win situation.
HF: Have you been down to any games?
KD: I haven’t had time to go yet, but I wouldn’t mind going to a couple games down there. We’ve had a pretty busy schedule the first half. Hopefully I’ll get to go to a couple.
HF: Do you think the high number of rookies on the team been a benefit to you?
KD: It’s good, yeah. Especially it being mostly college guys, the rookies. We come from the same situation, four years of college and all that. Definitely the chemistry on the team is very good, guys like each other. It’s a great feeling in the locker room. It definitely helps having that many rookies for me personally coming into the team. I’ve played against some of these guys and they’ve all pretty much played college. It’s great.
HF: How has the travel been for you, it’s a lot more than college.
KD: Yeah, in college we had it pretty easy, actually, I played in Denver and we flew everywhere. I haven’t been on a bus for a while. Sometimes it gets long, but it’s definitely good for me, we have a great bus and the guys are great.
HF: Do you think the league has been what you expected?
KD: It definitely surprised me a little bit, it’s very good hockey now. You always used to hear stuff about the league, but it’s been a lot better than I expected, a good league.
HF: You say it’s better than you expected, but you’ve also been very successful in it.
KD: Yeah, you can’t really change much no matter what league you’re playing in. You just have to keep working hard hopefully get some goals.