Standing over 6’3″ and weighing in at 225 pounds, Mark Fistric is the largest defenseman in the WHL Vancouver Giants lineup at only 17 years old. A gentleman off the ice, he’s nothing of the sort on the ice, a rugged defender who keeps the crease clear.
Fistric took time out before a recent game at the Saddledome to talk about his season, his development, and the 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
HF: You were born in Edmonton, so is this somewhat of a homecoming for you?
MF: Yeah, pretty much, this and Red Deer, you know most of the family comes down and watches so it’s definitely a motivator to get up for the games.
HF: Do they usually make the trip down to Calgary as well as Red Deer?
MF: Oh yeah every time we’re in Calgary or Red Deer my family makes it out and they bring all the relatives and they all come out and watch and it’s really exciting.
HF: Is there any added pressure having them in the crowd?
MF: Nope, not much. You know they’re supporting you all the way, so you know whatever you do, they just come through.
HF: What have been some notable differences in your game comparing last season to this?
MF: I think, you know, given the amount of playing time I had when I was 16 gave me a lot more experience in the league and broke me in a lot quicker then a typical 16-year-old (coming into the WHL). I brought a lot of that motivation into my second year in the league and improve my game confidence wise.
HF: In what areas do you feel you need to work on to take the next step in your career after junior, whether it be the ECHL, AHL or even NHL?
MF: I’ve just got to keep playing consistent. Consistency is a big thing, and if I can remain consistent, I think that’ll be a huge success for me.
HF: Let’s move on to the current season. The club is on a five game losing streak, have there been a lot of ups and downs with the turnover of the players for the Giants in comparison to last season?
MF: Well, we’ve made a lot of trades throughout the year and as a group we’re really close. There haven’t been many ups and downs, we go out there and try to compete every night and we don’t really worry about the outcome. We’re on a five game losing streak but it’s really not going to effect the way we view the game tonight, we’re just going to keep going about our way and hopefully the breaks go our way tonight.
HF: Looking forward to the playoffs now, the Giants are sitting in third in the BC Division, what do you feel the Vancouver Giants have to do to make some noise in the post-season?
MF: We just need to stay together as best as possible, don’t let anything come between us and stick to the game plan. I think we have a team that’s very capable of going deep into the playoffs.
HF: Let’s talk about the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, because I’m sure that’s been in the back of your mind all season. Right now you’re ranked 13th among Western Hockey League skaters.
MF: You try not to think about it as much as possible, but it still lingers in the back of your head, but until then you can’t worry and just have to take it game by game and just play my game and do whatever I can to help my team, and in the end you know, we’ll see where I stand come June.
HF: Are there any expectations or any added pressure knowing that the 2004 Entry Draft is just a stone’s throw away?
MF: Yeah you know it’s definitely around the corner, after Christmas you really want to bear down as best you can to up your status as best you can, but I’m just going to go out there and try to help my team as best I can and hopefully move up as high as I can.
HF: Have you talked to any of your teammates, I know Adam (Courchaine) was selected in the 2003 Entry Draft by Minnesota, and there’s a couple others already selected. Have you looked to them for any advice coming up to the draft?
MF: Not really, they’re the type of player they are, and I’m my type of player. They did whatever they needed too to get themselves drafted, and I’ve just got to do whatever I’ve got to do to get myself in the same position.
HF: Describe the Mark Fistric game for those that don’t get to see you on a regular basis.
MF: Physical, consistent, a guy who can log lots of minutes, who’s relied upon for lots of minutes, relied on by coaches, just go out there and be physical and contribute in every way I can.
Vancouver Giants Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations Joey Kenward offered these words on his team’s young defenseman.
HF: Mark is a big guy, a physical defenseman, what has he meant to the Giants in solidifying the club’s back end?
JK: He’s a huge physical presence whenever he steps off the boards. He’s a guy that in the first half of the year, maybe didn’t play as physical as much as some of the NHL scouts were expecting him to. Some of the preliminary rankings among WHL defensemen, there’s a lot of guys ahead of him, even though they may not be as big in stature. Mark, in the second half of the year, is definitely going to be playing to his size and to his strength. He’s a guy that you do not want to step in front of the opposing goaltender against because he will punish you, and he’s a guy that’s learning that very quickly. He’s a guy that’s also going to be still growing, he stands, what, 6’4″, 200+ pounds, and he’s only 17, he’s still getting bigger. He’s starting to develop more of a mean streak on the ice and I think when scouts, come draft day, when they realize they look up and down their depth charts as to which defenseman to choose from. Would you want this guy at 18, in your plans? Maybe not, but I’d certainly love to have him when he’s 24-25, and I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people on draft day, where he’s selected.
HF: You certainly can’t appreciate his size until he’s standing right next to you. Has he been feeling any pressure with the 2004 draft, or is he putting it in the back of his mind and concentrating at the season at hand?
JK: Yeah, he’s certainly concentrating on what his duty is right now with the Giants and he’s only a second year defenseman, he’s still learning. There’s no question he hasn’t figured this game out yet, nobody who’s playing junior hockey has figured out the game yet and he’s a guy that’s not really worried about where he’s ranked, where he’s expected to be drafted, if he makes the prospects game, no. He’s just worries about what he can control, and maintain his strong ability to play and improving on his skating and improving on his overall style of game, and all the other stuff will work itself out. He’s certainly a kid with a good head on his shoulders. You can see a lot of other guys really worry about the draft and worry about where they’re going to be in the next couple of years, in the future. He’s a guy that’s concerned about what he can do for himself right now, and he knows the rest of the stuff with sort itself out in the end.
Discuss 2004 prospects on Hockey’s Future’s main prospects board.