Q&A with Nate DiCasmirro

By Guy Flaming

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Under the radar for most, class=SpellE>Nate DiCasmirro has come to the
forefront for the Toronto Roadrunners this year as an all around talent with
the ability to score timely goals. The
undrafted winger was signed by the Edmonton Oilers at the end of the 2001-02
NCAA season and has played in the system for the past two years.

 

Over the course of his four years at St. Cloud State,
DiCasmirro never broke the 20-goal plateau but that is a realistic possibility
this year. DiCasmirro is having somewhat
of a breakout season with the AHL’s Toronto Roadrunners having scored 15 goals
and totalling 27 points to mid February.

 

DiCasmirro, buried behind the prospects of both the
Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens last season in Hamilton, has been getting the
opportunities this year to show what he can do.
The versatile forward has been seeing a lot of ice time including
special teams play, an obvious contributor to the terrific year the dual
citizen is enjoying.

 

The 5’11”, 195 lbs DiCasmirro was born in lang=EN-CA style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:
Arial'>Canada
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial'> but
raised in the
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial'>U.S. lang=EN-CA style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial'>
where he pursued his hockey dream through college. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> Never drafted, Nate stayed resilient and
worked hard in order to garner enough attention from NHL clubs with hopes that
one would take a chance on him and sign him as a free agent. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>

 

He did not disappoint then and hasn’t since joining
the Oiler organization.

 

“This year he’s played extremely well
and he leads the team in goals,” said Edmonton’s Assistant GM Scott
Howson. “Nate’s brought an offensive
element to his game that hasn’t been exposed in the last couple of years
because he’s now getting power play time.
He’s a stocky guy, gritty, good penalty killer and all around two-way
player that thinks the game pretty good and he plays hard in every area of the
ice. He has really made strides in his game.”

 

Hockey’s Future spoke with Nate DiCasmirro a few days
ago from his home in Toronto where he and the Roadrunners were about to take on
two of their divisional rivals over the weekend. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>

 

HF: I’m always
getting asked how to pronounce your last name.

ND:
[laughs] It’s DEE-caz-meer-o.

 

HF: Do
you have a nickname out of that too?

ND: Yeah,
it’s ‘Dee-caz’.

 

HF: style='mso-spacerun:yes'> The Oiler
media guide says that you are from a place called Burnsville,
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Minnesota
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>.

ND: I
grew up there but I was originally born in
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Ontario
but I only
lived there for about eight months or something like that. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
My dad was born and raised in Thunder Bay but
I grew up in Burnsville.

 

HF: So
you hold dual citizenship then?

ND: I do,
yes.

 

HF: How
big is
Burnsville style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>
and is that where you played your hockey as a kid?

ND: There
are about 60,000 people and it’s about 10-15 minutes south of
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Minneapolis
. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> I grew up playing there until I was about 15.

 

HF: What
factors led you to
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>St. Cloud
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>State
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>?

ND: I
think the location for one; it’s only an hour from where I grew up. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
In the freshman class of guys going there, I
had played with a couple guys already and with another nine other guys in
junior so I knew a lot of the guys and that made it a pretty good fit for me.

 

HF: You
played four years there but didn’t get drafted.
Did that surprise you or dissuade you from hockey at all?

ND: I
remember in my draft year a couple of my friends got drafted and I was kind of
disappointed that I wasn’t but it worked out nicely. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
One of the head scouts for the New Jersey
Devils was actually a counselor at my high school so I talked to him and he
said that if you’re not drafted in the first five rounds it’s almost better not
getting drafted at all. He said to wait
until you get done with school and then I’d have free agency. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> It didn’t really deter me that much, I just
knew I had to work really hard during my four years and then see what I could
do.

HF: How
did it come about that you signed with the Oilers and were there other teams
you were considering?

ND: There
were a couple of other teams involved at the time. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
We had just lost out at the National
tournament and my good friend Mark
Hartigan
just signed with style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Atlanta
. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> It was fun to see what was going on with him
at the time and I was talking to my agent and he said he was working on a
couple of things. Then he called me, I
remember it was a Wednesday night, and said the Oilers made an offer and he
goes ‘So, do you want to be an Oiler?’
They were my favorite team growing up, I remember everything back then
was about the Oilers, I even had a jersey so I was like ‘Yeah, sure!’ and he
said ‘OK well then pack your bags you’re going down to their farm club
tomorrow, you have to play’. It was one
of those whirlwind things, get to the rink and get your stuff and go.

 

HF: You
actually played a few games for
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Hamilton
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>
at the tail end of their season and then some in the playoffs didn’t you?

ND: I
played the last regular season game and then I played 10 of the 15 games
in the playoffs that year.

 

HF: Talk
about getting thrown right into action!

ND: style='mso-spacerun:yes'> Exactly, I wasn’t expecting to play at
all. I remember before the first
pre-game skate Claude (Julien) asked me how my legs were and I told him they
weren’t too bad. He said ‘You want to
play tonight?’ and I was like ‘Whoa! Sure!’ and he said ‘OK, go get something
to eat and take a nap and we’ll see you tonight’. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> I was so nervous, I remember that! style='mso-spacerun:yes'>

 

HF: Last
year was your rookie pro season. I’m
told the jump to the AHL is a big one and even more so for college players
because of the travel and the number of games.
How did you find it?

ND: You
can tell. From playing 40 games a year
for the last four years in college to playing 40 games by December in the AHL
it took a toll on me a little bit.
There’s a lot of travel and busing in at 4 AM and having to play the
next day so it’s an adjustment. I
remember my roommate Chad Hinz was like ‘I’ve been doing this for the
last six or seven years in junior’ and I had to say that I hadn’t played more
than 50 games since I was 17 years old!

 

HF: Can
you compare last season’s split affiliation in
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Hamilton
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>
to this year being basically an expansion team in
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Toronto
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>? style='mso-spacerun:yes'>

ND: There
are only three or four of us on this team that actually played for the Bulldogs
last year. We’ve got a lot of new guys,
a lot of young guys. Last year was
unreal, just the talent we had on that team alone was unreal. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
This year no one really knew what to expect
and I think things are going pretty good.
Last year I remember it was only me, (Mike) Bishai, (Marc-Andre)
Bergeron and I think one other kid who weren’t drafted in one of the first
three rounds on last year’s team so [laughs] we kind of had to go with the flow
last year.

 

HF: In talking recently
with Scott Howson and Kevin Lowe, they feel that the split affiliation probably
hurt your development because you had to play behind so many other players.

ND: style='mso-spacerun:yes'> Exactly.
I mean we had Michael Ryder, Marcel Hossa, Jani Rita, Raffi Torres and
all those guys ahead of me so it was hard to get into the lineup when you have
guys like that around. I talked to Scott
about it last year and he told me to just keep working hard because it would be
different when we moved to Toronto and hey, that’s hockey and you have to go
with what you get.

HF: What
is your role with the Roadrunners this year?

ND: I’m
more of a checking guy that can score.
Throughout the course of the year, Chad Hinz and I are playing together
and they put us up against the other team’s top lines to shut them down. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
But I’ve also been playing on the power play
and the penalty kill and I think I’ve picked it up a bit lately. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> That’s my role, to stop the other team from
scoring and try to put a couple in the net for my own team.

HF: The last time I saw
the stats you were tied for the team lead with 15 goals, does that surprise you
at all?

ND: A
little bit, I’ve been kind of hoping it would go this way though. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
Ever since I can remember, even as a squirt
at ten years old, my first year in any league I always just seemed to feel my way
through it and adjust and then my second year it’s always been time to get
something done. So I was hoping for this
to happen and I hope it continues.

 

HF: What
style of game would you say describes you best?

ND: I’m
about 5’11”, 195lbs but I’m a gritty guy.
I like to get in the corners and bang around, be a bit of a pest out
there. I’ve only had one fight this year
but I’m always in the corners.

 

HF: Who
have your linemates been on most nights, other than
Hinz?

ND: Sean
McAslan
for the last bunch of games and I was
with Mike Bishai when he came back from injury and before he was called
up.

HF: Who
is your roommate and do you have any good stories to share?

ND: class=SpellE>Bishai is on the road and he’s my roommate at home
too. Me, ‘Beesh’ and Bobby Allen
have a place here in Toronto. They keep
us together and they call us brothers almost.
They get us mixed up all the time, (Geoff) Ward will be like ‘Beesh!’
and I’ll be like ‘I’m DiCaz!’ Everybody
does it all the time.

 

HF: I do
it too but for me it’s because the Oilers signed both of you within days of
each other.

ND: Yeah
it wasn’t even a week after he got here and we both kind of knew each other a
bit just because we both went the college route. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
I remember the night I came in we went for
something to eat and we sat there and (talked) for I don’t know how long and by
the end of the night we’d agreed to live together the next year. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> I’d only known him for about five hours
before we agreed to room together so that was kind of cool.

 

HF: Have
you talked to him since he was recalled by
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;
color:black'>Edmonton
style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>?

ND: I
talk to him just about every day I think.
He’s doing really well, I got a chance to watch two of the games but I
hear he’s been playing well so it’s good for him.

 

HF: When
other players around you get called up to the Oilers, often players with
smaller numbers statistically, does that discourage you?

ND: Not
really. I mean (Bishai) is a highly
skilled center so we don’t play the same way.
I’ve never gotten mad about any of that kind of stuff, I’m happy for
those guys and it makes me work harder seeing those guys going up. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
I feel I can play just as well as they can
and so I think if I just stay positive my chance will come.

 

HF: It’s
crowded on your wing so the wait could be a longer one.

ND: I’m versatile
so I can play anywhere though [laughs], I’ve played left or right and even
center. I haven’t played center this
year but for the wings (Ward) just sends me out wherever depending on class=GramE>who
I’m playing with; if they’re left handed I’ll play on
the right. It doesn’t bother me either
way.

 

HF: Tell
me which teammates have impressed you down there this year.

ND: Tony
(Salmelainen). Tony’s always
plays very well. For the younger guys I
think (Doug) Lynch is playing really well, really solid, so he’s
impressed me quite a bit lately.

 

HF: I’ll
be talking to Dan Baum later this week, what can you tell
me about him and what he brings to the team?

ND: He
kind of hurt his neck, some mild whiplash I think. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
He likes to mix it up and chirp the other guy. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> He can do a lot of things quite well, he can
hit, he can do everything in the corners and he can shoot. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> He’s a good all around player. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>

 

HF: The
playoffs are still within your reach, what do the Roadrunners have to do to
ensure you make it in to the postseason?

ND: I
think we have to keep our play consistent.
A lot of times we’ll come out and have an unbelievable game and play so
well but then the next game will go the other way. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
I think we can play with any team in the
league but we have to find the confidence to be able to put together four or
five wins in a row.

HF: Is
anything less than a playoff birth considered a failure in your mind?

ND: style='mso-spacerun:yes'> Yeah. I
want to make the playoffs. I’ve never
been on a team that didn’t make the playoffs and being a first year team people
might not expect us to but I do. I want
to be on the first year team that does make the playoffs. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>

 

HF: How
do you find life in
Toronto style='font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Arial;color:black'>
and is the team getting much public support?

ND: It’s
gong pretty well. Everybody knew coming
in here that this was Leafs territory and I think the fans at first didn’t know
any of the players so the atmosphere at the rink wasn’t great. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
Now things have turned around quite a bit and
the building is loud and you see signs in the stands for specific players, the
fans love Rocky (Thompson) a lot! I
think the marketing people are doing well down here, they’re getting us out and
people are starting to hear about us. We
go out and do player appearances and the kids know who we are and they say we
play fun hockey so I think it’s going pretty good.

 

HF: You
mentioned Rocky and I’m told he’s the team practical joker. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>
Has he gotten anyone really good yet?

ND: He
almost got me with the old shaving cream in the towel bit but I saw it at the
last second before I started drying off.

HF: What
will it take for you to graduate to the NHL and have you set any timeframe for
you to do so?

ND: I’d
love to get at least one game in this year considering no one knows what’s
going to be happening with next season.
I’d like to see where I’m at against the NHL level opponents but I’ve
got to keep working hard and on the little areas of my game, get stronger and
faster and things like that and I have to make sure I’m playing the same way
every night. After talking to (Bishai),
he says you just can’t make mistakes and you have to be really strong
defensively. If you can’t play strong
defensively I don’t know how you can play in the NHL so I have to make sure I
can take care of both ends.

 

 

The Roadrunners have climbed their way out of
the Northern Division basement and into a playoff position after the weekend’s
schedule had been completed. With just a
month to go in the regular season, the first year club looked like a good bet
to make the post season but had a lot of work to do to lock up a playoff spot
for certain.

 

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