While tensions grow as the date for the 2004 draft
draws closer, now has never been a better chance for those not yet eligible to
observe and learn. 2005 eligible member of the Calgary Hitmen, Dustin Kohn, is
doing just that.
In his 16-year-old season in the Western Hockey
League, rookie Kohn is doing whatever he can to fit into the line-up. The
native of Edmonton, AB has taken shifts at both forward and defense this
season, as injuries continue to strike the Hitmen squad.
But Kohn, who had 27 points in 34 games with Edmonton
KC in 2002-03, has been keeping his eyes and ears open in respect to the draft
eligible players on the Calgary Hitmen, particularly the trio of eligible
defensemen, Jeff Schultz, Andy Rogers, and Brett Carson.
Hockey’s Future talked to Kohn about the NHL Entry
Draft, his participation in the Under-17 World Challenge, as well as his
2003-04 rookie campaign with the Calgary Hitmen.
HF: Your draft year, 2005, is over a calendar year
away. Although it is likely tucked away in the back of your mind, how are you
preparing for the event?
DK: It is in the back of my mind. Being around all
the guys that are going to the Top Prospects game (Andrew Ladd, Jeff Schultz,
Andy Rogers, Brett Carson), they’re all really pumped about their draft. I’ve
heard a lot of encouraging things from a few people so I’m excited too. To
prepare, I’m going to be working out really hard this summer, making sure I’m
getting stronger. That’s one of the main aspects I’m focusing on.
HF: Is it a huge advantage, having three defensemen,
as well as forward Andrew Ladd, in their draft year? Is it something where
you’ve been watching how they act and react to certain circumstances and
DK: Yeah. It’s great for me to see how they handle it
and how they handle these pressure situations. I’ve been in pressure situations
too, but nothing compared to this yet, so it’s good that they are able to set
some kind of example for me.
HF: It’s clearly evident that your current season is
your main focus. Last year was spent
with Edmonton KC of the AMHL, and undoubtedly you saw more ice time there. How
have you adjusted to being a rookie and participating in a limited role?
DK: Oh, you know, it’s been alright. Every
16-year-old that comes in the league; first of all, it’s a privilege to be
playing in this league at 16, not a whole lot of guys do that, but in doing
that is a privilege in itself. I feel like I’m contributing when I can, whether
it be on forward or defense. I’m learning more then one role here and that
cannot be bad.
HF: Is the WHL what you’ve expected it to be, or is
it something you really couldn’t prepare for?
DK: It wasn’t really like I expected at first. My
first few games I played forward and they just seemed to fly by. My second game
in Red Deer I scored two goals so I sort of thought to myself that this might
be easy. The pace is a lot faster, but the main thing is the guys are a lot
bigger in this league. In midget I could go end to end, and push off with my
legs. It’s so much harder here, you’ve got to work for every inch out there.
HF: You mentioned your time in the AMHL, what sorts
of adjustments have you had to make to your game in order to survive in the
DK: You don’t have as much time with the puck,
especially playing defense. In this league, if you have the puck, you have two
6’4”, 220lb forecheckers coming down on you. It’s a little bit different! In
midget, a little head fake might turn off a 5’7” guy.
HF: What have you done so far to elevate your game to
DK: Working hard in the summer has really helped. I
also get a lot of encouragement from my parents and from my billets. That
really helps. Trying to keep my confidence up is a key thing, but just working
hard is very important.
HF: What would you say are your strengths out on the
DK: I’ve been told my skating, my passing, and just
seeing the ice are my strengths out there on the ice. My weaknesses are going
to be my strength and putting on some weight in the summer should help that.
HF: You just recently competed in the Under-17 World
Challenge over the Christmas holidays representing Team Pacific. What was that
experience like for you?
DK: That was good for me. To be in
a situation like that, with a group of guys coming together in a short period
of time, because there will be situations down the road that I’ll be in like
that. It’s also a good experience to see the guys I’m going to be drafted with
and competing for spots against. I thought I had a good tournament down there
and got a lot of positive feedback from some people down there, so I was happy.
HF: What does an experience like the tournament do
for a young player such as yourself? What does a player take from that?
DK: Just the whole experience of
seeing new places, meeting new people, creating new relationships. You’re going
to have to be good at that down the road, you’ll have to be thrown into a
locker room full of guys you don’t know. It was an excellent learning
HF: Finally, what can we expect from Dustin Kohn in
the 2004-05 Western Hockey League season?
DK(laughing): Hopefully some more
points! I’m going to work really hard in the summer and put on some weight and
hopefully I’ll be able to improve and see some more powerplay time and
hopefully get my numbers up.