When Rob Schremp asked to be traded from the Mississauga IceDogs at the start of this season, a few eyebrows were raised in the hockey world. Although Mississauga had been an organization in disarray since its inception, it had really turned the corner and with former Calgary Flames coach Greg Gilbert behind the bench. Better things were expected from the team and it was thought that the former first pick overall in the OHL draft would be a big part of their future.
When you hear about players asking for trades, your first impressions are not good, but Schremp has been anything but selfish since coming to London. The eyebrows that are raised now are usually due to amazement at a move that he just made on the ice versus off of the ice. He is a confident young man who has worked hard at fitting in with the new team and has bought into their style of play. He is always trying something new. He has been great with the kids and gives several young fans a thrill by giving them a puck during warm-up.
Because Schremp had to adjust to a different style of play when he came to London, he perhaps didn’t put up the numbers that some people expected of him. Not that 30 goals and 45 assists in 63 games are poor numbers, but they pretty much mirror his rookie season of 74 points in 65 games. He played probably three to five minutes less a game in London than he would in Mississauga, but was a key component in the Knights winning the regular season title.
He was a big part of the league’s best power play as he gave the Knights another two options to go along with their bread and butter which is a crisp pass to a man parked on the edge of the crease or feed Dennis Wideman on the point and let his hard shot do the rest. Schremp is able to come off the half boards and take a shot himself if a seam opens up, and he is excellent at passing through the box to whoever is paired with Wideman which creates a lot of open ice and generally a good scoring chance.
Schremp is a highly skilled forward who is a good bet to go very high in the upcoming NHL draft. He is currently ranked third overall by International Scouting Services, in addition to his high rating by CSS. Hockey’s Future caught up with him after Game 3 in the Western Conference semi-final, a series that has London poised to sweep after taking the first three games.
HF: Rob, this was a big year for you, a critical one being your draft year, have you met your expectations this year?
RS: Yeah, I think so. The main goal was to put a good playoff run together and we had a pretty good season, and I’m just learning how to play the game.
HF: You are playing for a guy who played 20 years in the NHL, what has Dale Hunter taught you this year?
RS: A lot of defense, how to play away from the puck, how to play through the trap, not to cheat on offense. He pretty much teaches you discipline out there. In the beginning it’s a bit frustrating because you want to go on offense, but you really appreciate it in the playoffs when the games are closer checking and it’s paying off as we have won seven games in a row.
HF: Including playoffs and the regular season you have only lost what, one game in your last 25 or so?
RS: Yeah I was just reading that today, I think we are 23 and 1.
HF: That’s a pretty impressive record.
RS: Yeah we put a pretty good stretch together at the end. We lost to Guelph once in their barn but we were a man down the whole game. It wasn’t exactly the best officiating that I’ve ever seen.
HF: Speaking of Guelph, how hard is it not to look ahead? I know that this series isn’t over yet and you are still dealing with Erie, but I’m sure a lot of guys have that in the back of their minds that the two powerhouse teams could be meeting in the match-up that everyone wanted.
RS: Well you never know. I don’t think that anyone is looking ahead right now, everyone is focused on Erie and this series and it was the same against Windsor, you worry about the game that you are playing and what happens in this series. We worry about our game right before we go on the ice and concentrate on what we have to do and I think that is why we have been so successful.
HF: Let’s talk a little bit about superstitions; you and Bryan Hamm of Erie both like to be last guy off the ice. Also you like to throw a ball around with goalie Ryan MacDonald before the game?
RS: Yeah, me and Ryan like to throw it around before the game, warm up a little bit and loosen up.
HF: Any other superstitions out there?
RS: I have my old skates, I took the blades off of them and I like to walk around with them on before the game. I scored a couple of goals one game after doing that.
HF: How long have you been doing last guy off the ice?
RS: A long time, ever since I was young.
HF: Growing up in New York why did you chose OHL over NCAA, or did you even consider going the NCAA route?
RS: I think the NCAA is a good route if you are a late bloomer, but the OHL is a good direct route to the NHL. We play 68 games, the style is similar to the NHL. In college hockey they play 30 maybe 40 games. The OHL means more hockey and I think it was a better fit for me. I think I have a chance to play in the NHL soon and thought that this was the best way to go.
HF: Playing with London, this is a team that is heavily scouted and playing with Dave Bolland another potential first round pick, there are always scouts in the stands watching your every move, looking for flaws, looking for what you do well, does that ever bother you?
RS: There are always going to be people who think you do everything wrong and there are going to be others who just love what you do. You can’t worry about it too much and get distracted by it. You just have to come into every game and stay focused and play your game. I know what I bring and I try to help out the team. You can’t start worrying about it, letting it get on your mind and pressing for points. You just keep it at the back of your mind and focus on what you have to do.
HF: What was your minor hockey like in New York compared to what we have in Ontario? I take it that there was a lot more travel and a lot fewer teams?
RS: Yeah we played a lot of tournaments in Ontario; I think we were up in Canada about every weekend playing. I played Bantam Major; I guess you call it AAA here in Ontario. We were up here a lot; we would go to Montreal and whatnot for tournaments.
HF: America has produced a lot of world-class players like Tony Amonte, Bill Guerin, Mike Modano, etc. Then there seemed to be a bit off a drop-off but we are starting to see a bit of resurgence in your age group. Is there any particular reason for that?
RS: I don’t know. It’s just a matter of good talent. I know a couple of buddies of mine that might get drafted this year who play with the national program. Lately there are a lot of guys coming out of college hockey who are really good players. I decided I wanted to go the OHL route when I was about 12; Tim Connolly was an idol of mine when he was playing with the Erie Otters.
HF: International hockey is huge here in Canada, as you have probably figured out. Now you guys won the World Juniors this year, did that make any impact back home?
RS: No on ESPN there is lots of baseball, basketball and football, but not much hockey. We have hockey towns in Michigan and in other spots, but it’s not like in Canada where you have rinks everywhere, in the States it’s the baseball diamonds that you see everywhere.
HF: Do you play any baseball?
RS: I used to, but I don’t have any time anymore in the summer as I’m working out all of the time.
HF: What are your interests off of the ice?
RS: I like to golf, hang out with my buddies. I usually work out in the mornings and then go golfing in the afternoon.
HF: I know a lot of your teammates went to see Nickelback when they were in town, did you make it to the show?
RS: Yeah Dale gave us his box for the night and we all went.
HF: Who were some of your biggest influences growing up in hockey?
RS: My uncle was a pretty big influence on me, Mike Smith. I had some pretty good coaches, John Walsh, and Don Grier he ran a rink that was pretty much just two blocks away from my house. He said whenever you want to come for a skate just come over and I was always there. Scott Norton my agent has just been awesome, he seems to care a lot.
HF: You’ve been projected to go in the top 10 most of the year, maybe top 5, what do you have to work on the most?
RS: The most? I would say my defense and my play away from the puck. Last year I was minus 17 and this year I ended up about plus ten or something like that so that was a big improvement. Two different styles between here and Mississauga, there it was more run and gun, this year it’s been play tight defense first and then worry about offense. It was a big adjustment at first, I kind of struggled when I first came over I wasn’t producing because I was worried about my defense.
HF: You have been playing a lot of right wing in the playoffs, any reason for the adjustment or is it just a matter of shaking up the lines?
RS: I have no idea (laughing). Dale likes to change the lines up a lot and put different combinations out there. I thought that I might have a problem with it at first I’ve never played wing in my life, but when I’m out there with Bolland and (Scott) Sheppard it makes it pretty easy and it’s been no problem at all.
HF: You have scored goals in every playoff game on the road so far, but have been a bit snakebitten here at home, any reason for that?
RS: I have no idea, I’ve been getting lots of chances here at home, and they just aren’t going in. I had my share tonight and maybe I should have shot a few more times when I had the chance.
HF: Your one goal here in London was on a one-timer. That is a shot that I’ve noticed that you seem to be working on a lot?
RS: Yeah Dale likes to put me out there on four on three or four on four situations and we are really looking for it. We have guys like (Dennis) Wideman and (Corey) Perry who use it a lot and we are all trying to move it around and open up that shot.