The following is the second in a series taking a glimpse at the life of the soon to be 18-year-old Dustin Kohn, a defenseman for the WHL Calgary Hitmen. Kohn is eligible for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and Hockey’s Future is following the Edmonton, Alberta native as he copes with the pressures of playing hockey during his draft season, up to, and including, the 2005 National Hockey League Entry Draft – whenever it is held. Part 1 can be read here.
“Yeah. Sometimes you just want to…” he trailed off, pausing to think for a moment about the question. “You know that might not even happen this year. Might not even be a draft. I’m not too sure on the details of that.”
“Sure, there are times that I don’t want to even begin to think about (the draft).”
Kohn, who is available for selection in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft has begun to show the emotional wear, tear and pressures that many hockey players face, especially in their draft year.
And it began to show in the later months of 2004. After ranking steadily amongst the league’s defensemen in points and plus/minus, Kohn saw his production slow down, unable to match the pace he set at the beginning of the season.
The rigors of playing every day, a challenge that hadn’t faced Kohn last season, as well as a tough WHL schedule certainly had him exhausted. Kohn, 6’1 and 185lbs, was regularly a healthy scratch last season for the Calgary Hitmen. This season, however, has told a different story, as he’s quickly jumped up the club’s depth chart.
Extra ice coupled with Calgary’s longest roadtrip in Hitmen history wore out Kohn, who turns 18 on February 2nd.
“You get accustomed to not getting as much sleep,” said Kohn as he attempted to describe life on the road. “The hotels – you don’t get to sleep in your own bed every night. That all plays a factor in it and on such a long roadtrip, it can get gruelling.”
Finding energy was also a problem Kohn faced.
“It should always be exciting to play, and for the most part it is, but like I said when you’ve had a few games in a few nights, you’re tired and it is hard to get up, but you’ve got to find ways to do that,” added Kohn. “I tried to keep intense in the games as much as I could. The odd time it was tough to get up for a game, if you’re tired, but it’s one thing I want to try to work on as well, is try to get more intense for games and get ready to go from the start.”
That fact, however, quickly vanished from the Edmonton, Alberta native’s mind. After recharging from the Hitmen’s longest roadtrip in club history in early December, Dustin Kohn has re-established himself as an offensive force in the WHL.
Kohn continues to lead Hitmen blueliners in points, something that 2005 NHL Entry Draft first round selection Jeff Schultz did last season. This season, Kohn has outproduced Schultz by a large margin, totalling 29 points in 45 games. His point total is good enough for eighth among Western Hockey League defenders.
Kohn’s +14 places him second on the club, behind only Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect and 2005 World Junior gold medal winner Ryan Getzlaf. Kohn insists, though, that he’s not watching the WHL leaderboards.
“(I don’t watch) too much,” said Kohn, who has been criticized for worrying about his statistics this season. “I am just trying to go out there and work hard. Things will take care of themselves that way, and try not to worry about that so much.”
While it may sound like your typical hockey cliché, the tone in Kohn’s voice makes it very clear that he’s serious about what he’s saying. Always trying to learn from each game, Kohn is close to burying his fellow defensemen with his bombardment of post-game questions.
“Not so much right now,” said Kohn in regards to the quantity of his questions to teammates regarding the draft, “but asking them about how I can improve and how they thought I played on any given night. Feedback from them is very important.”
It is feedback that Kohn is looking for, and receiving. Not only is he looking towards the likes of Darryl Yacboski and Brett Carson, two older, more experienced defensemen then himself, but also young Carl Alzner, a 16-year-old defenseman, who finds himself in a similar position as Kohn was last year.
“Carl does a very good job at keeping it simple. It’s something that I should probably work on a little bit more.”
Playing with consistency is something that he also admitted he admired in Alzner, an aspect of the game that Kohn has struggled with this season. Co-Head Coach and Hitmen General Manager Kelly Kisio has faith in his young rearguard, who is used in every situation of the game.
“It definitely gives me confidence, and on nights when I’m not contributing offensively, to at least make a good first pass and get pucks out and play in those key situations,” said Kohn. “Especially when I’m in, I’m not going to say a slump, but when I’m not putting up as many points as I was at the beginning of the season.”
Putting up points isn’t something Kohn has had to worry about over his last few games. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find a defenseman as hot as Kohn is in calendar year 2005. Through eight games, Kohn has registered 9 points, including two multiple-point games. Needless to say, as much as the 2005 NHL Entry Draft is wearing on Dustin Kohn, the 2004-05 WHL season should have him holding his head high.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.