Turning heads and putting opponents on guard with his tenacious play in the WHL, Phoenix Coyotes prospect and Tri-City defenseman Logan Stephenson is happy to be back on the ice with the Americans.
When the 2004-05 WHL season began, Stephenson was nursing a shoulder injury and looked on from stands while his Americans endured a long and rough start. The ride was so rough that Tri-City sunk to the bottom of the U.S. Division.
With just about two-thirds of the season behind them, the Americans (who are now healthy) are looking ahead to the future. Thanks to the hard work and dedication from players like Stephenson, hopes of a playoff berth have become more of a reality. Headed into the final weekend of play in the month of January, the Americans caught the fourth place team, the Spokane Chiefs. They look to get past the Chiefs, while taking it one step at a time.
Stephenson talked with Hockey’s Future earlier this week after a commanding 8-1 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. He recounts his busy summer, a late start to the season, Tri-City’s bright future, and looks ahead to his own.
HF: You had a busy and productive summer. You were drafted by the Coyotes, you attended the junior development camp for Team Canada and you also participated in the Rookie Tournament in Anaheim, CA, for Phoenix. How was that?
LS: It was a really good experience. As far as playing, it was a really great experience to get that type of exposure to that level of hockey so early on. The tournament opens your eyes a bit because I realized just how better you need to be, to compete at the next level. I think the tournament was a great experience for my development.
HF: Did anyone catch your eye during the Rookie tournament that, you would be intrigued to play alongside with in the near future?
LS: Keith Ballard. He is a really, really talented guy. He would be a really good guy to play with because he carry the offense from a defensive standpoint and I could focus more on our own zone. I think he would be fun to play with because he is so skilled and smart with the puck.
HF: What was going through your mind when you hurt your shoulder in the last game of the Rookie tournament?
LS: Honestly, I was glad that I at least made it through the tournament. I mean there was only a few minutes in the game. It was unfortunate that it happened but I battled through it. After that, I got on the bike right away to keep myself in shape. I think I came out of it in pretty good shape.
HF: How hard was it to watch the Americans season start while you had to rehab?
LS: I couldn’t go through that again for all the money in the world. It’s an absolutely awful thing to have to sit and watch your team play. You don’t have the ability to do anything to help out when the times are rough and you’re not be able to celebrate with them when the times are good.
HF: Spokane is within reach and you need to get past them in the standings to grab the last playoff spot. What is it going to take to get the Amerks over the hump and into the post season?
LS: We definitely need to become closer as a team. We try very hard, but not all the times we’re there on the same level. We play our best when we are one group, playing under one system and doing one thing. We got to stay out of the box when it counts and not get into those slice and dice games some of our opponents like to play.
HF: You guys came out and handed Seattle their worst loss of year. What was the difference?
LS: Just the little things. We were winning battles and getting the puck to the point and not over handling it. We did a good job of getting the puck on the net and an equal job of crashing the net.
HF: Take me back to your latest goal against the Thunderbirds. You were camped out at the left point and took a shot with a lot of traffic down low. Where you looking to score or were you looking to create opportunity for the guys down low?
LS: I had a pretty clear lane so, I was looking to get a little mustard on it and put a hard one on net. As far as going to score, I am not exactly a sniper, so I just try to get it on net and hope something good happens. It did there.
HF: You have come back quite well with the Americans. A couple of weeks ago you notched to goals in a game. When are we going to see the hat trick?
LS: Oh god (laughs). A couple of the guys in the room there are saying that they’re going to pack it up and retire if I get the hat trick. Honestly, I was lucky to get those two goals. As far as the hat trick goes, if it happens, I’ll be throwing my hat on the ice.
HF: How does the shoulder feel a couple months removed from the initial injury?
LS: Actually really good. It will bother me once in a blue moon on ice, so it is really good.
HF: Was that the case during the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge?
No. I had an infection in my ankle from a cut that I got. It spread almost all the way up to my knee cap so, it probably wouldn’t have been the best situation to play under. That was just another thing that was very hard to do.
HF: What was the atmosphere during the games in Alberta?
LS: Incredible. The leadership in the locker room was unbelievable. Being it that room, I could definitely feel it. It just made all of us feel that we were going to come out and win it.
HF: Skating with Team Canada’s junior last summer, how do you think your chances are to make a 2006 WJC roster spot due to a large amount of vacancies?
LS: I’m going to work very hard into the summer. It is a goal of mine to crack the lineup, so I would really like to be a part of that. Representing your country is the greatest honor in the world.
HF: What do you think it is going to take on a personal level to make the jump in the future?
LS: I feel that I really have to develop more offensively. I have to stick my nose it that area a little more. A lot of it comes from hard work so, I have to continue to train hard off the ice and strengthen my shoulder. Overall, I have I get bigger, stronger and faster because that is what everyone needs to do to make the NHL.
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