Mark Rooneem is a 6’2, speedy winger in his rookie pro year. He was originally drafted by the Lost Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He did not sign with the Kings when his time in the WHL was over, instead signing with the Minnesota Wild. The 22-year-old Alberta native has 15 goals and 10 assists in 53 games with the ECHL Louisiana IceGators.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Rooneem after Louisiana’s 2-1 upset of the Gwinnett Gladiators this weekend.
HF: Can you evaluate your season, how it’s gone from start to finish?
MR: I think the biggest thing overall is just the adjustment to pro hockey. It’s such a big difference. In junior you’re playing with younger, developing kids, against 16-year-olds. Last year I was 20 years old and playing against guys four, almost five years younger than me. So it’s a big difference, guys are a lot heavier and a lot more intense [in the ECHL]. I think that’s been the thing this year, just the struggle. I’ve succeeded a little bit here and there. It’s just a big adjustment period.
HF: What part of that was the toughest, was it in the corners?
MR: I think mainly it was all the obstruction. I’ve never seen so much obstruction in a league before. Guys running picks, holding you up on the forecheck. That’s one of the big parts of my game, getting in there on the forecheck. But also it’s helped me to find new ways to get past that, new techniques to try to get around that guy instead of letting him hold you up.
HF: What part of your game have you really had to change to adjust to that?
MR: I think learning to use my speed a lot better. Learn how to get past that stick when a guy’s trying to hold you up. And also slowing it down in my head, when it comes time to score that goal or whatever. Slowing it down, not panicking so much.
HF: You were called up to Houston, but you didn’t get to play much. Can you talk about the circumstance and how you thought that went?
MR: Well, I got called up the first time right around Christmas time and I didn’t get to play. I was kind of a little bit disappointed about that, but the guy who was injured came back, and I had to deal with that, got sent back. Then I got called up [in February] and got to play one game, which was a nice experience for me, first AHL game. After that it was just guys injured coming back to the line-up, so I was basically a spare on the road with them just in case someone did get injured.
HF: Did you feel like you learned by watching though?
MR: Yeah for sure. It’s a lot faster and guys don’t make as many mistakes. It’s just a step above this league and something else that you have to adjust to. [From the stands] you get a better look at the systems and how you have to play to get up there.
HF: You’re playing on a line with Jade Galbraith and Pascal Pelletier. Can you talk about your line and what makes it click?
MR: Jade got traded here, I believe it was in January. I was having a tough first half of the year, struggling with the changes in the league. But I felt that Jade, he’s got great heads-up hockey, he can find me and I can use my speed wide and get the puck in and just put a lot more pressure on. But mainly him getting me the puck I think, and Pascal on the other side, is just clicking for sure.
HF: You were drafted by the Kings but you parted ways with them. Can you talk about that, did they offer you a contract?
MR: Basically what happened was they drafted me and coming down to contract time, it just didn’t work out with them. Not so much financially, but for other reasons. I just chose not to sign with them and take my chances that someone else would sign me.
HF: Do you think that Minnesota emphasizes different things in players? Do you think that’s why you might have a better opportunity with them?
MR: Yeah. They’re more into developing younger players, so no doubt I’ll probably get a chance with them before I would with LA. That’s another thing that I was thinking about with LA, just looking at their line-up and the players they have. It just wasn’t a good choice. And Minnesota, nothing better could have happened. They picked me up because they’re interested in my development and we have summer training camps for about two months, it’s the most of any NHL team in the league and it’s all about development, positive development to make me a better hockey player.
HF: How else have they been involved with you besides the camps, do they visit you often?
MR: Well, they’ve got Houston which is only three hours away [from Lafayette]. They’ve got guys watching me all the time for sure.
HF: Have they told you what they want you to work on specifically?
MR: Yeah, they know exactly what type of player I am, they’ve watched me for the last five years. They were originally going to draft me, from what I heard, but LA ended up picking me up first. So they know exactly what type of player I am, and they know that the biggest thing is using my speed well, and just creating chances, hard on the forecheck.
HF: Would those be the same things you put on your own list to work on?
MR: I would agree with what they say I have to work on, and more, I’m pretty skeptical of myself. I’ll definitely work on that for sure.
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