Phil Cole, a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2000, was signed to a rookie contract in 2002 and has split time the past three years between the AHL and ECHL. This season he has played 18 games with the AHL Albany River Rats on several call-ups, and 36 games with the ECHL August Lynx. The 6’4, 22-year-old defenseman is a native of Winnepeg, Manitoba and played parts of five years in the WHL before turning pro.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Cole after Augusta’s 3-2 win over the Gwinnett Gladiators on Friday night.
HF: This is your third year as a pro, did you play the way you wanted to in your contract year?
PC: I think given the circumstances, I’ve handled it pretty well. It was a tough start of the year to get going, there was a lot of extra guys in Albany, but after I got sent down here I kind of got the ball rolling and ended the season the way I wanted to this year, so yes.
HF: What do you feel like you’ve improved on in the past three years?
PC: The past three years I think I’ve worked on the physical aspects of my game, I’ve got my size and strength up. I feel more confident out there pushing guys around and moving the puck and stuff like that. I feel like I’ve progressed as a pro in those ways.
HF: What do you feel you still need to work on?
PC: Well the puck movement is the major thing that I’m going to have to work on, and just the smaller things with the puck. Positional play can always be better and just little things. I just have to get in a flow and the more you play the better you get.
HF: You were passing well tonight, do you think this was one of your better games?
PC: Well I’ve been injured for the last little while, this is the first game back off injury. But no, it’s improved a lot in my game like I said, but it’s still one of those aspects I can get better at.
HF: Can you describe your injury?
PC: I had a first degree separation of my shoulder. I was up in Albany, two weekends ago? I just got hit. It wasn’t good enough to play on really. I couldn’t take shots or get hit.
HF: Was Albany happy with your play up there?
PC: I believe so, I don’t really go and ask if they’re happy with it or not (laughs). But I was pretty happy with how I handled myself up there. You get thrown into a situation like that, all you can do is play hard and play your game. I did that and it worked out OK for me, so I think I did OK up there.
HF: Who were you playing with as a partner?
PC: I was with Ray Schultz. We’re not overly offensive defensemen, so we didn’t get ourselves in too much defensive trouble, which is my game, defense. So it was good.
HF: Had you played with him before?
PC: A little, usually we rotate around. I had played with him previously I think three times this year. Once or twice before this.
HF: You’ve been getting a lot of frequent flier miles this year back and forth.
PC: Yeah, I’ve been racking them up on a lot of different airlines (smiles).
HF: Oh you’re not on the same one every time?
PC: I wish it was like that (laughs). No, I have a bunch of different ones picked up.
HF: Who is the forward who gives you the most trouble, in the AHL or the ECHL?
PC: Boy…that’s a tough question.
HF: There’s got to be someone who keeps you awake at night.
PC: There’s some guys that always get under my skin, Boyd Kane is one in Philadelphia. He plays hard and competes every night and I respect him a lot for that. So he’s probably one of the forwards that is challenging to play against.
HF: Defensive defensemen like you don’t get a lot of publicity.
PC: Yeah, you don’t always get thrown in the spotlight when the team scores a goal, but at the same time, the coaches respect what you do and they give you a pat on the back. You know the guys are happy with how you played, you’re happy with the way you played. As long as I don’t get scored on, I feel like I’ve done my job. So I’m not looking to be written up in the paper or get a star or anything (laughs). I’m just out there doing my job.
HF: Have you gotten any stars this season?
PC: Yeah, actually the first game down here I had a Gordie Howe hat trick, so that was a decent game for me. But no, after that there hasn’t been too many stars (laughs).
HF: How did you get started playing defense when you were little, was it a coach who thought you were cut out for it?
PC: No, it was just one of those things, I think I found when I was younger that I enjoyed playing defense because I could skate through the whole team (laughs). I figured that was easiest, I get the puck in my own zone. My dad played and he was a winger, and I don’t know, I just enjoyed stopping guys. I enjoyed scoring goals, but I found I took more pride in stopping goals than scoring them. I just stuck with it.
HF: What do you do in the offseason to train, and do you intend to do the same this summer?
PC: I have a trainer at home, Jeff Fisher, who I work out with. There’s me and bunch of other hockey players. We work out every day in the summer in the morning. It works for me, and for the rest of the guys. We’ve all been successful so I’m probably going to stick to that same regimen.
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