University of Minnesota sophomore and Minnesota Wild prospect Danny Irmen has enjoyed an outstanding season, helping to lead the Golden Gophers to their 19th Frozen Four appearance, the most of any school in this year’s foursome. Irmen co-led the maroon and gold in goals with 24. He came into the Frozen Four ranked second on the team in points with 43 (24 goals, 19 assists). This season he was twice named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week. More recently, his stellar season performance earned him a spot on the WCHA All-Conference Third Team.
Hockey’s Future spoke with Irmen after Minnesota’s practice on Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center.
HF: Obviously you’re on a team that has already won two championships in the last three years, so the expectations must be huge for you guys?
DI: Yeah they are, but you know, we like that. If you don’t set high expectations, you’re not going to get anywhere. Our junior and senior class has already won championships, so it gives the younger guys that little bit of hunger. You read all of the stories and know how exciting it was. It makes you want to be a part of the elite group that they were.
HF: You were one of the offensive leaders on this team this year along with Ryan (Potulny). How has that been for you guys?
DI: It’s been good. I don’t think that I’ve been playing any different. This year the pucks are going in for me and I’m shooting a lot more than I was last year and getting a lot more chances. So it’s good, but our team is very deep which has led to our success.
HF: Tell me about the on-ice relationship between you and Ryan.
DI: We’ve played together for about five or six years since high school, so we play pretty well together. We both know where the other is all the time. I can always trust him. It’s nice to be able to play with a great playmaker like him. He’s a great finisher also.
HF: Aside from offense, where do you feel that you contribute the most on the ice?
DI: I try to pride myself on the defensive play in the defensive zone. I hate to get scored on so I do whatever I can to make sure that the puck doesn’t go in the net. I think that’s one of my strong points. Playing defense and getting the puck out when we need it.
HF: Do you feel that is one of your greatest strengths?
DI: I hope it is. A lot of people like to see a defensive player. I’m willing to do it whatever it takes, whether it’s blocking a shot or taking a hit to make the defensive play, I believe it is one of my stronger points.
HF: What areas do feel that you’ll need to improve for next season?
DI: You can always improve your speed, stick-handling and your shot. Those are the three things that you have to improve every year or you’re not going to accelerate to the next level, to be that next player. So I definitely have got to work on my shot, my quickness and my strength.
HF: Being a Wild prospect and playing so close to them at the University of Minnesota, have they been keeping close tabs on you since you are so close?
DI: I don’t know. I assume they are. Because I’m in their backyard, they can just turn on the TV and watch me play or go to the game. But you know they stay their distance too and just let me play my college hockey and don’t try to interfere with that at all, so it’s very nice.
HF: What were their prospect camps like for you?
DI: It was a great experience for me. To meet the guys, who are on the minor league team and staff and get in with those guys so they know what kind of person you are and see their work ethic, is a great experience.
HF: Don Lucia has built quite a resume while at Minnesota and it looks like Lucia is still building up that resume based on the impressive list of recruits committed. What do you think it is about your coach and the program that attracts and develops top talent?
DI: Obviously the program is one of the top programs in the nation every year, along with the facilities. The way you are treated by the fans and the city are unbelievable. Coach Lucia is an outstanding recruiter. He makes you feel right at home and he’s an outstanding coach. The winning record he has makes you want to play for a winner.
HF: What are the specific drills and mental notes you’ve made during the season to improve your game? Also, how does your opinion of your game compare to your coaches’ opinion?
DI: I try to be one of the hardest working guys every day. Some days you don’t want to go the rink but you have to get through that. The harder you work, the better you’re going get. You never want to stay the same, whether for better or for worse. That’s the attitude I take. I go out there and work as hard as I can and I hope that the coaches see that too.
HF: What is the one thing you do for the team that you enjoy the most?
DI: It’s probably my physical play. I’m the type of guy that loves to go into the corners and bang it up and rough it up in front of the net. I also like to get into people’s heads. When I have three or four guys to chase around the rink, I’ve got to do my job.
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