Q&A with Mark Tobin

By Jason Ahrens

Mark Tobin, a 6’3 211-pound left winger with the Rimouski Oceanic, was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, 65th overall. Tobin is a crash and bang winger who brings a physical element to the second line of the Oceanic. The team is known for its high flying first line that led the CHL in scoring in the 2005 season, but Tobin and linemates Danny Stewart (MON) and Zybnek Hrdel (TB) played a vital role in the success of the Oceanic this year.

Rimouski finished the 2004-05 regular season on a 28-game undefeated streak and finished first overall in the regular season. Tobin had 22 goals and 28 assists in 68 games and had 107 penalty minutes. A tireless worker, he hits everything in sight and is very intense when on the ice.

The St. John’s, Newfoundland resident is a nice late bloomer success story. Tobin (no relation to the former Premier of Newfoundland Brian Tobin) went from being cut by his Midget AAA team to being a second round NHL pick in just a few short years.

Tobin and the Oceanic went on to win their first seven playoff games before finally losing once, the only blemish in their 13-game journey to being the QMJHL champions. The Oceanic lost their first game of the Memorial Cup, 4-3 in overtime to London and they followed that up with a 4-3 victory over both Ottawa and Kelowna to finish second place in the round robin and they earned a semi-final berth against Ottawa.

Hockey’s Future caught up with Tobin after a practice the day before the semi-final game.

HF: Can you describe what kind of player you are for any of our readers who are unfamiliar with you?

MT: I’m described as a power forward who works in the corners and along the boards. I’m a forechecker pretty much who tries to keep it simple. In junior I play a little bit on the power play and I get a few goals in front of the net so basically that is my style.

HF: Can you tell me a little bit about your route to the QMJHL?

MT: I got cut from my Midget AAA team, so I went and played Junior B in Newfoundland which is like a beer league back home, well not a beer league, but not very serious. I was drafted from that league by Rimouski and after my second year there I was picked by Tampa Bay.

HF: How hard was it for you in your first year, moving away from home to a small French town and playing on a dreadful team?

MT: (laughs) Dreadful, yeah that is the word. Yeah we were pretty bad but it was a good experience for me as a lot of 17-year-olds do not get much ice time, but at that time I had lots of ice time because our team was brutal, so in the long run it worked out well for me. I spoke zero French but I was happy just to get out of St. John’s and I was just happy to get off of the island and it was a big step for me to go play major junior. As for my French, people say that I’m bilingual, but I still have a bit of work to do. But I’m capable of getting by, that is for sure.

HF: I know you would have been a bit young, but do you remember what sort of impact there was back home when local boys Dwayne Norris and John Slaney scored those big goals that helped Canada win those gold medals in the World Juniors?

MT: My brothers played with John Slaney and were good friends with Dwayne Norris, it was a pretty big impact. Hopefully that will be the kind of impact I have when I go home after this tournament and that would be a great feeling.

HF: Tell me a bit about the pressure of playing on the same team with Sidney Crosby. Does that help you be more consistent knowing that every game there are a number of scouts watching the game?

MT: Exactly, for sure you have to be in the game every night. Sidney helps to keep your level even every night and we know that the people in the rink are not watching just him and we have to come to the rink ready to play.

HF: Can you tell me a bit about your draft experience?

MT: Yeah I was at the draft; I went down with my agent. My parents didn’t go because we weren’t sure if I was going to go on the first day, so we didn’t want to bring them down. So I went with my agent and it was a great feeling, I didn’t expect to go in the second round, but I did so that made it even better.

HF: Have you been to any of the rookie camps so far?

MT: I attended one in Michigan, there were only three teams, us, St. Louis and Detroit and we finished second. It was a good experience just to see the level of speed that the guys have. Hopefully I’ll be at the main camp this summer once the NHL gets everything straightened away.

HF: There are a few other Lightning prospects in this tournament, Gerald Coleman the goalie for the Knights and Justin Keller, a winger with the Rockets. Did you get to meet any of them at the camp?

MT: Yeah I met those guys and we played together and we had a good week down there. I didn’t have much time to spend with them here when you are at the Memorial Cup you have to spend time with your own team and I’m sure that when this is over I’ll be able to have a chat with them a bit.

HF: As your junior career is about to end, how many strides have you made since you entered the league in the different aspects of the game?

MT: I was talking to my coach about this yesterday and my strides in my skating have been remarkable apparently, but obviously not enough, I want it to come too quick and it takes hard work to become faster. I want to become stronger on my skates too. As I mature I will get stronger on my skates and hopefully naturally develop but it takes a lot of hard work too.

HF: Have you had much feedback from Tampa Bay on things that you need to work on?

MT: Yeah they have told me that my skating is improving but I know that it is not good enough to be dominant at the next level so I want to pick it up. So they are giving me feedback but I know what it takes to make it to the next level.

HF: Tell me about the semi-final game tomorrow?

MT: Tomorrow is a big game, Ottawa is a team that were the underdogs in the tournament but they proved that they could beat Kelowna in overtime so we just have to pick up the pace and play the game the same way we did against them the first time.

HF: You have had a lead in every game and they have all slipped away or almost slipped away, how frustrating is that and what are you guys working on to prevent that from happening again?

MT: It’s frustrating but at the same time it’s good because we know that we were up 3-1 in those games so if we can play the same game and just tighten up our defense a bit we should be able to pull it off. So it is frustrating but at the same time it kind of give us a bit of confidence I think.

HF: Tell us a bit about playing for your coach Doris Labonte who is rather excitable on the bench?

MT: Doris is a great coach. A lot of people think that he is a nutcase or whatever, but in his own way he is aggressive and stuff, but he does it for the good of the team. When you have him coaching and he is that excited and you are sitting on the bench if you aren’t that intense it rubs off on you.

HF: This a veteran team and sometime this weekend, win or lose, it will be the last game of junior for a lot of you guys. Is there a bit of nostalgia going around the dressing room?

MT: Yeah, the guys were just talking that this is our last practice in junior and there have been guys that I have been playing with for three years and so yeah it is going to be tough when we go off that ice for the last time. But right now we are just focusing on the next game and hopefully the game after and hopefully it will be a good last time on the ice.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.