John DeGray is a young defenseman with the Brampton Battalion who brings a blend of physical play and offensive capabilities not seen in the OHL since Ed Jovanovski patrolled the blue line for the Windsor Spitfires.
DeGray was selected sixth overall by the Battalion in the 2004 OHL draft after a solid season with the Richmond Hill Minor Midgets that saw him put up 40 points in 76 games. Standing in at 6’3 and 188 pounds, DeGray was physically ready to step in and play in the OHL and didn’t look out of place as a rookie with the Battalion. He enters his second season in the OHL as a solid bet to be a first round pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft and he may even develop as a top ten pick.
Hockey’s Future spoke with DeGray after he was named to Team Canada. He will be off to the Czech Republic to compete in the Under 18 tournament.
HF: I take it this is the biggest thrill in your hockey career so far?
JD: Oh yeah for sure, it is an honor to play for Canada and I think we are going to have a great team. Just playing with the best it is quite the honor and I’m really excited about going to see Europe.
HF: Have you ever been to Europe before?
JD: No, I haven’t so it is going to be the longest flight I’ll ever have and I’m looking forward to it.
HF: Can you describe your style of play for someone who hasn’t seen you before?
JD: I’m a big physical defenseman who clears the net well. I do well in one on one battles, I make crisp, strong first passes. When the opportunity presents itself I like to jump up into the play and join the rush.
HF: You are going to be playing in the big wider ice and no red line for the next few weeks in the tournament, as a physical defenseman, how do you adapt to that?
JD: All it means is that you have to be careful watching behind you, seeing if any guys are back and by you, but I think that our team as a whole are great skaters so I don’t think it will really make a difference if anything, it might be beneficial for our team.
HF: Tell me a bit about the Under 17 tournament what you learned about playing against the best players in the world your age?
JD: Once again I was excited going there and I was really looking forward to going there and playing against the best is just unbelievable and you can’t ask for anything else. Unfortunately we didn’t do as well as we would like, but hopefully this time we will come out on top.
HF: What sort of role did you play there for Team Ontario?
JD: Once again I was big and strong defensively, played a lot on the penalty kill and played well in my own end.
HF: What area of your game would you like to improve from your rookie year?
JD: Like anyone I want to get bigger, stronger and faster and maybe chip in with a few more points this year.
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