The Chicago Blackhawks selected Jack Skille seventh overall in the 2005 Entry Draft. Skille is a power forward currently listed at 6’1, 195 lbs, who has great wheels to complement his size and strength. Renowned for his work ethic already, Skille is a high-energy player who is willing to go into high traffic areas and play a very physical brand of hockey.
Skille is expected to be one of the most difficult wingers to contain in the upcoming World Junior Championships as his rare blend of size, speed, skill and strength mean that very few defensemen match up well against him. Skille will likely play on a line with T.J Oshie (STL) and Nate Gerbe (BUF) and will be expected to both put the puck in the net as well as do a lot of the dirty work in the corners.
A freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Skille has six goals and 10 points thus far in 18 games. As he gains more experience and time passes, Skille will become the go-to player for the Badgers, who currently lead the WCHA with an 11-1-2 record.
Skille spoke with Hockey’s Future after a practice in Victoria, BC, where Team USA is holding a brief pre-tournament camp.
HF: Were you nervous at all, waiting to hear if you were going to be on this World Junior team or not?
JS: You know, there is always that chance you’re not going to make the team, but I think I was more anxious. I had a great tryout, I kind of got the message from the coach that I might make the team. And once I got the call I was really honored, and really honored to be picked to play for my country in a tournament of this caliber.
HF: What role do you expect to be playing in the event and who will your linemates be?
JS: Well right now I’m set up with Nate Gerbe and T.J. Oshie and I think my role on this team is just offensive power forward, and the guy who goes in there, grinds in the corners. I’ll try to set up my linemates and tries to score goals here and there. I’m just going to be working really hard and hopefully my work ethic will help out this team.
HF: The American team has the best roster, talent-wise, on paper. Has the team sat down and talked about the expectations that have been heaped on the squad?
JS: No, not at all, that’s not in our mind at all. Tournaments like these you have six teams who can win it, anything can happen. You can be the most talented team and still not make it to the championship game. In these tournaments you have to be the best team, and we’re focused on being, chemistry wise, the best team out there. Being a tight bunch of guys and being a favorite, or I don’t know who made that up, but I don’t think we’re a favorite at all for this tournament.
HF: What was it like going into your draft year, knowing the NHL wasn’t playing, knowing that an almost entirely random draft lottery would determine the group of teams that would most likely be selecting you?
JS: It was kind of interesting, it was kind of up in the air. I kind of liked it, actually, because it was a mystery. Right when the lottery ended up and the teams had their spot, I had somewhat of an idea where I might go. And Chicago had really treated me well in the combine, and so had Columbus, and I thought I was probably going to go six or seven. It worked out great and I went to a great program.
HF: Many Canucks fans were hoping you’d fall to ten. What was it like to be picked seventh overall?
JS: It was an honor. Just to sit in that green room with that bunch of guys. You had Sidney Crosby, just to be around him and Jack Johnson here and Bobby Ryan and to be around that company is an honor. I was thinking I might not get picked by Chicago or Columbus, and I might drop to 10 or 11. It was a surprise actually, to see the camera crew coming up to you at the seventh pick. It was just, “oh man.” I’m close to close, this is perfect.
HF: Your work ethic has been praised a great deal. What do you do for offseason training?
JS: Actually this summer I worked out with our weight trainer at Wisconsin. He conditions us well throughout the summer. I know guys that, even away from home, stay there, stay in Madison, Wisconsin, and work out with him. His drills, we do running and sprinting and it’s a tough workout and it’s consistent. Early mornings and afternoons, it’s pretty tough. He knows what he’s doing and he makes it hard on us to keep us well conditioned for the season.
HF: What NHL player does your style best compare to?
JS: Some people say I play like Bill Guerin. Bill Guerin is a great player, so I mean I’m not going to be complaining about that. I think that I might be playing like him, but I’m not sure it’s hard to tell. Guerin’s the name I hear a lot.
HF: You’re in the middle of your freshman season at the University of Wisconsin. How have you enjoyed the experience thus far?
JS: It’s great. They switched up the dorm life so we’re not just staying with an athlete dorm, we’re staying with regular kids. I think that’s actually better, it lets you get to know other kids, not just athletes. Hockey standpoint it’s great to play in front of my family and friends once again. We get huge crowds every Friday and Saturday and our fan base is great and supportive. I’m glad to be carrying on the family tradition of playing for the Badgers.
HF: If something goes wrong and your hockey career doesn’t pan out, what would you like to do for a job?
JS: Well, I’d probably want to own a business or be a teacher someday. My dad is a teacher in high school, and I might want to be a teacher someday. I like dealing with kids. And owning my own business would be nice, too.
HF: Is this your first trip to British Columbia? What do you think about it so far?
JS: Yes. I like it a lot. It’s beautiful here. The ferry across from Seattle was awesome. It was my first time on a ferry like that. Ben Street, a guy on my team, is from BC, the Vancouver area, and he gave me a heads up on how nice it is. He might stop by during this tournament.
HF: What would you like to get for Christmas other than a gold medal?
JS: Uh…I don’t know. It’s already my best Christmas with my family being up here to watch. My whole family is going to be up here, and this is the first World Championship tournament they’re going to be watching and I’m glad they made it up here and they got a good trip. It’s just going to be nice to play in front of my family.
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