Clearly a catalyst offensively, blueliner Kyle Cumiskey may be the most dynamic skater for the Kelowna Rockets. He has registered 5 goals and 24 assists in 48 games, a level of production this season that head coach Jeff Truitt appears content with.
“Offensively, I think his numbers speak for themselves,” Truitt said. “He really does good job of handling the puck and getting the puck through to the net. We’d like to see him shoot a little more, but he’s getting a lot of assists.”
The 5’11, 175-pound defenseman spent the first couple months of the 2005-06 season on the shelf with a mysterious back injury. Last season, the generally durable Cumiskey played in all 72 regular season games and 24 playoff games.
“I really think his biggest skill is underneath our blue line, rather than throwing pucks away he’s shifty enough in small areas where he can break away from guys with the puck in his possession and make good first passes. He’s got that ability as a defenseman to beat guys one-on-one low and then get the puck up ice.”
Born in Abbotsford, B.C., Cumiskey is pleased his junior hockey career has included two trips to the Memorial Cup. And, as a 19-year-old, it’s not inconceivable that Cumiskey could find himself in Kelowna as an overage player next season.
“Well, it remains to be seen because a lot of things will have to be sorted out concerning 20-year-olds,” Truitt explained. “There’s the expansion draft that comes into it a bit, too. Time will tell and it will sort itself out over the summer.” (Note: The expansion Chilliwack Bruins begin play in the WHL next season.)
Truitt believes Cumiskey, who was drafted 222nd overall by Colorado in 2005, has given it his all this season, providing stability and leadership as the Rockets look for a deep playoff run and a trip to their fourth straight Memorial Cup.
“I think when Kyle first came back this season, he had to feel things out again and get in tune with his game,” Truitt said. “He’s really turned it on for us, his mobility, his puck handling, his vision have all accelerated tremendously. He controls the puck on our back end at even strength and on the power play. Overall he’s just been terrific for us.”
Hockey’s Future spoke with Cumiskey in Kelowna before an important divisional game against the Kootenay Ice.
HF: How has your season gone? You got off to kind of a late start.
KC: At the start of the year things were really a bit shaky. I was injured and missed about the first 20 games. I got back into it for five games and then got hurt again…a concussion. I got it going though and I think I’ve continued to improve as the season has progressed. The team has played pretty well, too. I’m not really sure I could ask for things to be going much better than they are right now.
HF: How did the injury happen in the first place?
KC: Well, it was something I hurt last year in the playoffs. I’m still not really sure exactly what it was, but it was in my back and it just got progressively worse over the summer. Kind of a nagging injury, it stuck with me for a while.
HF: You’ve played in many different situations this season, especially on special teams.
KC: As far as special teams go, I’ve played a lot on the power play and in a penalty-killing role. I’m happy with that because I think those areas allow me to take advantage of parts of my game where I play well. I’ve always wanted to be a guy who succeeds there.
HF: Who have you been playing with this season?
KC: I’ve been paired up with Luke Schenn. He’s a 16-year-old who has really played well for us. I think we’ve played well together.
HF: Any contact with Colorado this season?
KC: Well, I haven’t been to a training camp yet, but I’ve been able to speak with the scouting staff because some of them are based in the Kelowna area. I’ve had a chance to talk about things with their head scout, Jim Hammett. They want me to keep doing the things I’m doing.
HF: Where did you play your minor hockey? Tell us how you came to be a member of the Kelowna Rockets.
KC: I played my bantam hockey in Abbotsford and then when I was 16, I played in junior A in the BCHL with Penticton. I was going into my second season there and about ten games in I decided to come to Kelowna’s camp. I ended up making the team and I’ve been here since.
HF: Anyone in particular who has had an impact on your career?
KC: For sure, Brad Bowen. He started coaching me in spring hockey back in my novice division days and then into bantam. He’s just one of those guys who really helped a lot over the years.
HF: We understand you and Mike Card (BUF) are pretty good friends?
KC: We’re good friends, we grew up together. It makes it lots of fun playing here in Kelowna. Especially when I first came here, I knew someone and that really helps when you start out with a new team. We’ve always had kind of a friendly competition between us.
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