Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Kyle Klubertanz has been one of the team’s top defensemen this year. His contributions both offensively and defensively have helped make Wisconsin blue line corps one of the best in the nation. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect is second on the team in scoring among defensemen with 21 points (four goals, 17 assists). He is one of only six Badgers to have played every game thus far this season.
Klubertanz spoke with Hockey’s Future after Wisconsin’s 5-2 win over Maine on Thursday night at the Bradley Center.
HF: You’re just coming off of that win over Maine, so how does it feel?
KK: It’s awesome. It’s good to get that win but we came in here and said right away ‘one more’. You can’t get too high. It’s great to get the win because it means you’re one step closer. Now we’re saying just one more game. We’re getting a day off tomorrow (Friday), which is nice because we can get some rest and then we come back and play BC. We’re excited and it’s awesome.
HF: It looks like you’re trying to keep the excitement of getting into the national championship game subdued a little bit.
KK: We haven’t done much yet. Do you know what I mean?
HF: You’ve had a really good year this season and it looks like your game has all been really coming together. What do you personally feel is the greatest contribution that you have made to the team this season?
KK: I think you’re right about my game. I think my overall game has really improved. I came into the league as an offensive defenseman. Working with Os (associate head coach Mark Osiecki) has really helped tightened it up my defensive game. It’s kind of hard to say. I just go out there and play my game. I get out there on the power play and do what I’m supposed to do. It’s nice having tightened up my defensive game. It feels good.
HF: What area do you feel is the one that you’ve improved the most in from last year?
KK: I’d say my defensive zone coverage. Getting into position better and getting better positioning down low and battling hard I think are the areas where I think I’ve improved from last year. I also feel that having worked out in the summer, building up my body and getting stronger has really helped my game too. I’m playing a lot better down low and in the corners.
HF: You look more comfortable in Mike Eaves’ system and are a bit more patient with the puck. Do you feel that those are two areas that has helped in your overall growth process as a player and contributed to your confidence level?
KK: Definitely. I feel pretty confident right now and I think all of the guys in the locker room are feeling pretty confident right now too. Coming off of a decent freshman year, buying into Coach Eaves’ system and the experience of being here at Wisconsin has made me better and added to my confidence level. I feel that my confidence has been great this year too. I just try to keep building on that every day. That’s just all I’ve been doing.
HF: One guy that’s giving your team a ton of confidence right now is Brian Elliott.
KK: Oh, he’s been unreal. You can’t even put into words what he has meant to our team. We went through that slide when he was out with that injury and when he came back our confidence went through the roof. I can’t really put it into words. He’s been awesome and our MVP all year long.
HF: One of the things that I’ve noticed about your team this year is that everybody is on the same page. It isn’t like there’s that one person who isn’t buying into the game plan. Do you feel that that, along with the fact that you guys are so tight as a team that it has been one of, if not the biggest key to the team’s success this year?
KK: Absolutely. This is the tightest team that I’ve ever been on. We all hang out with each other. There aren’t any little cliques and that helps a lot because it gets us playing as a team. There are no superstars here or anything like that. Everyone just goes out there and plays hard. I think being so tight as a team off the ice really helps us on the ice and as you’ve said we’re all on the same page. It’s really awesome.
HF: You mentioned earlier that Os was working with you. What is the one thing that you’ve learned from him that has really helped improve your game the most?
KK: Having a good stick. When I came to Green Bay (USHL), he was there and he harped on me about having a good stick. Having a good stick means it’s tough for the opposition to get passes through. That’s been the biggest thing for me because it has helped in my positioning. When you have a good stick it helps your positioning. That’s been the greatest thing that he has taught me.
HF: How has it been different for you playing for him in Green Bay compared to playing for him at Wisconsin?
KK: It’s different because he’s not the top guy (head coach) here. He’s really toned down, which is kind of nice because now he can pretty much worry about us defensemen. When he was in Green Bay, he had to work with everyone. It’s been awesome playing for him.
HF: I understand that he’s mellowed out a little bit too.
KK: Oh yeah. He doesn’t have that stress anymore. It’s been good.
HF: What is the one thing that you feel like you’ve accomplished this season?
KK: Just the consistency I’d have to say. My confidence has been pretty good and I think that that helps with my consistency. I think that I’ve been playing pretty well on a consistent basis all year.
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