David Shantz was the first OHL goaltender selected in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft when the Florida Panthers selected him 37th overall following a season in which he helped the Mississauga IceDogs to the OHL finals. In 2004-05, however, he ended up losing the starting job in Mississauga to Michael Ouzas and ended up with a 10-10-1-3 record, although his goals against average (2.84) and save percentage (.909) were virtually identical to the 2003-04 season.
The Peterborough Petes knew Shantz was available and so Petes General Manager Jeff Twohey went out and got the Panthers goaltending prospect for forwards Jordan Beljo and Jordan Grant, and Shantz found a second home in the OHL. In 2005-06 he went 31-14-2-1 with a 2.87 goals against average and .915 save percentage.
“[Shantz] had had an off year and we felt there was a lot of upside to his game and that he’d kind of fallen by the wayside and sure enough it’s worked out that way,” Petes Head Coach told Hockey’s Future this week at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. “He’s steadily progressed this year and got better as the season went on. [He] looks like he has an excellent potential for a pro career.”
Even Quebec Remparts coach Patrick Roy has stated that up to this point Shantz has been the top goaltender in the tournament.
Hockey’s Future spoke with Shantz this week as he looks to win his first Memorial Cup.
HF: Two years ago with Mississauga you got some experience on a playoff run even though you didn’t make the Memorial Cup. How do you feel that that is helping you now?
DS: I think it was pretty valuable, even the year before that I was playing with Thorold in Junior B and we ended up playing our league championship. We went to the Sutherland Cup which is very similar to the Memorial Cup format here and I think those two years, the one in Mississauga and the previous year combined, just the amount of playoff games that I got under my belt were invaluable, especially for this run this year.
HF: Originally you weren’t definitely going to be playing in the OHL, were you debating which route to go?
DS: At the end of the Junior B there were offers from U.S. colleges at the time, but the situation in Mississauga was very promising and it looked like an opportunity where I could step in and see maybe 20-25 games as a first year guy. I thought, just being one of the premiere development leagues it’s almost a stepping stone to pro hockey I thought it would be a good opportunity.
HF: So it was a case of getting more games as well as the NHL format of the league?
DS: Absolutely, in U.S. college you play a maximum of say 40 or 45 games a season whereas in junior hockey with exhibition, playoff games and the Memorial Cup you could be playing over 100 games. There’s no question that games are where you develop. Even though practices are an opportunity to work hard and improve on your skills, game experience is invaluable as you go through your career.
HF: When the IceDogs traded for Michael Ouzas, originally he was going to be your backup, correct?
DS: Yeah. I’ve known Michael for a long time, we’re both from Hamilton and I’ve known him since I was probably ten years old and I was pretty excited when I found out he was going to be coming into town.
HF: And so as the year went on, what happened?
DS: You know, it was a pretty crazy situation. It was a situation where – I don’t want to say fall out of favor – but things don’t go your way. I had a very good start to the season, I was 7-1-1 for the first nine games of the season and there was a couple rough games. As soon as I started to fall out of favor I started sitting on the bench and then we were talking about a trade coming. There were a couple options surrounding it, a couple trade options, and the team tried to force me to go to Kingston at the time and at that time I said I wasn’t prepared to accept a trade even though nothing was put together, it was just in the early stages saying if something was put together would you go?
HF: Why didn’t you want to accept a trade at that time?
DS: You know what, there were seven teams at the time of the deadline that year that had expressed interest and I said yes to all teams except for Kingston and it was a situation where I knew if I got traded to Kingston I knew they weren’t in a situation at that time to be making a very long run in the playoffs. It was a young team, it was in a rebuilding process and I think for any player as they mature and they develop in their OHL or CHL career ultimately you want to look at being a part of a Memorial Cup team and an OHL championship team and I think Kingston at the time in the process of rebuilding wasn’t in that situation. I think for myself I wanted to go to a situation where there was an opportunity to have a good run and a good season, and make good strides, and that was probably the main reason for not wishing to go there.
When nothing was put together with any of those other six teams – when you receive a phone call basically saying that because you didn’t agree with what Mississauga had wanted for you, okay you’ll be sitting the rest of the season. When you sit on the bench for 20-plus straight games coming off the previous year you had it’s kind of tough. When you play three games from Christmas on, it’s not very fun. When the trade finally did get put together with Peterborough in the offseason I was ecstatic, and the rest is history.
HF: So basically it was a year of frustration.
DS: Oh it was terrible. When things are going well people treat you nice, coaches can tell you all the good things, but you know as soon as you have a rough game or you have a rough week or two weeks you see a completely different side of people and I think over the course of last season I’ve really gotten to learn how to really read people and just how to kind of see beyond what the surface is and especially, not so much with the media stuff but with your teammates and people within the organization.
HF: Did you feel like quitting last year?
DS: Definitely not. Hockey, it’s been my dream and I’ve always wanted to play and as frustrating as the situation is as last year and as much as you don’t want to go through it, it helps in the long run. I think it makes you a better person and as much as you like the road to be all paved for you sometimes by taking those side roads you learn a lot of life experiences and learn a lot of lessons along the way and I think it will help you as you go on in life and in hockey.
HF: I saw you play a lot in Mississauga and the thing I thought when I saw the trade was that you were going to a team with a lot of offense and maybe not the strongest defense, but you were really coming into a good situation like you said, a team that really had a chance to go far in the playoffs. As the year progressed did you feel comfortable from the start or did you get accommodated to your coach and teammates as the year went on? How was the adjustment?
DS: The first little while it was a little bit of an adjustment, it’s a different style of team. Mississauga was a fairly defensive team and would shut down their own zone, and anytime they got a couple opportunities up front they would try to make the most of them whereas in Peterborough they like to really try to fill the other net and sometimes it leaves you [facing] a lot of two on ones and stuff. It’s just how we play, it’s been successful for us. I think just not playing a lot in the previous year, I think for the first while it just took a little bit of an adjustment period to kind of get back to the feel of the game, to get back to game speed and stuff, but since Thanksgiving on, things have been going pretty well. I’ve settled in and it’s been a lot of fun.
HF: As a goaltender, how have you evolved during your junior career technique-wise and how do you feel you’re improving again this year?
DS: You know what, I think specifically in this last year, just bringing Jon Elkin in to work with Trevor [Cann] and myself, it’s been great. The advice and all the little technical pointers that he’s been giving us have really helped with my technical game. Just the way you read the situations, where you place your rebounds, and just the way your whole approach is and how you read the play it’s been invaluable. And at the same time I think having a tough year last year has really helped the mental aspect of my game. Over the course of the three years there’ve always been dark periods, but there’ve also been some really positive things that have come out of it. I think overall you can really take a lot of good things out of the situation and just use them to your advantage.
HF: You were an early second round pick of the Florida Panthers, have they been in contact with you the last few years?
DS: I’ve had periodic talks with them. I usually specifically talk to their goalie coaches. Last year it was Clint Malarchuk and then this year it’s Phil Myre, and between the two of them I’ve had a lot of talks with them and they’ve also been very encouraging and very positive with me.
HF: This is your contract year so you must be feeling very confident. Had you stayed in Mississauga or maybe gone to a team that wasn’t going to compete would the contract be a concern for you?
DS: When my agents, when they were first discussing trade possibilities they really wanted to see me come to Peterborough but I think for myself just getting back in the net and playing, and bringing the enjoyment back into the game was a big thing for me and it’s been a great year. I really attribute a lot to [GM] Jeff Twohey for having the confidence to bring me in because it’s not easy, especially taking a chance on a guy that hadn’t played a lot in the last year, and I owe them a lot because they gave me a chance and it’s worked out very well.
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