Milan Lucic finished the 2005-06 regular season with nine goals, ten assists, and 149 minutes in penalties for the Vancouver Giants and in the WHL playoffs he improved his points per game slightly with three goals and four assists in 18 games.
“He really sets the tone on our team with his work ethic,” said Giants coach Don Hay of Lucic at the MasterCard Memorial Cup this week. “[He] finishes his checks and when he hits people he hits them hard. He’s not afraid to change the game with dropping his gloves or going to the net and making things happen.”
Lucic was named the Giants’ Most Improved Player this season and is a valued role player on one of the team’s checking lines.
Hockey’s Future spoke with Lucic just prior to their semi-final match against the Moncton Wildcats which they lost by a score of 3-1.
HF: First of all, tell me how you’re feeling for the game tonight.
ML: Our energy is high we’re real anxious to get on the ice and play. We’re really focused and we’re excited to play.
HF: After the game yesterday (6-0 victory over Peterborough in tie-breaker game) how was it in the dressing room afterwards?
ML: Oh it was a great feeling. We showed a lot of character coming back from 0-2 record. We put ourselves in a good position right now and I think we’ve got to do the same things as last night to be successful.
HF: Some of your teammates after the game last night credited you with helping give the team the confidence with the big fight you had (long fight versus Craig Cescon of the Petes). Is that what your role has been this year for the team?
ML: A little bit. I know I’m out there to create a lot of energy with my physical play and whenever something like that happens I’m always there to step up and bring my A game to a fight. I think I did bring a lot of energy to the team and they took that and took advantage of that and really made [the Petes] pay for that.
HF: Is that one of the biggest bouts you’ve had?
ML: (smiling) Oh yeah definitely. It was up there probably as No. 1 on my list this year. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit, he’s a tough kid and I think we gave the fans something good to cheer about.
HF: So you’re heading into your draft year, this year how have you improved or developed in a way that you feel you might have got noticed by the scouts?
ML: Coming into this year I just wanted to get myself out there and work really hard every day in practice and go out there and work hard, and not really focus too much on points or stuff like that and I think it’s helped me improve. I’ve just worked on my work ethic and it’s helped me become the player I am now and hopefully if I keep doing that stuff I’ll become a more dominant player in the WHL.
HF: Your coach mentioned that you’re one of the core of players he’s building this team around for the next year or two. How does that feel, to have that confidence from your coach?
ML: It’s great. Like I said I just try to work hard for him every day and I think he realizes I am out there to work hard for him and to be recognized for that is great and I hope I can bring true success for this franchise.
HF: The leadership you guys have in the dressing room right now, are you learning not only just for this year or are you learning, do you think, to take over the leadership role in the future?
ML: Oh definitely. Mark Fistric (DAL) is a great captain and I really look up to him as a role model to be a leader in the dressing room and if I’m a captain one day like him I’ll know I’m doing a good job.
HF: What part of your game are you going to work on the most this summer to improve?
ML: Oh you know, a little bit of everything, but mainly my foot speed because it’s always good to be a fast skater and I think that’s one area where I can really improve on. Other than that I’ll be working on everything to become a complete player.
HF: Is there a player that you idolize or who you feel your game is similar to, past or present?
ML: One player that I really look up to is Jarome Iginla. Some day I hope I can be a player like him but right now, me and Don and have talked it over, we feel like I’m more like a Chris Simon right now (smiling). But we feel he’s a good player too and I totally agree with him, he’s reliable on Calgary and I’m reliable on Vancouver so that’s who I feel like I am right now but hopefully someday I can be a Jarome Iginla if I keep working hard enough.
HF: There’s a lot of energy and excitement for the game tonight. Have you found the Memorial Cup experience to be overwhelming at times or are you just soaking it all in?
ML: I think it’s been what I expected. You know every team here has been really good so it’s been a good experience, especially for next year with us hosting it. It’s good to have one year of Memorial Cup under our belts so I think it’s good for our younger guys.
HF: Are you attending the draft this year?
ML: Yes (smiling). Well it’s in my hometown so it’s right there.
HF: Once the Memorial Cup is complete I’m sure you’re looking forward to focusing on that.
ML: Well I leave for the combine on the 31st [of May] so I don’t get much rest, I have to go straight to that.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.