Defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin has recently emerged onto everyone’s 2006 NHL Entry Draft radar. From mid-season obscurity (unrated by the NHL’s Central Scouting in the Mid-Term Rankings), Danis-Pepin now is ranked 61st by CSS among North American Skaters. Similarly, he has recently been noticed by ISS, who have the 6’8, 214 lb self-described offensive defenseman ranked at No. 107 in their June final rankings.
Hockey’s Future caught up with the lanky University of Maine blueliner early in the NHL Combine this month, just after Danis-Pepin had arrived. He was not yet aware that he would have some of the best fitness testing results among the prospects in attendance.
HF: You were a freshman at the University of Maine this past season. Can you describe what that experience was like for you?
S D-P: I was about to go to juniors for a year before going to college, but at the last minute I decided to go to university right away. It was an incredible experience going to Maine. The guys were great; they took me right in. A lot of the guys are much older than I am and they just accepted me pretty much right away. The fans were great to me too. I just can’t describe how wonderful it was — a very memorable year.
HF: Will you definitely return in the fall?
S D-P: Definitely, I am going back for at least one year, and frankly I would like to go for as long as possible. If I can finish my degree, that is my preference. Of course, I don’t know what is going to happen with the draft, and what the NHL team would want for me.
<B>HF: As far as playing hockey goes, can you describe what your freshman season was like?
S D-P: College was a big adjustment, having to adapt after playing in Midget AAA the year before. When I jumped right to college play, it was a huge change. The speed of the game, the strength of the guys, and the level of play all were incredibly different compared to what I was used to.
At the beginning of the year, I did not play very much. At Christmastime, I was able to squeeze myself into a spot in the lineup, and that lasted until the end of the year. I was really happy with that, because I was able to step up my game a lot. I tried to work very hard and to get the coaches’ respect for my work ethic. My development is something that I am very proud of, and I am really looking forward to continuing to make gains in my game this coming year.
As a team, we weren’t expected to go to the Frozen Four, and then we showed everyone that we could play well enough to be there. I think we all did a fantastic job, and I am really proud of everything our guys accomplished.
HF: What are your personal hockey goals for next season?
S D-P: Personally? I definitely want to keep up my training, and to be able to help my team more. This past year was more about adapting to the college game. Next year I want to show what I personally can bring to the team.
HF: You sound very anxious to get back to school. When are you going back there?
S D-P: I will be going back next month. For two weeks I will be working with younger kids at a hockey camp. Then I go back to start my fall semester at the end of August.
HF: What does your schedule look like here at the Combine?
S D-P: Interviews, more interviews and then the fitness testing. I have a written schedule that I was given and I will be interviewed by 19 teams while I am here.
HF: Did you do anything in particular to prepare for the interview portion of the Combine?
S D-P: Not really, I already had a meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks while I was still in Maine. I feel like the most important thing during the interviews is to be myself, and I don’t really want to prepare and seem like a robot.
HF: How about for the fitness testing?
S D-P: I have been training hard all year long, working on strength and cardio generally. I worked out three times a week during the season and pretty hard since the season was over.
HF: Anybody specific you had helping you do this?
S D-P: Our trainer Tim really was great working with me. And at the end of the year, he helped me by taking me through the tests I will be doing here a few times.
HF: As part of the interview process, I’ve been told that teams almost always ask the following two questions, so I hope you don’t mind if I ask them now? The first is, in your opinion, what do you see as the greatest strengths of your game?
S D-P: Sure I’ll answer. As I am sure that you can tell right away, my size is a big strength. I am also good at making plays and passes.
HF: What about your weaknesses? Are there things that you feel you are going to have to improve on to make it to the NHL?
S D-P: I am a big guy and I have grown a lot over the last two years; as part of that, I definitely need to work on my foot speed. Also I have been working hard on my one-on-ones. That’s what I want to improve on the most, because I have always concentrated on being an offensive defenseman and now I really want to improve my defense.
HF: Do you have anyone in the NHL that you model your game on?
S D-P: Not really, there is so much talent there defensively, I just try to work really hard and watch all the defensemen in the league. There is no one guy in particular that is my model.
HF: What do you like to do when you are not on the ice?
S D-P: I love being on the beach, on boats. My favorites are Sea-Doos. I have been riding them on my summers off as much as I can.
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