Patrick Cusack is a 2007-eligible defenseman currently playing for the Lewiston MAINEiacs at the Memorial Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia. Cusack played in 41 regular season games, scoring twice and registering seven assists while earning a +11 rating and racking up 67 penalty minutes. He missed nearly half the season because he took more than two months off following the death of his father in October. Cusack is a solid defensive defenseman who looks to have growth since being measured at 6’0.5, 190 lbs earlier this season by Central Scouting, who currently has him ranked 198th overall.
The St. Bruno, Quebec native has progressed significantly since being the 12th overall selection in the 2005 QMJHL Entry Draft. He spoke to Hockey’s Future at Pacific Coliseum just hours before Lewiston is scheduled to face the Plymouth Whalers in the tiebreaker game of the Memorial Cup to determine who will face the host in the semi-final.
HF: What’s the gameplan for tonight’s game against Plymouth?
PC: It’s probably the biggest game of the tournament right now. We have to come out. We have to go hard or we’re going home that’s for sure. I mean we’re just going to work hard; Bernier’s there every game for us so we owe him one so hopefully we’ll come out strong for him.
HF: Does the team have any specific plan to deal with some of their dangerous forwards like Daniel Ryder (CGY), (DAL) and Evan Brophey (CHI)? (FLA)
PC: I think defensively we’re pretty good as well. Our defensemen can handle their forwards. I believe that we have a fast-skating team, so do they. They’re big, they can hit; we’re big, we can hit. I think it should be an interesting game.
HF: Were you surprised to see Medicine Hat win last night’s game over Vancouver?
PC: No, I mean both teams are obviously very good teams. They battled it out for seven games to win the championship in the Dub. I mean, it could have went either way, both teams played a very strong game and Medicine Hat came out on top.
HF: How were you able to get back into game shape after missing so much of the first half of the season? Did you spend a lot of time riding the bike?
PC: Pretty much. I spent a lot of time on the bike the first week back. My father also helped me a lot before passing away. He told me to live my dream, told me to never give up even if he passed away. He said ‘go out there and do what you have to do’ so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
HF: Central Scouting has you ranked in the 190s. Do you think the Memorial Cup is an opportunity to further showcase yourself to NHL teams?
PC: Yeah, obviously Memorial Cup helps a lot. But I’m not here, I’m not following that too much, I’m here to win the Mem Cup and that’s all.
HF: So you’re not talking to agents or advisors about the draft process at all?
PC: No, I haven’t spoken to anyone about it. Maybe this summer I will, I’m not too sure. But right now I’m concentrating on getting my team to win the Memorial Cup and that’s what I’m here for.
HF: How would you describe your style of play?
PC: A safe, stay-at-home defenseman. I’m not too offensive. I don’t create too many turnovers, I have a good first pass, I don’t get caught defensively.
HF: Is there any one thing in particular that you’re working on right now?
PC: Obviously my offensive play. I’m not too offensive. I’d like to get a better shot, better hands, but that, I’ll work on that over the summer and see how it goes.
HF: What has it been like to play for the only American-based QMJHL franchise in Lewiston?
PC: Oh, it’s awesome. Everywhere we go we’re pretty much hated because we come from an American franchise. But I mean 80 percent of our team is from Quebec, and there’s maybe 10 percent from the Maritimes and maybe the other ten from the United States. But it’s fun. Everybody hates us and that’s what I like.
HF: Do you think there is any difference in style of play between the Quebec and Maritime divisions of the QMJHL?
PC: No, it’s pretty much all the same. Even in the Dub and the OHL, everyone plays pretty much the same style of hockey. All fast, everyone hits, everyone gets shoot-in, it’s all the same.
HF: You won the last ten games of the regular season, then went four playoff rounds losing just one game. How was the team able to maintain the momentum for such a sustained period of time?
PC: I think back then everyone was playing for the logo in front and not the name at the back. I think we have a lot of players right now who are being selfish and want to improve their scouting list, they want to go higher in the rankings for the NHL. But I think tonight everyone will pull it through together and we’ll come up with the big win.
HF: So is playing as a unit the key to winning tonight?
PC: I think everyone has to play as a team. We have to pass the puck, we have to have quicker execution. Yeah, if we do that we should be fine.
HF: What is your favorite NHL team?
PC: Montreal Canadiens.
HF: Who will win the Stanley Cup?
PC: I think Ottawa. Uh, yeah, I think Ottawa will win it.
HF: Any reason in particular?
PC: They’re good all around. Obviously Anaheim is good, they have solid defense, solid goaltending, but hopefully Ottawa will come through.
HF: Is there any current NHL player that you play the same style?
PC: I couldn’t think of one off the top of my head. I just want to play defense.
Lewiston Head Coach Clement Jodoin also spoke about his young defender.
HF: How did Cusack play this season?
CJ: He had a tough year. You know, he lost his dad in October. It wasn’t an easy situation for a young 17-year-old coming up over here and facing this type of adversity. It took him a long time to recover. I said, ‘when you’ll be back it’ll be because you’ve been healing. If it’s not healed, stay home with your mom and your brother and when you’re ready to come back, come back.’ So it’s been a tough stretch for him but he’s been good. He’s going to get there. He’s a character kid, tough kid, he can fight. And I like the kid.
HF: So he really impressed you with his ability to come back from what happened earlier in the season?
CJ: Yes. He did show some maturity. He’s maturing quicker than most of the kids. Because now he has to take more responsibility. It’s nice the way he’s been growing up this year.
HF: What did you guys do to get him back into game shape after missing so much time?
CJ: Oh, we worked at him. We did some extra, a lot of extra, a lot of extra. And he knew about it. Because it’s always back to competing. When you’re coming back from this type of event, you know the other team is still going to hit you. And we had to, we put him up in a lot of battle drills. And he had to come back and say if i’m going to make it, I’m going to battle. And he did.
HF: How would you describe his style of play?
CJ: Defensively defenseman. Good first pass. Safe.
HF: What are you focusing on improving in his game?
CJ: It’s his overall game, with and without the puck. He even played on the power play. So you know there is no question we’re working on a lot of aspects of his game.
HF: If there is one aspect that will hold him back from making the transition to professional hockey what is it?
CJ: (long pause) Tough question to answer. Personally I think he has the potential to be drafted. It’s sad because he missed half the season. But you know, when we drafted him two years ago he was so small. Now he’s a big kid. So I think it’s just a question of timing.
HF: Have you spoken to many NHL scouts about Cusack?
HF: Are you recommending that they take a closer look at him and the stats don’t tell story?
CJ: This is what I always say. Take a look at him. Seventeen-year-old for what he went through, you have to take a look at him.
HF: What kind of potential does he have as a professional?
CJ: He’s a competitor, he’s physical. At that level, he’s safe. You know what he’s going to give you.
HF: What player would you say he plays a similar style?
CJ: (laughing) It’s always that. I always hate that. I hate comparisons.
HF: A defensive defenseman is a defensive defenseman?
CJ: (laughing) Yes, yes!
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