Q&A with Dan Collins

By Matt MacInnis

Dan Collins was selected 90th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers.  The 6’1, 210 lbs right winger spent his fourth consecutive season with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL this year, averaging more than a point per game for the second season in a row with 26 goals, 42 assists and 68 total points in 66 regular-season games.  He followed that up with 20 points in 20 playoff games as the Whalers won the OHL Championship.  Collins also led his team’s forwards with a +16 rating.  Although he is yet to register a point in four games played at the Memorial Cup, Collins has been an offensive catalyst creating chances on the team’s second line and while manning the point on the power play.  

Collins is a big winger who isn’t afraid to line up an open-ice hit or mix it up on the boards.  He plays extremely well when facing the boards and as a part of the cycle down low.  He has good footwork for a player his size and age although his top-end speed could use some work.  He works very well in high traffic areas where he is comfortable handling the puck.  He also makes good, quick, decisions when put under pressure in the offensive zone to find the open man.  Although he does possess very hard wrist and slap shots and he is more than willing to put the puck on net, Collins is an unselfish player who also looks to make the cross-ice pass.  

Collins spoke with Hockey’s Future moments after the Whalers eliminated the Lewiston MAINEiacs from the Memorial Cup.  The Whalers now face the host Giants in the semi-finals tonight at 5pm PT.

HF: What did you do to keep Lewiston off balance?
DC: We just tried to get the puck in deep and put pressure on the defense and make them make the plays and create turnovers.  I think we did a good job with their D and make them turn the puck over.

HF: What was the key to get the first two pucks past Jonathan Bernier (LA) in the opening period before he went out with the injury?
DC: He’s a phenomenal goalie, I’ve been saying that for the past two days.  But you just have to keep throwing the puck to the net.  The couple of goals we had, one we got a breakaway, the second James Neal (DAL) just throws it at the net with so much traffic in front of the net it kind of just bounced right in.

HF: What is going to be the key for you guys in tomorrow’s game against the Vancouver Giants?
DC: Much the same we did today.  Obviously it’s going to be a physical contest.   We got to get the puck low and work on our cycle and get the puck in to the net.

HF: Is there any specific game plan to deal with some of Vancouver’s big, physical forwards?
DC: Well we’re going to try to play the game in their end, not our end.  It’s probably going to be a lot in the neutral zone.  So we got to try to get the puck in at the red line and try to not make so many turnovers.  

HF: Shifting away from the tournament, do you expect this to be your final season in the OHL?
DC: It should be.  I guess I’m with Florida, I signed about a week or so ago.  So looking forward to moving on and taking the step to the AHL next year.  

HF: Obviously you’re focusing on the tournament at hand, but have you had any indication from Florida where they’re going to put you next year?
DC: No, I really don’t know what they’re thinking, where they’ll put me. I’m just gonna attend the camps they tell me to and play as well as I can.

HF: How much communication do you have with the organization?
DC: Quite a bit.  I talked to (Director of Player Development) Dwayne Sutter quite a bit.  And then when the guys come into town they let me know.  They talk to my agent who talks to me.  So I get to hear from them about two times a month so that’s not too bad.

HF: For the most part, is it them just checking in to see how you’re doing or are they giving you suggestions of what you should be working on?
DC: It’s both.  It’s them trying to keep contact with me and also giving me little tips and pointers to make me a better hockey player.

HF: Tomorrow night you’re going to be looking across at Kenndal McArdle (FLA), a potential future teammate.  Do you find that a little strange at all?
DC: Um, not so much right now.  He’s played in the Western League all these years and I’ve never really got to play against him.  Right now I just kind of view him as that.  I’ve been to a few camps with him and I’m friends with him but I’m not going to worry about that right now.

HF: Have you got to know a lot of the other guys who are Florida prospects in the league?
DC: Yeah.  I know Tyler Plante (FLA), McArdle from the Western League.  And some of the other guys, they’re all good guys. 

HF: In general, how have you found your experience at previous summer and developmental camps?
DC: Oh it’s awesome.  They just pick up the littlest things that can really help you become a better player such as protecting the puck, just little subtleties in skating that helps a younger player.

HF: One of your strengths is how you play when facing the boards.  Is this something that you think has been enhanced by your time at development camps with Florida?
DC: Yeah.  The last two camps I’ve been to they do a lot of simulated drills where you’re facing the boards, and you try to feel the pressure and protect the puck and then work our way to the net using our body to protect it.

HF: How would you describe your experience playing these years in Plymouth?
DC: It’s been phenomenal; I wouldn’t change it for the world.  It’s really helped me become a better hockey player, a better person and there is nothing else I could ask for.

HF: What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
DC: One of my strengths is obviously my shot and my size and strength.  One of my weaknesses would be, I think, consistency.  I think everybody struggles with consistency a little bit, it’s one of the toughest things to keep going as a hockey player so I just want to key on being consistent every game and working hard.

HF: You play the point on the power play; have you found any challenges shifting back and forth from forward at full strength to the point with the man advantage?
DC: Well, ever since my second year I’ve played the point so that’s pretty much all I’ve known on the power play since I’ve been in Plymouth so it’s not much of a difficulty for me switching back and forth.

HF: Why did you take the CHL route opposed to going through college?
DC: Well I thought I’d obviously get to play a lot more games, versus 30 games in college.  And I could go right away and start my development so it seemed like the better route for me at the time.

HF: Is there any NHL player that you play a similar style to?
DC: That’s hard to say, comparing myself to someone in the NHL.  I would obviously like to play like Bill Guerin, but he’s a lot tougher than I am, so I guess I have to work on that.

HF: Whose your favorite player in the league?
DC: I’d probably go with Marian Hossa.  I don’t exactly play like him but he’s fun to watch.

HF: What’s your favorite team in the NHL?
DC: It’s Florida now, but it used to be Jersey.  I kind of grew up watching them because their AHL team was near me and my step-dad liked them also, so I grew up watching them a lot.

HF: What’s your prediction about the Stanley Cup Final?
DC: It’s tough to say.  I think Ottawa is going to win it just because I think they have a solid team, but Anaheim has the two Norris Trophy winners so you never know what could happen.  

HF: What are your plans for the summer, both in terms of training and relaxing?
DC: Well I don’t really have too much time to relax since we’ve been playing so long.  I have a camp in Florida on June 3 so I have about four days off there and then I have to go to camp and start working out again.  Just try to get into game shape to start the next season.

HF: During the season, what do you do during your down time?
DC: I usually play a little bit of video games, hang out with the guys and watch some TV.

HF: What’s your favorite game?
DC: Tiger Woods.

HF: Do you golf in the offseason?
DC: Yeah, yeah, I golf quite a bit.  I go out with the guys, hit the links and relax.

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