Ryan McDonagh, a big, physically solid, offensive defenseman, was recently named Minnesota’s "Mr. Hockey." The high school senior from Arden Hills, Minnesota, a northeast suburb of Minneapolis, recorded 40 points in 26 games for St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham High School. He also skated with the United States team in the U-18 World Junior Championships in Finland this spring. It was at the Under 18s that he emerged from under the radar screen. With three assists in the tournament, McDonagh was solid on both offense and defense, and impressive in confidence and quickness on the ice. In the buzz leading up to the NHL Combine, McDonagh was one of the NHL teams’ most anticipated interviewees.
HF caught up with McDonagh immediately after he completed the fitness portion of the Combine testing.
HF: How do you feel after going through this series of fitness tests?
RM: No question, it gets the best out of your ability and makes you want to work hard. I want to show that I am a competitor, and I see it as a way to prove to them that I am a competitor in the game.
HF: Which test(s) did you find the hardest?
RM: Definitely the windgate test, they drop the resistance on you and you have to hold it for 30 seconds. It feels like the longest 30 seconds ever, but you just have to work your butt off and get it done.
HF: Are you aware that you recently have risen in the rankings?
RD: I don’t like to think about it much. I just stick to my game and my strengths and try to get better every day. When I am on the ice, I want to do my best, more for myself than to show anyone else how well I can play. If it all works out then that’s great, but either way, I will have known that I gave it my best efforts.
HF: There is a lot of buzz about you among the NHL teams. How many interviews have you had?
RM: In total I have 26 interviews, 22 on Friday, and 4 [Saturday].
HF: Do you have an NHL team that you like to watch? Do you follow the Wild?
RM: Being from Minnesota, I love watching the Wild play. This year I found enough time to go to about four games, and the Excel Energy Centre is a great place to watch hockey. There’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s sold out every night, the fans are great and they put on a good show, so just being able to watch them, they are definitely one of my favorite teams in the NHL.
HF: What are your on-ice strengths?
RM: Personally I don’t want to be a one-dimensional player. If I was a coach, I’d want a guy who can play in all situations, special teams, five-on-five and penalty kill, so I just try and be strong in all aspects of the game. I want guys to be able to count on me when I am on the ice.
HF: Each person has attributes they think they are best at and other things that they have to work on. Do you have a feel for what you are best at?
RM: I think skating is by far one of the strongest aspects of my game. In the game today if you can’t skate, there is no way that your skills will be effective. Guys are bigger, stronger, and faster these days, and if you are not able to move with them and defend them, then you are not very effective in your game. In the off-season, I try to work on my skating a lot.
HF: What is your work-out schedule going to look like this summer?
RM: Over the summer I will probably be working out four or five days a week, off-ice, and hopefully skate three days a week. But I need to be down in Madison, Wisconsin by July 9 to start working out with their program, so I am not sure what they have in mind.
HF: Often guys decide to take an extra year between high school and college, but you decided to go straight on to the University of Wisconsin after high school. What were the reasons behind that?
RM: In the beginning when I was working with Wisconsin, I wanted to do what was best for their program. I wasn’t going to be selfish about it, and they originally said they wanted me to come in the fall of 2008. That would have meant that I would have to find a place to play this coming year. But they moved it up to 2007 a few months afterwards, so it’s a good sign for me. I think that means that they are excited to have me there, and I will do the best that I can to help them win.
HF: Since you’re from Minnesota, what was the thinking behind choosing Wisconsin over the University of Minnesota, which also has an excellent program?
RM: For me personally, I wanted to go into the whole recruiting process with an open mind. I wasn’t going to go to a Minnesota school just because I lived there. I wanted to really find the best spot for me, and there is no question that Wisconsin was the best place for me to play. The facilities and the coaching staff there, plus the players that have come out of there defensive-wise were influential and I love the philosophy of the coaches. The coaches seem to run a really tight show there and the guys are great there. And, of course, the education is second to none, so I am really excited about the whole thing.
HF: What skills do you look to be working on over the next year at Wisconsin? What are you looking to improve in the immediate future?
RM: With the fast pace of the games these days, I am looking to be making quicker decisions, and quicker passes. I need to make sure that I work on knowing where I am going with the puck, which is the decision-making aspect of the game. I also want to focus on getting bigger, stronger, and faster. You need that if you want to play in the NHL. I want to make sure I take care of the details of the game too.
HF: Who has been most influential in your hockey career thus far?
RM: I have to say my uncle, who was a quarterback in the NFL for 12 years. He played college football for the University of Miami, and he really showed me what it takes to be a professional and a collegiate athlete. He showed me how you are supposed to act and always be respectful to people that help you along the way. Also to respect the game, always give it your all and leave no regrets when you are done. He’s definitely been a key guy so far. I look up to him a lot.
HF: What kinds of things do you like to do off the ice?
RM: I like to get up to Northern Minnesota, up to the lakes and kind of relax and fish. Add to that a lot of hanging out with the friends and playing baseball this spring, finishing up my high school career with my buddies. Hockey is my goal in life and what I wan t to do for my future, but I enjoy baseball, fishing and hanging out.
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