Sophomore Chris Wideman, an Ottawa Senators draft pick, has blossomed into one of Miami University’s most versatile defensemen this season. He has played in all 43 games to date, posting 22 points (five goals, 17 assists).
Hockey’s Future caught up with Wideman at Ford Field after practice on Wednesday.
HF: You guys are back in the Frozen Four wanting to take care of some unfinished business, so is it better the second time around?
CW: It’s still exciting and a blessing to be able to make it to the Frozen Four two years in a row. We definitely have some unfinished business, but it’s something that we’ve been preparing for all year. So this is something really special that we’ve been focused on all season. We’re ready for anything that comes our way.
HF: How is this year’s team different from last year’s team?
CW: I don’t think it’s any different. We still have the whole Brotherhood thing and we still believe in the concept of being better every day too. I think the only difference is that those of us that are back here feel that this is our time because we’ve worked so hard to achieve our goal of winning the national championship.
HF: With the heartbreak of last year, has that given the team added motivation?
CW: Yeah, for sure. We’ve all sat down and talked about it, including the freshmen. So we all want to make sure that we’re taking advantage of the second opportunity that we’ve been given.
HF: How has your role on the team evolved and where do you feel that you’ve grown most as a player?
CW: I’m trying to develop more of the offensive side of my game. I’m out on the ice about a half hour before practice and again after practice with some of the guys just shooting pucks. I’ve gotten lucky a couple of times this year with scoring goals. (laughs) I feel fortunate that I play with a group of guys that push each other every day. I’m trying to become a well-rounded player and with our team’s system, you don’t have a choice but to play defense hard. I think I’ve become better offensively with the work that I’ve done before and after practice. I’ve seen the difference. I know that there’s plenty of room to improve and expand, but I’m definitely happy with where I’m at right now.
HF: Some people may look at your numbers and say that you’re just another offensive defenseman, yet you’re also very good defensively. Do you feel that playing in the defense-first system that is in place at Miami has allowed you to be more well-rounded than perhaps some may think?
CW: I think so. Sometimes I kind of get jealous because I look at some of these other guys that can jump up into the play. But with the way that we play here at Miami, we have enough good forwards where I don’t need to be the player that jumps in all the time. I can move the puck, block shots and that sort of thing. It’s also made me more aware of what is going on in our end too, especially because of the competitive level that we have here at Miami. I think it has helped me tremendously. I’ve learned the importance of defense and being an offensive defenseman, I’ve also learned that I can’t be offensive unless I’m playing defense. The coaches will tell me that all the time. I can see that I’m getting better every day and that’s what makes it fun.
HF: What did you learn from the experience of being at Senators prospect camp last year?
CW: It was an absolute wake-up call for me. It was one of the best experiences of my life. You learn just how hard you have to work every day. If you multiply by 100 how hard you work in college, then that’s hard these (NHL) guys have to work. They’ve taught me the importance of taking care of my body and about nutrition. I do all of that without thinking about it, but they analyze it. I know that if I want to get to that next level, there’s going to be a lot of hard work ahead of me. But being at Miami and here at the Frozen Four right now is the coolest thing in the world.
HF: Have the Senators been keeping in touch with you throughout the year?
CW: Yes, every once in awhile I get a text message or a phone call from them. Once a month, I also get a prospects newsletter from them too, so I can see how the other prospects are doing. I try to stay in contact with some of the other prospects that I’ve become friends with too. One lady that has definitely been keeping tabs on me is their nutritionist. I think the Senators really take good care of their prospects. It’s something that they take very seriously.
HF: Finally, aren’t you guys glad that Boston University is not in the Frozen Four this year?
CW: (Laughs) I think everyone on our team will say yes. There are three other great teams here and maybe we don’t get the credit that we deserve sometime. But that’s the way we like it. We kind of like being the favorite but at the same time, we also like being the underdog too. I’m sure that there are people who are counting us out against Boston College, but we’re going to come out with a lot of confidence and we’ll see what happens.