Danny Kristo progressing into solid two-way presence

By DJ Powers
Photo: In his second season with North Dakota, Danny Kristo has gradually developed into an offensive threat in all situations. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Sophomore Danny Kristo (MON) is enjoying a terrific 2010-11 campaign this season. To date, he has posted 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) through 33 games. He missed ten games in February and early March due to frostbite on his right foot. Hockey’s Future caught up with Kristo after practice on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.

Hockey’s Future: First off, how’s your foot doing?

Danny Kristo: The foot is doing good. It gets better every day and I’ve almost got full feeling in my toes. I’ve also gotten my first full layer of skin back and the second layer is just starting to come in. So it’s feeling really good.

HF: Has it been tough being able to skate as well as or as easily as before?

DK: The skating hasn’t been tough. It’s just been the conditioning coming back that’s been tough. I’ve had to work hard to get back into that. It was a little painful at first, but I’ve got a lot of adrenaline and had a lot to come back for with the run that we’ve been on and the chances that we have (of winning the National Championship) this year, so I wanted to do everything that I could to get back.

HF: What are some of the areas that you feel that you’ve made the biggest improvements in that have allowed you to enjoy the great season that you’ve had thus far?

DK: I think I’ve had a pretty decent season so far and one thing that I’ve worked on a lot this year has been my play five-on-five. I thought that I had a pretty good year last year as a freshman, point-wise, but I had most of my points on the power play. This year, I’ve gotten more points five-on-five and I think that’s been key for me. I’ve also worked on my game defensively too. I’ve been working on my play in the defensive zone and just doing the little things like getting pucks out and blocking shots. I think I’ve also become more defensively responsible and have gained the trust of my coaches too. I think that goes a long way. For any player that wants to play at the next level, I think they have to be able to good defensively, especially with the way the NHL is nowadays.

HF: What are some of the areas of your game that you feel are either the weakest areas or areas that you are continually working on to improve?

DK: I think just maturing on and off the ice. I try to make the right decisions both on and off the ice, gain the trust of my coaches in my defensive play and stuff like that. I think I’m working better defensively, even though are still some question marks about my defensive abilities. I think I’ve done a good job on that to this point. I’ve also gained a little more strength in my upper body. I worked a lot on that over the summer. So those are the things that I’ve been working a lot on.

Being a Montreal Canadiens draft pick, it must feel pretty good having such a storied franchise holding your NHL rights.

DK: Definitely. They’re a great organization and I couldn’t be happier having been drafted by Montreal. I have a pretty good relationship with them and they have such great fan support too. It’s nice being a kid from Minnesota, where everyone loves hockey and knowing that if I do play in Montreal some day that it’ll be the same, if not better because they (Montreal) probably have the craziest fans in the NHL. I know that, so it’s a pretty good feeling.

HF: Has Montreal been keeping tabs on your development throughout the year?

DK: Yes, they have and I think they do a great job of it. But they’re also great about giving me my space too. They understand how important moments like the Frozen Four are to college players like me, so they talk to me only when they have to. They’ve been out here (North Dakota) to watch me play and will recommend some things for me to work on, but other than that, they just leave me alone. They’re really good about that and are a class organization too.

HF: Were you at their Prospects camp over the summer?

DK: Yes

HF: What were you able to bring back to North Dakota with you from that experience?

DK: I think that was either my third or fourth camp that I went to and there is just so much there that’s offered to you. It’s basically just a week of hockey and nothing else. You’re lifting weights, playing hockey, eating great food and everything. The organization just has so much to offer to further your development. They teach you how to develop these habits that you can do off the ice such as stretching and developing good eating habits to further your development. Basically, I went last year and just tried to take it all in. I was buying into everything that they were telling me. I would try it out and see if it would help me in the long run. I try to go there every year and learn something new.

HF: So I assume that you’re planning to attend their camp again this summer.

DK: Yes, most of their draft picks go every summer. And this year it’s in June, so it’s a good time to go out there. I get a chance to catch up with all of the guys too. I think it’s great that the team has a lot of college guys in their system. So I always have a great time going up there.

HF: So how is your French?

DK: Uh, my French is not too good. I know a couple of words but I have a buddy named Louis Leblanc (MON) that helps me out with that once in awhile. We’re good friends and I think that helps.

HF: What type of player can Montreal expect to see in Danny Kristo in the future?

DK: I think I’m a pretty competitive two-way player. I’m speedy and I like to play the transition game a lot. I try to make smart plays and I don’t like to lose. I think all of that goes a long way and I try to bring to those things to each every game here and hopefully I’ll be able to bring that to the Montreal organization as well.