Q&A with Florida Panthers’ prospect Stephen Weiss

By Jake Dole

Under the leadership of captain Stephen Weiss, the Florida Panthers came away champions at the annual Hull Rookie Tournament – a 5 day, 4-team event showcasing the NHL stars of tomorrow. Hockey’s Future caught up with Weiss after one of the games.

NAME: Stephen Weiss
TEAM: Florida Panthers
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-foot, 183 lbs.
BIRTHDATE/PLACE: 1983-04-23/Toronto Ontario
DRAFT STATUS: Florida’s 1st pick/4th overall in 2001 NHL Entry Draft

– Played 7 games with the Florida Panthers during the 2001/2002 season, notching 1 goal and 2 points

– Led the Plymouth Whalers in Assists (45), Points (70) and Plus-Minus (+38) during the 2001/2002 campaign

– Silver Medallist with Canada’s U-20 Junior team in Pardubice, Czech Republic

Weiss is in good shape and seems ready for the NHL. Stephen is a budding star, mainly because of his flawless skating ability and exceptional offensive instincts. A terrific one-on-one player, Weiss has great quickness and stickhandling ability to elude the most savvy of blueliners. Stephen’s playing style has been compared to that of Joe Sakic, because of his work ethic and willingness to play at both ends of the ice.

Q: How does the Rookie Tournament feel so far for you?

A: Oh, feels good. It is my second year here and that helps a lot. You know what to expect and it’s a good way to start out the year.

Q: You had a partially torn MCL after a knee-on-knee collision late last year. How is your knee and how was rehab?

A: The knee is great – it feels 100%. The rehab went well – I stayed in Florida for about one to two months after the season, just to work out and rehab the knee. That helped a lot to start this summer off for sure.

Q: In terms of physical preparedness, how did you off-season workouts go?

A: It was about staying in the gym and working hard, getting ready for the season, trying to add some muscle. And you have to do that to be able to compete in the NHL.

Q: How much did you gain after your workouts?

A: I would say over 10 pounds. I finished the season at 169 and came into camp at around 183, 184.

Q: Do you feel you’re ready to play for the Panthers this year?

A: I do. I got a taste of it last year and I feel the most challenged there. I don’t want to go back to Junior – I want to play with Florida next year and this is my immediate goal.

Q: Do you feel you’ll need to make adjustments, whether mental or physical when you play in the NHL?

A: It’s a big jump, obviously. I think that whether it’s mentally or physically, you have to be better at every aspect of the game to compete (in the NHL). Those are the best players in the world and I will definitely have to elevate my game to play there.

Q: You had a brief stint with the Panthers last year. What did you learn during your call-up?

A: A lot of stuff. I played seven games, but it felt like the whole season. I learned that you have to be very fit, in great condition and be very strong. It was quite a contrast for me, because I arrived from Junior.

Q: Did you get to know the players and the coaching staff fairly well during that time?

A: The guys are great. It’s a young team and I was treated well. The coaches are great – I, obviously, played for Mike (Keenan) and I know that he’s been around for a long time and he demands a lot from his guys, but, you know, that’s good. You have to perform hard every night – you have no other choice.

Q: When you reach the NHL, what would be your long-term goal to accomplish?

A: I’m not thinking long-term yet. I’m just worried about making the team this year and taking every shift, every game at a time. I have to keep developing my game and we’ll see what happens in the future.

Q: When you work out during the off-season, is there a special diet that you follow?

A: Yeah. A lot of protein and carbs. We try to stay away from the fats as much as possible, in order to keep the body fat down. You want to keep body fat to, at most, 10 % and, if you do that, it helps your fitness out a lot.

Q: Is there a hockey players or former hockey player who you emulate?

A: One guy is Adam Graves. I know him personally and I’ve looked up to him since I was a little kid and off the ice and on the ice he is a good guy all around.

Q: How do you react when people compare you to NHL players? Does that place pressure on you?

A: Not really. When you play hockey, people will compare you to other guys, obviously. It all comes down to styles and it’s a part of it, but when you get compared to a great player, you can’t let that go to your head. You have to keep working hard and play your own style.

Q: When you don’t play hockey, what kind of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

A: I spend time in the gym and, aside from that, just try to get as much rest as I can for next season. I also do a lot of golfing – I enjoy golfing. It’s very relaxing and during the summer it’s a good way to pass the time.

Q: In your hockey career, what would you say is the best advice a player or a coach has given you?

A: Basically to work hard. No matter how good you are or how good you think you are the puck is always there coming up behind you and you have to fight for it. I realize that I have to keep giving it my best effort and keep improving my game.