National Hockey League scouts looking to fill an organizational hole on defense have made Calgary a regular stop on their route through the Western Hockey League, and the Canadian Hockey League, for that matter. It isn’t out of the ordinary to see several scouts hiding in a corner of the Pengrowth Saddledome on a nightly basis, keeping a close eye on the blueline of the Calgary Hitmen.
What makes Calgary so unique?
There is no better place then Calgary to see the top defensemen in North America eligible for the 2004 draft. The Central Scouting Bureau’s preliminary rankings confirmed this, as did their mid-season update.
The Calgary Hitmen defense, among the largest in the entire Canadian Hockey League, boast three defensemen, all 6’4.5, 208 lbs or larger, that are eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, held this year in Carolina. These three defensemen include Jeff Schultz, ranked 11th, Brett Carson, ranked 28th, and Andy Rogers, ranked 34th, all among North American skaters. In fact, the Hitmen are home to three of the top 15 North American defensemen eligible for the Entry Draft, going by the Central Scouting Bureau.
Hockey’s Future caught up with one of these towering defensemen, Brett Carson.
Carson, who himself is the smallest in terms of height among the draft eligible defensemen on Calgary, standing at an imposing 6’4.5, and tipping the scales at a 225 lbs. Carson, who spent last season with both the Moose Jaw Warriors and Calgary Hitmen, registered 14 points (4-10-14) in 54 games last season, while recording 32 minutes in penalties.
This season, however, there has been a breakout by the Whitewood, Sask. native. Through the Hitmen’s first 54 games, Carson has skated in 52, recording an impressive 25 points, on the strength of 4 goals and 21 assists. Ranked second in defensemen scoring on the club to only Jeff Schultz (who himself has 28 points (10-18-28) in 53 games), Brett Carson has to be happy with the successes he’s had with the Calgary Hitmen this season, as he looks towards the 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
HF: The 2004 CHL Top Prospects game, what was an event like that for you?
BC: Oh that was a great experience. It was pretty competitive. You go out there thinking that it’s kind of like an All-Star Game and then you see Don Cherry and Bobby Orr, and they tell you it’s not that. If you’re not playing good you’re going to be sat so you know it’s like a real game. Everyone was pretty intense. It was great.
HF: Did you seek any advice at all from the two hockey legends, Bobby Orr and Don Cherry?
BC: You know everyone says you’ve got to work hard every night and you just can’t try to do too much and try to make the simple plays and that will eventually get noticed and just be consistent. That’s about all they said.
HF: Was it a lot easier having a few of your teammates there, with Andrew Ladd, Jeff Schultz and Andy Rogers there beside you?
BC: Oh yeah. It was like a Hitmen atmosphere out there, with the four of us there, hanging out in the hotel. It really helped us out to meet new guys too though, because Rogers played a lot of hockey with some of those guys, with the Canadian Under-18 team, so he helped introduce us. It was really good having everyone there.
HF: The 2004 NHL Entry Draft is fast approaching, only a couple of months away. Is it something that’s been on your mind?
BC: You know you try not to think about it too much but it’s always in the back of your mind. You know, scouts are here every night, so it puts a lot of added pressure on you to be consistent every night.
HF: Is the draft something that you’ve let effect your play, whether it be trying to make an extra effort to make a play, or just even be more consistent on the ice?
BC: Well, no. Like I said you just have to compete hard every night and they are always watching. You always try to make the extra play to try to impress somebody. You try not to think about it too much, but it’s always there.
HF: You’ve got veterans surrounding you on this Calgary Hitmen team, between Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Egener. Have you searched out any advice from them on what to expect from the draft?
BC: No, not really. They just say it’s a lot of pressure on you and that you’ve got to let it happen. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself because once you do that you start making mistakes. They just tell me to take it all in because it’s quite an experience, and they hope that everything works out for the best.
HF: Have you spent any time talking to (Andrew) Ladd, (Jeff) Schultz, or (Andy) Rogers? They are all in the same boat as you, being eligible for the 2004 Entry Draft, and all being ranked so high by Central Scouting?
BC: You know we always joke about it. We bug (Andrew) Ladd about being No. 2. We just use each other to put a little bit of pressure on each other, trying to help each other out along the way.
HF: Is there any competition between you and the other two defensive prospects, Andy Rogers and Jeff Schultz, to see who can get selected first in the draft?
BC: Not really. You know, I’d be happy to see both of those guys go ahead of me in the draft. I’d like to see everything work out for everyone. You’d always like to be the top guy out of the three, but you know, we’re all good players, and I guess it just depends on who likes you.