Q&A with Steve Bernier

By Eric Forest

Selected 16th overall in the 2003 Draft in Nashville, San Jose prospect Steve Bernier has all the tools to become a good power forward at the NHL level. Alongside Konstantin Zacharov (St Louis Blues), Bruce Graham (2004 eligible) and Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks) with the Moncton Wildcats, Bernier is considered one of the premier players in the QMJHL. He possesses a great pair of hands and an offensive flair. He likes driving to the net and fighting in the corners against tougher opponent. He’s gradually learning to develop his defensive game and ended the season at +39.

However, some people could tell you that his production was lower than what was expected from him this year, scoring 36 goals and 46 assists for 82 points. Nonetheless, he only played in 66 games this year, finishing the season 13th in the scoring race. He was second on his team, behind Karl Gagné, with an incredible season of 84 points in 68 games. In perspective, Bernier didn’t match up last year numbers (101 points) but definitely improved in other important areas of the game.

The 6’3″, 228-pound winger from Vanier, Quebec also played in the CHL/Russian Challenge Games were he scored one goal in two games.

Bernier took some time before Moncton’s playoff run to talk with Hockey’s Future.

HF: How was your season in Moncton?
SB: If you look at it in terms of production, it wasn’t that great, but I do think I improved my defensive game a lot.

HF: I guess your non-invitation to the World Junior Championship gave you a new reason to prove to Canada that you are indeed a good hockey player?
SB: It’s true, but I honestly didn’t really concentrate on it. I can always say to myself ‘I have a chance next year.’

HF: Which facet of your game did you improve the most since the start of the season?
SB: Like I said, I think I play a better defensive game and I improved my acceleration to gain my speed.

HF: The San Jose Sharks made a move to be sure they would get you in the draft. How did you felt when they called your name and you stepped on stage?
SB: Getting selected by the Sharks was a great feeling. Knowing they moved up to draft me is just even better!

HF: What can you bring to the San Jose Sharks?
SB: It’s really tough to answer at the moment since I don’t really know what to expect from the NHL, but I hope I will become a goal scoring forward that can play a two-way game at both sides of the rink.

HF: Did the San Jose management told you which part of your game they wanted you to solidify? Also, how do you intend to make it to the next lever?
SB: Yes. They told me to work on my skating, something I’m doing day in and day out. When I went to San Jose for training camp, I saw how it was up there and I promised to myself to train even harder this summer, especially on my feet, to be able to make it. I’m really excited for the future.

HF: How is the atmosphere in a winning locker room like Moncton?
SB: We have a very good team and the reason is, everybody here is close to each other. You can see the smiles in our faces.

HF: What are the Wildcats’ strengths and weaknesses?
SB: We have four good lines very much able to score goals and a big and gritty but mobile defensemen. We also have full trust in our goaltenders. However, we are a bunch of players taking a lot of penalties at certain times.

HF: Normally, who are your linemates and what can you tell us about them?
SB: Throughout the year, I played with Karl Gagner, a speedy center with a very good ice vision and Mathieu Bétournay, a 20-year-old leader who is extremely intense in every games and who knows how to score goals.

HF: Who is the Moncton Wildcats’ obscure player?
SB: It would be Mathieu Bétournay for his attitude on the ice.

HF: Everybody knows you have great hands. What is your first reflex when you get the puck?
SB: I usually watch for a shot or a pass if somebody is more open.

HF: You are also known for your size. What can you tell about checking?
SB: Well, I think a good bodycheck must be done when you are skating with good speed at the right time.

HF: How is travelling in the QMJHL? Do you feel tired come season’s end since you travel everywhere in the Maritimes and Quebec?
SB: Obviously, travelling is something tiresome but most of the time, schedules are well planned.

HF: How did your role changed since last year?
SB: Last season, I was more considered as a rookie. This year, I really gave more experience to this team.

HF: What are the best elements that will allow to yourself and the Wildcats a chance to advance to the Memorial Cup?
SB: We must definitely play as a team, everybody looking in the same direction, and get a defensive mentality.

HF: Which QMJHL goaltender is the most successful against you?
SB: It’s easily Adam Russo, playing for the Acadie-Bathurst Titans!

HF: Will you follow the Sharks or the Montreal Canadiens (childhood team) in the playoffs?
SB: I have been following the Sharks since the beginning of the year, watching them as most as I could on TV or with Internet so I’m rooting for them in this year’s playoff!

HF: Last year, some reports were saying that you were out of shape. What have you done to silence the critics?
SB: I know that my physical condition could have been better last year but I’ve learned about it and I can’t wait for the next training camp where I will be able to silence them once and for all!

HF: Finally, what has been your best hockey moment in your career until now?
SB: I’ve got two. When we won the Air Canada Cup in Midget AAA (with Ste-Foy) and my selection by San Jose last year.