The Hamilton Bulldogs recently began their AHL season with a two game series against the Edmonton Road Runners. The ‘Dogs picked up three points on the quick trip to Alberta and one of the most impressive players for the farm club of the Montreal Canadiens was their first round draft pick from 2002, Chris Higgins.
After spending a pair of seasons at Yale the native of Smithtown, New York moved to the American League and promptly scored 21 times and added 27 helpers for a total of 48 points. Along the way Higgins also skated in a pair of contests with the favorite team of his childhood, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Bulldogs dropped the Friday night game against Edmonton and had an optional skate scheduled for the next morning which no one would take part in because it was just hours before the second game of the series was to be played. With their home opener slated for Sunday afternoon, the ‘Dogs would be leaving immediately after Saturday’s tilt.
Despite the fact that his club had lost and understandably no one was in a mood to speak with the media, Higgins made himself available. Hockey’s Future was able to speak briefly with the highly touted forward from deep in the bowels of Rexall Place after the opening night of the AHL season.
HF: For those Montreal fans that haven’t had the opportunity to see you play in person, can you describe your style of play?
CH: I like to be a player that the coach can depend on in all situations really. If he wants me to play defensively I can do that, but if he wants me to be offensive I can do that also. I’m sort of a two-way guy.
HF: When you were a young fan growing up, who was your hockey idol?
CH: I was a big Habs fan as a kid but the only big name on the team back then when they won the Cup was Patrick Roy. He was my favorite player even though he was a goalie and I’m a forward.
HF: Any other Habs from the past that you really liked?
CH: Kirk Muller, I liked watching him because he was a great leader and a great two-way player who scored big goals in the playoffs in ’93.
HF: You were born in New York and went to school in New England. As a Habs fan you must have felt like you were behind enemy lines.
CH: Definitely, yeah! My dad was a die-hard Canadiens fan so he got me into them but it’s Islanders and Rangers territory where I grew up so it was a little tough.
HF: Every young player inevitably gets compared to current NHL players. Who have you heard yourself compared to?
CH: Brendan Morrow I’ve heard but that’s about it really.
HF: You were fortunate enough to get into a couple NHL games last year. Who from the Habs roster would you most like to play with?
CH: Koivu obviously! He’s the most skilled Canadien, he plays with his head and he knows where everyone is on the ice so it’s interesting to play with him.
HF: Are you a guy who sets statistical goals for yourself at the start of each year?
CH: Not really, I just want to improve on the last year and play a good defensive game as well.
HF: Did you have a different mindset coming in for your second AHL season?
CH: Definitely. I feel like more of a leader on the team and I feel more confident on the ice and I take more of a leadership or take charge role on the ice.
HF: Speak a bit about what Doug Jarvis has meant to your development.
CH: He plays a system that I’ve never played before; it’s a very defensive minded, positionally sound game and it took a little while to get used to. He pulls me aside and helps me work on little things and hopefully I’ll get better at doing them.
HF: There has been a lot of turnover on the team since last year. Has that been challenging for you to mesh with the new guys.
CH: No, I think it’s been pretty easy because all the younger guys are eager to play and eager to learn so you just tell them where to be on the ice if they’re playing with you.
HF: What about the move to the wing from center?
CH: No, not really. I feel pretty comfortable playing both positions. It’s a different type of game if you’ve played both positions, where you cover and stuff but I feel pretty comfortable.
HF: As a Habs fan, you know the pressure that exists for the players in the organization. Do you feel it yet as a first round pick?
CH: Not really. I’m in Hamilton right now and if I’m fortunate enough to make the Canadiens I’ll worry about the pressure and performing at that level.
HF: What did you study during your two years at Yale and will you finish?
A: Political Science for two years, I’ve still got two more years. I’ll see how this hockey thing works out! (laughs).
HF: What do you think of some of the new rules in the league this year?
CH: It should be interesting. The shootout will be the one fans will like the most. It will be a lot of pressure out there but you have to work on your moves in practice and hopefully go down and bury one for your team. I’m the kind of player that I think I’ll get chosen to shoot so… (laughs).
HF: Canadian beer or American beer?
CH: American. Bud-Lite, strictly. Me and my friends, that’s all we drink back home so…
Although he was held pointless by Edmonton, Higgins opened the scoring against Manitoba on Sunday during Hamilton’s home opener. It’s sure to be the first of a plentitude of goals and points that the young dynamo collects this year. The smooth skating and shifty playmaker was a notable figure in all three Hamilton games so far this year.
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