Q&A with Danny Syvret

By Jason Ahrens

Danny Syvret of the London Knights is finishing up his third season in the OHL and it has been an impressive three-year run. Syvret has become one of the dominant defensemen in the league and can control the game with his poise on the ice. The 19-year-old rarely makes a mistake in his own end and has the skating ability to get back if he makes an error up ice. He has very good on-ice vision and moves the puck as well as any defenseman in the league. Syvret has become quite the open ice hitter and catches many players with their heads down. His shot from the point has improved over his career and he has the ability to beat goalies from the point.

Syvret had an extremely successful rookie season with the Knights and was named to the first team All-Rookie team on defense. Despite this, he was not drafted, likely because at 6’0 and 200 pounds some teams consider him small for an NHL defenseman.

Syvret did attend the Washington Capitals camp in the fall of 2003 and he put together another strong season contributing 31 points in 68 games and had the second best plus/minus in the OHL at +43. He played a big role on the first place Knights and was an important member of their league-best special teams and the team set an OHL record for the fewest goals against. Once again, he was passed over at the NHL draft.

In 2004-05 Syvret has had a year to remember. Syvret was named captain of the team as his Knights shattered many OHL and CHL records and lowered their goals against mark even more and lost only seven games all year. He made Team Canada for the World Junior tournament and although some people expected that he would be just a depth defenseman, he played a significant role and ended up scoring what turned out to be the game winning goal in the gold medal game.

In 62 games with London, Syvret racked up 23 goals, 46 assists and 69 points. He led the league in plus/minus with an amazing +69. These numbers will probably put him on the OHL First Team All-Star team and will likely give him the nod as the OHL Defenseman of the Year. Syvret and the Knights will be looking to win their first OHL championship in the history of the team and they are hosting the Memorial Cup.

Hockey’s Future caught up with Syvret after a 5-1 win over the Guelph Storm in game three of the first round series that the Knights are winning 3-0.

HF: Tell me about the game tonight, this was the first one that you guys finally broke it open on them?

DS: They have been playing pretty disciplined and pretty strong defensively and we had a 2-0 lead early and we rode that all the way to the third. That is when they got a little undisciplined and we capitalized on them.

HF: You scored all five of your goals on the power play tonight, and the Storm have been giving you lots of trouble on the power play up until now, can you tell us about the adjustments that you made?

DS: We changed things up a bit, they were pressuring us everywhere, so we tried to keep the defensemen as wide as possible and distribute the puck well to get them running around, pull them out of position and then find the open man. It worked well for us so hopefully we can do it again in game four.

HF: Has this series gone the way you thought it might? The first two games were one-goal games and this one was close until late in the third.

DS: Yeah it was still a close game, it was 2-0 most of the way and like I said, they got a little undisciplined in the third. They have built a good rivalry with us and we have never really blown them out, every game has been close, so it is sort of what we expected.

HF: Tell me a bit about your hip check on Ryan Callahan tonight. That was a beautiful open ice hit and that is something that you have been doing a lot this year.

DS: Yeah I am just anticipating what guys are going to do, I saw him cut through the middle and I knew that he had only one way to go, so I sort of eliminated that option from him and made the hit.

HF: Looking back to August, did you have any idea that the season was going to as well for you individually and for the team as it has?

DS: I knew we had a lot of returning players and obviously being hosts for the Memorial Cup helped, we picked up a few key guys in trades. For myself I knew that I was going to have more responsibility on the team and I just took that one day at a time. Things are working out well for me and so hopefully they will do so in the future.

HF: Speaking of responsibility, does being captain of the Knights create more off-ice public appearances for you?

DS: Everyone on the team has pretty much the same share of off-ice activities. We do a lot of school and hospital visits. Just recently after the gold medal, I have been doing a lot of sports banquets and talking in front of groups. As I am at the head table and it has been a good experience. But for the most part, everyone on the team contributes to going to autograph signings, or hospitals or schools.

HF: How did you spend your summer?

DS: I was at home; I worked out with my younger brother. We were in the playoffs late and then got beat out by Guelph in the conference finals. So I was home for May, June, and July and then I went out with the New York Rangers training camp in August and then to Calgary for Team Canada’s evaluation camp, so I was in camp for the entire month of August. I got back to London just in time for training camp and have been going ever since.

HF: Two years how was your shot you were more of a passer than a shooter. Now you have really developed your shot and it has paid off as your goal totals this year showed. What did you do to improve it?

DS: Just a quicker release I think. When we got beat out, the NHL playoffs were still on, my little brother was getting stronger and working on his shot all of the time, so we made a little rink downstairs, a little net and went down every intermission during the NHL playoffs and just shot pucks, I think I just worked at it without even thinking about it, as we were having more fun than anything, but it helped me out a lot.

HF: Where was your brother playing this year?

DS: He played in Junior B for the Cambridge Winter Hawks.

HF: Tell me a bit about the World Juniors, obviously that must have been one of the biggest thrills in your life.

DS: Every youngster grows up and when they are off school for Christmas they are at home, the only hockey on is the World Juniors, so everyone gets their Canadian pride out and watches, and I was one of those kids. You grow up always wanting to play for your country and then to be able to do it and be in the spotlight nationally was an amazing feeling. Out there we had an excellent team with a lot of great players and it was just a great experience.

HF: Now you have stick in the Hockey Hall of Fame because of that experience, how does that feel?

DS: It was good. We were on the power play and it went up top and it went over to my defense partner and I thought he was going to put it on net so I drove the net and I sort of just lingered around there, but he didn’t shoot, he went back and then took a one-timer and I was still in front of the net, I don’t know why I was there, but the puck ended up missing the net and I just jumped on it. I saw some room behind the goalie, originally I was planning on just throwing it out in front and hoping that one of the guys would bat it in, but the goalie turned into the puck and knocked it into the net and that turned out to be the game winner and it was a great feeling.

HF: I’m sure you are getting sick of answering this one, but when you got your gold medal, Wayne Gretzky has his hand stuck out and you skated right by him, I bet you have been teased a lot about that.

DS: I actually didn’t even see Wayne Gretzky on the ice. I guess he presented Mike Richards with the trophy, but I was doing an interview at the other end of the ice, so I never even saw that, and I think if I would have saw that, I would have known that Wayne Gretzky was on the ice. I thought that it was just three people handing out medals, and I went to get mine, I think as soon as I got the medal I turned around and looked at it and skated right away, I was so focused on the medal. I had met him before that, but obviously you really don’t want to disrespect the Great One on national television and I tried to make a good effort to apologize.

HF: The NHL draft has passed over you twice. This year you have putting together a career year, a monster year, yet in the Central Scouting mid-term rankings you were rated to be a late round pick. How frustrating is that?

DS: It is a little frustrating, but I think I can overcome it. The first time I missed out on the draft I thought I had a good chance to be drafted. I put up some good numbers and was on the ice playing a lot as a rookie, but I got passed up, and the second year wasn’t that big of a disappointment, as I had been through it once already so I was used to it. It doesn’t really matter where anyone ranks you, as long as I get a shot somewhere to work my way up.

HF: It must be encouraging this year to see guys like Dennis Wideman (Worcester) and Chris Campoli (Bridgeport) put together impressive seasons as rookies in the AHL. These are guys you have played with and against and are similar in size and style to you.

DS: It is, especially Dennis Wideman, he wasn’t drafted in his first year, and he was selected late in the draft in his second year. I guess he is sort of paving the way for the younger, offensive, smaller defensemen I guess you could say. I just try to take care of my own end and the offense comes after that. For the most part I just try to stay in position.

HF: You have been logging a lot of ice time this year, a lot of games you are around the 30-minute mark, so you obviously got yourself in pretty good shape over the summer.

DS: Being a defenseman you play a lot, and we really only roll four defensemen so you are bound to get about thirty minutes of ice, or at least in the high twenties. It is one of the responsibilities of being a veteran defenseman on a pretty strong team.

HF: Who were some of your major influences in hockey while growing up?

DS: I think my father. He was my coach every year growing up, until I moved on to junior. Just the little things, we would be watching NHL games, he would be picking apart what the defensemen would be doing in the NHL game. You learn all the time when he was pointing things out, especially watching the professionals, everyone makes mistakes and you just have to learn from them.

HF: At what point in your minor hockey career did you think that the OHL was an option for you?

DS: All along I always wanted to get a scholarship, even when I was drafted teams would ask me if I would report and I really didn’t know. School is a big part of my life and I always wanted a scholarship. When I was drafted here to London, I sort of weighed my options and I saw that they had a pretty veteran defense corps and that they would be rebuilding and the year that I would step in I knew that I would play a lot, so I think went on that scale, knowing that I would be on the ice a lot.

HF: If hockey doesn’t work out for you, what sort of career would you chose?

DS: My parents have a family business and I could always fall back on that. I’m all right with computers anything like that and numbers, math is sort of my specialty, so anything to do with that. I really have nothing in mind right now; I just go in to school and try to learn something every day.

HF: Are you taking courses right now?

DS: Last year I took finite and statistics, this year I had business and economics. I knew I had a chance to make the world juniors, so I dropped business and just took economics. I’m in one class right now, so it’s an easier workload, so it’s really fun right now. I have classes two times a week, so it’s not really that bad. A lot of times the players go out and we’ll have dinner together, or we’ll go over to someone’s house and watch basketball or something. I’m usually busy, but nothing too strenuous.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.