Q&A with Aaron Dawson

By Glen Jackson

A defensive defenseman, Aaron Dawson stands 6’5 tall and is 220 lbs and is currently battling in the MasterCard Memorial Cup for his Peterborough Petes. Dawson had two goals and ten assists in the regular season but in the OHL playoffs he stepped up offensively and scored four goals (one on the power play), adding two assists, in 19 games. He is also a +10 in the playoffs.

In the two years after being drafted, Dawson experienced injury trouble, playing only 24 games in 2003-04 due to a serious shoulder injury. But he has developed this year into what the Carolina Hurricanes must have been hoping for when they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

“In the last two years his strides as a hockey player have really advanced and he’s extremely steady, and he’s now carrying the puck more and getting shots through to the net in the playoffs and scoring some goals,” Petes Head Coach Dick Todd told Hockey’s Future this week.

“[It] looks like he’s got a potential as an overage to sign a pro contract and move up and possibly play in the American League next year if he really puts his mind to it,” Todd added.

Hockey’s Future spoke with Dawson following practice yesterday as his team prepared for their tie-breaker match against the Vancouver Giants to avoid elimination.

HF: How have you felt you played in this tournament so far?

AD: I think I’ve improved each game. The last two games I thought have been my better games. First game I think it was a lot of nerves and I thought I got better as the game progressed. I think I’ve shown I can move the puck well and have been playing the body, and plus/minus has been good, so I think I’ve been playing pretty consistently.

HF: Which team would you say of the three would you say has been the toughest challenge?

AD: Well last night wasn’t easy. I think Quebec and Moncton play a similar style of game where it’s a little physical and lots of skill and Vancouver plays a very physical game. All three teams have their different strong points. Maybe, I’d have to go with Quebec. They kept flying and held us in our own end for long stints at a time.

HF: It didn’t work out with Carolina. Did they have talks with you before the deadline happened last summer?

AD: I think they dealt more with my agent and I didn’t talk with them personally. You know it was unfortunate that nothing could be worked out but I’m happy with coming back for an overage year. Hopefully something works out this summer.

HF: Would you say it was your injuries and the timing of those injuries that made it so that Carolina probably passed?

AD: Yeah it was unfortunate after the draft missing a whole season and my first year back (2004-05) was a tough one and I got better as the year went on, and this definitely was my best year in the OHL. It’s worked out well this year with doing as well as we did and with me having had a good personal year I think it will help me out with negotiations.

HF: Have you thought about camps this fall or have you been invited yet?

AD: There’s been no talks and I don’t think there has been with any of the overagers right now. I think more of the talks will come after the season. I don’t know, maybe they have been [talking] with the agent but I’m not sure but all we can do is just continue to play. Once the season is over we can worry about next year.

HF: How have you improved most over the course of your junior career?

AD: Handling the puck. Coming in I think I was just more of a solid defenseman. Throughout the career I’ve learned to handle the puck with more confidence, work on my shot and passing, and as well as the physical aspect. Before I wasn’t as confident to go for the hits and now I think I’ve brought it all together along with my skating too. For a big guy it’s always tougher to get the skating going but I think I’ve improved in my skating, passing, shooting, and physical play. (smiling) Maybe it’s not where everybody wants it to be, but it has improved.

HF: Do you feel that you’re ready to step to the pro level next year?

AD: Yeah I do. I do feel that I can, whatever level works out I think I can step in and contribute, especially because my speed has improved and I’m mentally strong enough to take on whatever is laid in front of me.

HF: Last fall you attended Habs camp?

AD: Yeah, I went to Montreal camp. I don’t think I was given a fair enough opportunity there. I think I was an extra guy that they brought in so that was unfortunate. I went there, did my best in the situation I was put into but nothing really worked out, but you never know what happens. Maybe they’ll give me another shot, or you know there’re 29 other teams so we’ll see what happens.

HF: Did you still take anything away from that week?

AD: Oh yeah. You can learn even by just even going to camp and never stepping on the ice. Meeting new players and experiencing new things and being around different types of people you always learn different things. What they told me was just continue to work on the skating and passing and I think I’ve done that this year.

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