Q&A with Brian Strait

By Matt MacInnis

The Pittsburgh Penguins used the 65th overall pick to select Waltham, Massachusetts native Brian Strait from the US National Development Program. The 6’0, 200 lbs defenseman scored 14 points in 55 games this season. He will play next season as a freshman at Boston University. Strait was the second defender selected by the Penguins on draft day after the team used its second round pick on Carl Sneep.

Strait is a consistent all-around defenseman who has good skating and is willing to play physical. He is not a risk-taker and thinks the game fairly well. He will never be a superstar, but he certainly has the potential to be a very capable top-four defenseman at the NHL level. He needs at least two years in the collegiate ranks in order to refine his game.

HF: Did you find it stressful to be sitting in the stands waiting to hear your name called?
BS: Oh yeah, it’s definitely stressful. You’re sitting up there and the picks keep going and you keep sweating and it gets a little nervous. And then your name is called and then it’s like, it’s over, finally. And now it’s just concentrating on getting better and making it there.

HF: Are you pleased that it was the Penguins that ultimately picked you?
BS: I’m definitely happy to go to the Pens. They’re going to do some great things in the future as they have some great young prospects now. I see them really skyrocketing.

HF: How would you describe your style of play?
BS: I’m a two-way defenseman. I like to take the body. I’m a great skater. And I’ll make a simple play over a highlight play; I’m not a flashy player. But I’m going to be a very good, solid NHL defenseman when I get there.

HF: How long do you think it will take you to reach the NHL?
BS: I don’t know. We’ll find out. You know, I’ve got to take it year by year at BU, see how I do each year. And then, you never really know, it could take you a while. It could take me three years, it could take one, you never know.

HF: Why did you choose to commit to BU?
BS: Been a fan since I was like seven years old. I live in the area. It was kind of a no-brainer for me when it came to pick a school.

HF: What do you believe you need to work on in order to make the jump to the NHL?
BS: I mean my shot could get a little better maybe. Maybe my hockey sense. But I think I’m a pretty solid player, I just need to keep progressing the way I am and hopefully I’ll be there.

HF: So you don’t consider yourself to have any glaring weaknesses, you just need to continue the natural progression of improving in general?
BS: Yeah, exactly.

HF: What are you planning on doing for training during the offseason months?
BS: I’m working out with the Boston University squad right now. They’re tough workouts, maybe skating a couple of times a week too. Not on the ice too much, but at the same time keep skating.

HF: Who is your favorite current Penguin?
BS: I’m going to have to say Ryan Whitney, because he was at BU and I used to watch him when I was at BU and I used to follow him through the stages. So it would be pretty cool to one day maybe play with him.

HF: Do you think you play a similar style to Whitney?
BS: No, he’s a little, I think he’s a little more of an offense-first kind of guy than myself. I think I defense more than he does. But I’m a two-way player, I’ll play both ways. But I think he thinks offense, he’ll jump up in the play, but stay back if he has to.

HF: Did you have any indication during your interviews with the Penguins that they were interested in you?
BS: Yeah, definitely I did. I remember talking to them, it went really well. I knew that they were pretty interested. I wasn’t really too surprised when I heard my name called by them

HF: Do you have any close friends still waiting to be drafted?
BS: Yeah, I’ve had a bunch since national program. We had a bunch of guys up there. But I know there is a few guys up in the stands right now, and I know they’re sweating, but once they get out, they get down here they’ll be fine.

BS: Is it difficult for you to be down here and not being able to know if your friends are being picked and where they’re going?
BS: Yeah, probably my best friend on the team, Joe Palmer (CHI) who is a goalie, is up there still. He was sitting behind me and his family gave me a big cheer when I got up. I wish I was there to cheer him on when he got picked too. But, definitely going to be talking to him after and seeing him on later tonight.

HF: Do you expect to make the American World Junior team?
BS: I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes. The roster is pretty loaded, you gotta go out to the tryout camp and see how I do. I’m hoping, I’m hoping I make the team. I have to keep training this summer, working on some things, and then at the tryout camp I’ve got to play well and then I’ve got to play well too during the season to show that I have what it takes to play there.

HF: Is there any Penguins defenseman that you would like to play with down the road?
BS: Ryan Whitney. I’d like that, that’d be cool.

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