Q&A with Matt Watkins

By DJ Powers

North Dakota sophomore and Dallas Stars prospect Matt Watkins has been on a roll in postseason play, helping to guide the Fighting Sioux to yet another Frozen Four appearance.

The Aylesbury, SK native spoke with Hockey’s Future after practice on Wednesday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

HF: How is it for you being here once again?

MW: It’s obviously exciting to be here and around the rink here in St. Louis. We have a big game tomorrow that we’re focusing on and that’s the only thing in our heads right now.

HF: Obviously you guys played Boston College last year and you’re getting them again this year. Having lost a close one to them last year here at the Frozen Four, has that given you guys more motivation to beat them this year?

MW: Well I think it’s a new year and a new team and everything’s different. But at the same time they knocked us out of the tournament last year, so we want to beat them this year no question. We’re just doing everything and the best we can in preparing for that game on Thursday.

HF: How has the mindset of the team changed from the previous Frozen Four?

MW: I think last year we were more satisfied just to make it to the Frozen Four to get to the point that we’re out now but with the guys having been there before, some of whom were there two years ago, there’s no satisfaction in our locker room of just getting here, we have a bigger goal in mind and that’s what we’re focused on.

HF: To get here, you guys won that tough West Regional by beating Minnesota. Before that, you guys lost to Minnesota in the WCHA Final Five Championship game. That had to have felt good beating your archrivals, especially since it was sort of like some payback for you guys.

MW: Yeah, no question. They had beaten us the weekend before and it was do or die time for both teams. We were just able to get a good bounce in overtime to win it, so obviously that felt good to get us to this point in the season.

HF: You were injured not too long ago. How are you feeling now and are you completely healed?

MW: Yeah, I’m completely healed up now. I had missed five games but have been back for four games now. It’s been over a month since my injury, so it’s fine now.

HF: When you came back against St. Cloud State, you really lit it up. So it seemed like you were really ready to go and had one of your best games of the season.

MW: Yeah, no question. The team had been playing really well without me, so I just wanted to come back and contribute any way I could at that time of the year. I got put out there with a couple of good players and we just had a good game that night.

HF: You’re now playing with Chris Porter and Chris VandeVelde, and I know that you and Porter have been playing together for quite a long time, what is it about playing with him that makes you guys work so well together?

MW: Well both Porter and VandeVelde are two big, strong guys. We can all skate real well and our game is pretty simple. We play pretty simple down low, try to take pucks to the net and just try and create as much as we can down low. If there’s a play to be made, we make it. We just try to keep it simple and we feed off of each other really well, so it works out pretty good.

HF: What do you feel are some of the biggest improvements that you’ve made compared to last year?

MW: I think coming in the second year, you’re more confident right off the start. You have more a little more confidence in your abilities at this level. Coming in, I had more responsibilities put on my shoulders. I think every player likes to have more ice time and more responsibility. Those things bring out the best in players. That was one of the biggest things for me. I had success early and things started rolling. Then I had a bit of a lull in the middle of the year and then in the postseason started to play a little bit better.

HF: What are some of the responsibilities that you’ve been given or given more of this year?

MW: Last year, we had a lot of top-end guys who are not on the team this year. There are guys who needed to step up to fill those gaps and I was one of those guys. I play on the penalty kill and a little bit on the power play, but mostly I’m a penalty killer. I’m playing very early and very late in periods and that type of thing. All of those big situations that you’re put into, if you do well in them, then you get to keep getting those opportunities and it gives you confidence.

HF: Have you spoken with the Stars at all this year?

MW: Very little actually. I don’t think that I’ve spoken to them at all this season. I spoke to them a little bit last summer but I’m not all that concerned about that.

HF: Are you planning to go to their prospects camp this summer?

MW: Well, it’s definitely a possibility.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.