North Dakota rookie and Edmonton Oilers prospect Chris VandeVelde got off to a bit of a slow start to his collegiate career this year but has really turned it on in the postseason, helping to lead the Fighting Sioux to their third consecutive Frozen Four appearance.
Hockey’s Future spoke with VandeVelde after practice on Wednesday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
HF: How does it feel to be at the Frozen Four?
CV: It feels great. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’m really excited to be here and
I’m just glad that our team could work hard to get here and I’m excited to play.
HF: You’re a rookie playing in this tournament, so obviously you were not here the last two years like many of the guys on the team. From a rookie perspective, what’s like being here at the Frozen Four for the first time in your first year?
CV: Obviously I don’t have the experience like those guys do. For many of the guys this is their second year here and for some of them this is their third year. I just come here to play and am really excited to play like I said and you can’t get too nervous, even though I’m sure that we’ll be a little nervous. I’m just going to go out there and play and see what happens.
HF: You had gotten off to a slow start to your first year but you’ve really pulled it altogether here in the postseason. What do you feel are some of the things that have contributed to that?
CV: Obviously when the season goes along you get more comfortable and your game rises. I just feel more comfortable playing with the skill level out there for our team and against the skill level of the other teams. I think the bounces are going my way, especially now that I’m playing on the second line with (Chris) Porter and Watty (Matt Watkins). They’re incredible players. They make plays and stuff. I’ve also been scoring as well.
HF: So what has it been like playing with Chris and Matt, and what have you learned from them?
CV: Just about everything. They’ve taught me to just play with speed and protect the puck. The major strength of my line is that we just protect the puck down low really well and we can cycle the puck. We can just make plays and as of late I think we’ve been the top line or one of the top two lines on our team. So hopefully we can just keep that going.
HF: Do you feel that playing with Chris and Matt has also been one reason behind why you’ve picked up your scoring as well?
CV: Yeah, they’ve really contributed to me getting better and have helped me raise my level of play too. I just feel more comfortable now and I’m starting to see success as well.
HF: How would you describe your role on the team?
CV: I think the coaches expect me to make plays and be that big, physical guy down low. They just want me to make smart plays, be reliable and just contribute to the team.
HF: Do you consider yourself as a power forward or a just one of those grinding banger-crasher types?
CV: I know that the coaches want me to be that power forward and expect me to produce and score, so I’m probably more in that direction.
HF: Prior to coming to North Dakota, you played at Moorhead High School in Minnesota. I know that you played with Brian Lee there and now you’re playing with him in college.
CV: We actually grew up together. We played as high school seniors together and we’re the same age. It’s nice to come back here and play with Brian again. He helped me adjust and kind of took me in, so it’s nice having him on the team because he’s always there.
HF: Do you guys room together on the road or live in the same house together?
CV: (laughs) Actually we don’t get to pick who we room with on the road. We’re just good friends. We talk and give each other crap. So it’s nice being on the same team together.
HF: Have you had any contact with the Oilers at all this year?
CV: Yeah, they’ve been to quite a few of our games this year actually and I’d talk to them after games. They said that I’ve been doing really well. I just have to keep going out there and doing things right and be reliable, that’s pretty much what they’re mainly looking at and just keep producing like I am now.
HF: Are you planning to attend their prospect camp this summer?
CV: Yeah. Actually I did go last summer.
HF: So what was that like?
CV: It was a lot of fun. I got a chance to meet a lot of other really good hockey players for them. It was a good experience to see the town and meet the people around the organization, so it was a lot of fun.
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