One of the most underrated prospects the Nashville Predators organization, Mark Dekanich has all the tools to be a very successful NHL goaltender. He is extremely quick, a good skater, and has his head in the right place.
Drafted in 2006 at the age of 20, two years later than most prospects, the now 21-year-old Dekanich has put up great numbers at Colgate University, a .924 save percentage as a sophomore in 2005-06 and a .923 save percentage as a junior in 2006-07.
The 6’2, 192-pound North Vancouver, BC native took part in the Nashville Predators 2007 prospects conditioning camp this past week. There he roomed with 25-year-old goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris, who was at the camp as a free agent invitee, but who as since been signed by the organization. With the signing of Grumet-Morris and the expected graduation of Pekka Rinne to Nashville, there’s another AHL spot to be filled this season, and Dekanich is certainly skilled and developed enough to handle the work. But he would have to forego his senior season at Colgate for that to happen.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Dekanich after a day’s work in which some of the most experienced shooters put the goaltenders though the ringer, using a contraption that looked a lot like a free-standing wooden blackboard. The design of it hides the motions of the shooter, and all that can below be seen is the puck and blade of the stick.
HF: Some of these drills were a little unfair for the goalies, weren’t they?
MD: It’s all fun. It’s these guys’ job to score and it’s our job to stop it. It’s all good fun and a lot of competition.
HF: What was the hardest drill that you did out there?
MD: Certainly it was the screen board down at the far end where you can’t see the shot coming underneath or the skater coming on either side. I’ve never done anything like that before and (laughs) it was pretty tough, but I think it will be helpful.
HF: Do you think that’s the toughest drill you’ve ever done?
MD: Oh yeah, by far.
HF: Maybe you could make one at home. How are your woodworking skills?
MD: I took woodworking in high school so I’ll see what I can do (smiles).
HF: This is your first prospects camp.
MD: Yep. I got drafted last year and couldn’t make it unfortunately, but I was really excited to come down this year – work hard and train hard for it – I’m happy to be here.
HF: What kind of activities have you been doing?
MD: Oh, we’ve been doing a little bit of everything. Climbing poles, yesterday doing the pamper pole – you climb up a tower, a 40-50 foot pole, stand on the top and jump about 10 feet to grab onto a trapeze. It was pretty scary but I think a lot of us conquered our fears.
HF: Did you know anyone before you got here?
MD: Yeah, actually I’ve been skating most of the summer with the Santorelli brothers and I grew up playing with Mike.
HF: How long have you been doing summer training with them?
MD: Well, my first year of bantam I played on Mike’s team and then since I started college, we’ve been skating in the summers. We get a bunch of college and WHL guys in the morning and go out and skate 3-on-3.
HF: Mike and Mark (drafted in 2007) seem to have similar strengths and weaknesses, would you agree?
MD: Yeah, I can’t really tell them apart (laughs). They’re both pretty crafty players with great hands and good speed. They both great players.
HF: Mike scored a lot of goals last year (the CCHA’s leading regular-season goal scorer with 30). Is his shot tricky for goalies?
MD: Yeah, it didn’t surprise me when I saw that – his hands around the net are phenomenal. He’s just so quick with the puck and can make you do anything he wants you to do and then put it in the net.
HF: Are you starting to feel more a part of the organization now?
MD: Yeah, for sure. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people and I’m really proud and excited to be a part of this organization. I’d like to play here in future for sure.
HF: Did you attend the draft last year?
MD: No, I was working, I couldn’t attend. It was in my hometown of Vancouver, but I couldn’t attend. I was drafted in the fifth round so I wasn’t going to go up on stage or anything like that. The only person in the organization I met before I got here was their amateur scout Jeff Kealty, who came and interviewed me while I was working in Boston.
HF: Why were you working in Boston?
MD: I had an internship last summer with the Kraematon Group and that was located in Wellesleyk, Mass. Me and my goalie partner from Colgate worked there for six weeks. It’s a financial planning company.
HF: Is financial planning something you want to do when you finish playing then?
MD: Um, it’s a possibility. I was just looking for a job and the owner of the company was a Colgate graduate and he always offers Colgate hockey players a chance to work for his company. It was a really good experience and I learned a lot.
HF: You were passed over in the draft in 2005. Were you OK with that because you were expecting it?
MD: Exactly. I was completely expecting it. I only played in five games I think that year. I hadn’t talked to any teams so I didn’t expect to be drafted at all and I don’t think I deserved to be drafted at that point for what I’d done. I was looking to make an impression the next year.
HF: So you were just slow to get on people’s radars?
MD: Well, actually my second year in junior, the year before I left for college, I was ranked by Central Scouting 30th in North America for goalies, so that was a little bit on the bubble. I didn’t know if I was going to go or not that year and I ended up not going and that was fine with me. I just decided to keep on working hard, keep performing. No one can argue with results. I was also in a junior A league (BCHL) that doesn’t get as much NHL exposure as the WHL or OHL. I’m happy now that I am where I am and I’m excited about the opportunity that I’m going to have.
HF: You look really good laterally, would you say that’s one of your best assets?
MD: Yeah, I think I’m quick for my size. I’m pretty mobile for a big guy. I just try to stop the puck day in and day out.
HF: Have you ever been in a goalie fight?
MD: No I never have been. Almost twice in junior, but I’ve never been in a fight and I’ll probably keep it that way. I’m not the toughest guy out there.
HF: Why did you pick goaltender as a kid?
MD: I think like most of us started out, a team needs a goalie or you try it out once or twice and you think you look cool with all the gear on. And that was me. I started playing goalie when I was 10 years old. I wanted to be cool, the team needed a goalie, so I tried it out and I loved it.
HF: Your parents didn’t mind the expensive gear?
MD: No, they didn’t mind. They’ve always been very supportive of me and I’m very fortunate to have parents who support me like that.
HF: Do you have a goaltending coach at school?
MD: Yeah, we have a volunteer goaltending coach. He was a Colgate grad in 2002 I think. He just came on this year, Jason Lefevre.
HF: Do you feel like he’s helped you?
MD: Yeah, we work on a lot of lateral stuff, and stuff around the net. Little technical things that you can’t be too good at. Throughout the season I think that’s the most important thing for me – keep my mechanics set and keep working on them.
HF: Do you think Colgate has a good outlook for the year?
MD: Absolutely. We have lots of guys coming back and a good recruiting class – five new guys coming in. A couple new defensemen who should be making an impact pretty quickly. We’re set, we have a good outlook. We were slated to be No. 1 at the start of last season and I don’t think that’s going to happen this year. I think that put a lot of extra pressure on us. I think we’ll have a good start and hopefully build off that.
HF: You’re a history major, what got you interested in that and what’s your favorite topic?
MD: I don’t know what got me interested in it. I had always watched a little bit of the History Channel growing up and stuff like that. We never really had too many history courses when I was in high school, because the Canadian high school system is so much different than the American high school system. When I got down to school, I took an American history class my second semester freshman year and that sort of set me off and I really enjoyed it and started taking history classes since then. Specifically, I don’t really know if I have a focus area. I’ve been taking classes on Europe, Mexico, America, all that stuff. I like it all.
HF: You’ll have to do a senior thesis though, right?
MD: Yeah. (laughs) I’m not too sure what I’m going to do it on yet. I think my seminar is in 20th century American history so we’ll see how it goes.
HF: Just to make sure, are you going back to school?
MD: As of right now, yes.
HF: If Nashville wants you to turn pro, how would you feel about that?
MD: That would be a big decision I’d have to make if the opportunity arose, but right now I’m set on going back to school. I haven’t heard anything otherwise so that’s the plan right now. It’s a matter of one year and Colgate’s a really good academic school and that degree would mean a lot after my hockey career was done. I don’t want to leave school and play in the East Coast league when I can get a degree in one year, from that school. But I’ll take it as it comes and see what happens.
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