Healthy Setoguchi prepares for Sharks camp

By Jeff Dahlia

Last time this year, Devin Setoguchi was supposed to be doing a lot of things. He was supposed to attend Canada’s 2006 National Junior Team Development camp. He was also supposed to be representing the Sharks in the annual Pacific Division Rookie Tournament. Most of all, he was supposed to be giving the Sharks a reason not to send him back to junior.

But instead of working hard on the ice, he found himself frustrated, sitting on the wrong side of glass of every rink he attended. The Taber, Alberta native had sustained a knee injury during a summer workout and couldn’t skate.

“I came down to camp last summer and sat through all of it and watched everything,” he said. “It was frustrating to watch other guys go out there and compete for a spot.”

If that wasn’t painful enough, Setoguchi was dealt another blow. Before he could get back home and prepare for his final WHL season with the Saskatoon Blades, General Manager and Head Coach Lorne Molleken called to give him some news.

“Our team wasn’t looking that good in Saskatoon,” he said. “Lorne told me I was going to get traded when I came back or that I would eventually be traded.”

Then it happened. In order to jump start the rebuilding process in Saskatoon, the Blades sent Setoguchi to the Prince George Cougars for defensive prospect Stefan Elliott and the Cougars’ first-round bantam pick in 2008.

Instead of wrapping up a fruitful junior career with one team, he found himself starting over with Prince George for his final year. It wasn’t your usual transition because the bus trips that are associated with being a Cougar can be tough.

“That takes a beating on your body,” he explained. “You really have to get used to it.”

And he did. Once he got his ‘bus legs’ under him, Setoguchi and Cougars got rolling. In 55 games, he scored 65 points (36 goals, 29 assists), while Price George finished the season third in the B.C. Division and headed to the playoffs.

The team opened up by making quick work of the Kamloops Blazers in the first round. Then they went on take down the regular season champs, the Everett Silvertips in six games. Their luck would run out against the Vancouver Giants as they fell in five games.

Many suspected the Cougars weren’t going to last long in the playoffs, but Setoguchi said the team was prepared to battle through the adversity and do what it took to push on.

“No one thought we would get out of the first round.” he said. “Then we go on and knock out the No. 1 team in the league in the second round. I would say we did pretty well.”

Setoguchi was golden in the playoffs for Prince George. He went on to register at least one point in 13 of 15 post-season games, and totaled 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) during that span.

“It ended up being a great year for myself to finish off junior,” he added. “I couldn’t be any happier.”

Now, on to the next step.

Swimming with Sharks

Fortunately, neither the knee injury nor another year in junior held Setoguchi back. It may have just made him a better player. No one likes to be injured, but in athletes’ case, it can be a blessing in disguise.

As he reflected on his time last summer watching camp from the stands, Setoguchi said it helped him visualize and understand the game from another perspective. 

“You have to read the play around you at all times,” he said. “It’s all about quick plays, paying attention, and attention to detail.”

In addition to his play, over the last few years, he also admitted to taking other steps to help his chances.

“I think I have matured a lot,” he added. “And that’s all about becoming a hockey player. You have to step up and take advantage of your opportunities. You have to realize that once you start getting older, the [roster] spots seem to fill up faster.”

Setoguchi is 20, but he seems to be wiser than his age.  While he gets a warm-up playing two rookie games against the Anaheim Ducks this weekend, it’s that attitude which he has used prepare himself as he takes another step towards securing a position with the Sharks.

He’s trying to play within himself, but put management on notice he’s poised and hungry for a shot.

“You can’t overdo what your capable of,” he said. “You honestly have to keep everything simple. You can’t go out there trying to do stuff at 100 miles per hour. You have to think the game. If you can think the game first, you can play the game really good.”

He said he’s not overly worried about skating alongside seasoned veterans when the main camp opens up later this week. Quite the opposite, he’s going to focus in on them and look to their lead to help him improve his chances.

“When you’re out there with the big guys, you watch them skate and notice they’re always in the right position,” he added. “When you look, they’ve got their sticks in the right place and they get in there to score goals.

“When you pay attention to detail, you have to make sure that you’re not thinking too much and you’re doing what you do, which is playing your best hockey.”

Setoguchi is realistic in his pursuit at the next level at this point. He doesn’t shun a stop with the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester. However, he did reiterate his plans to keep things simple and doing the little things that make a difference every night.

“There are a lot of good players out there,” he said, “It comes down to the guys who do things better and pay attention to detail. That is what will get you from the AHL to the NHL and that’s what I’m going to try to do here.”

Wherever he lands when the season opens, he’s happy to be with moving to the next level with the Sharks. He is very fond of the organization because he feels not only have they been interested in him for quite some time, they’ve always been there to help him along.

“I love this organization,” he said. “I think it’s really the best in the league, not having been around another. They treat every one of their players with respect and help bring each one of them along in their development as much as they can.”

Asked whether he would be bothered playing far away from home again after his last stop in Prince George, he chuckled and said  “Oh no. It was already like 14 hours or something away from home, so another 14 or so is not going to be that much more.”

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