Mon Apr 18 11:37am EDT
After being passed over in the 2010 NHL draft, Spokane Chiefs defenceman Brenden Kichton has emerged as one the of top puck-moving blueliners in the Western Hockey League.
Kichton found motivation in not being drafted, by planning a vigorous off-season workout schedule to improve his strength.
"Not being drafted gave me motivation in the summer to improve," Kichton said. "I worked out six days a week and twice a day. And I've noticed its really improved my strength and speed this year."
Kichton has found opportunity in a significantly increased work load. The native of Spruce Grove, Alta., went from playing on the Chiefs bottom defensive pairing last season, to playing major minutes on the top pairing alongside Ottawa Senators first round-pick Jared Cowen.
"I got more opportunity this year," Kichton said. "I've been getting minutes on the top pairing with Jared Cowen and I've been getting time on the power-play and penalty-kill."
The 5-foot-11, 185 pound Kichton's growth in confidence has also been a huge reason for his recent success.
"I have a lot more confidence this year with the Chiefs giving me big minutes and trusting me in all areas of the game" Kichton said. "It's really helped not rush plays and learn to be more patient with the puck."
Ultimately, Kichton's claim to fame has been his offensive success. He outscored several high profile prospects like Colorado Avalanche second round-pick Stefan Elliott, Colorado Avalanche third round-pick Tyson Barrie and Buffalo Sabres third-round pick Brayden McNabb; leading all WHL defencemen in points with 81 in 64 regular season games, including 23 goals.
Despite not being ranked in Central Scouting's draft rankings, many scouts believe he'll be selected in the upcoming draft. As author of of the Art of Scouting Shane Malloy put it "he's a late blooming puck mover and those defenceman are hard to find."
Kichton, who will turn 19 in July, wouldn't be the first player to be high on scout's radars after being passed the year before. New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac was not selected in his first year of draft eligibility, but the following year the Devils selected him 20th overall.
1. How would you describe yourself as a defenceman?
"I'm a puck moving defenceman, someone who rushes the puck and can control a power-play. I also feel I'm good on 5 on 5 and I can play a role on the penalty kill too.
2. What part of your game do you feel you need to work on the most?
"I think I need to become more physical. I'm a smaller guy and if I become more of a physical player it will help give me an edge."
3. How did you feel after not being selected in last year's NHL entry draft?
"I was obviously disappointed but I wasn't shocked. I knew I didn't have that great of a year, and I knew that there was a lot of good players in the draft."
4. Do you try and model your game after an NHL defenceman?
5. Who is your favourite NHL team and why?
"I grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan. My favourite player was Brendan Shanahan and I just have always cheered for them."
Kelly Friesen is a Western Hockey League correspondent for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on twitter @KellyFriesen.