Wed Feb 23 03:00pm EST
Buzzing The Net is regularly profiling Canadian Hockey League players who are in their draft seasons.
Duncan Siemens is helping make Sherwood Park, Alta., to defencemen what the Dominican Republic is to shortstops.
Last season, the Buffalo Sabres selected the Edmonton Oil Kings' Mark Pysyk in the first round. The suburb of the Alberta capital will likely have another NHL first-rounder this June in Siemens, an integral part of the Western Hockey League-leading Saskatoon Blades. And don't forget that another well-touted defender from the Dub, Portland Winterhawks' Joe Morrow, also hails from Sherwood Park. In case anyone outside of Western Canada did not know, Pysyk and Siemens go way back.
"I've known him since I was two years old," Siemens, who is NHL Central Scouting's 14th-ranked North American skater, says of Pysyk. "Our parents worked together, his dad was the assistant principal at the school my mother [Valerie, a physical education teacher] worked at, We used to go on trips together, get taken to the mall or the water park together ... he's doing well and I'm just trying to make my way."
At 6-foot-3, 197 pounds and possessed of enough jump in his step to close down on opposing forwards, Siemens stacks up as the best defenceman coming out of the WHL (although when it comes to draft classes and defenders from the Dub, we haven't seen anything yet). It wasn't out of character when he fought the Vancouver Giants' David Musil at the CHL/NHL Top Prospect Game in January, either. The former Canadian U18 member has the tools, but likely will need refining. His draft status probably comes down to how confident his future NHL organization is that it can develop him.
Prospect watchers and NHL scouts will have a slew of time to size up Siemens, since the Brayden Schenn-bolstered Blades should be good to win at least two playoff rounds. Siemens should get tested in the playoffs since the top half of the Eastern Conference bracket includes slippery scorers such as Red Deer Rebels phenom Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kootenay Ice's Cody Eakin and Los Angeles Kings prospect Linden Vey of the Medicine Hat Tigers, the WHL's top point-getter.
"The year is going very well, since I've passed what I produced statistically as a rookie. I think that I've progressed a player, in my all-around game and I just look to continue getting better as the season goes along."
2. In your mind, what would scouts say is the biggest thing you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?
"Some of my puck-handling ability and reading offensive plays. Try to get a little more open in the offensive zone. I pride myself on being a shutdown defenceman, so an offensive side of the game comes when it comes. I don't really look for it, but I need to develop that without losing my defensive specialty."
3. Outside of family, who has had the biggest influence on your career?
"Numerous amounts of coaches, from those I had growing up to [Blades coach-GM] Lorne Molleken to [assistant coach] Dave Strauch. They have given me every opportunity you can get as a hockey player. They're tremendous people who know the game inside and out, very smart, very easy to learn from."
4. A lot of people are high on you since you're a late '93 — Sept. 7 birthday, eight days before the draft cutoff. Have to ask: what is it like always having a birthday around the start of the school year and hockey season?
"I always tried to get that day off school, but my mom [Valerie] is a teacher so that wouldn't fly with her. Now it's in the middle of training camp, so I try to keep it on the down-low so the guys don't hear too much about it. The ritual in Saskatoon is if it's your birthday, you have to skate along the boards while everyone slashes and hits you. You try to make sure they don't find out, because in training camp there's 40 or 50 guys around instead of 20."
5. Hockey players have to maintain a strict diet. What is your guilty pleasure food and/or drink?
""My guillty pleasure food would have to be a 10-piece McNugget meal from McDonalds. Every now and again I'll break down and have it, but I've been good this year. I've only gone once in about eight months."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.