Over his two full seasons, the Niagara IceDogs' Vince Dunn has emerged as the prototype modern defenceman who can be counted on to kick-start his team's transition to the attack.
The Lindsay, Ont., native is bent on extending the IceDogs' line of offensively savvy rearguards that includes the St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo, Boston Bruins' Dougie Hamilton, New York Islanders farmhand Jesse Graham and Dunn's teammate Blake Siebenaler, a Columbus second-rounder. Dunn is ninth in defenceman scoring in the Ontario Hockey League entering the final three-week sprint of the regular season.
"My strength is definitely my skating and my passing," says Dunn, who was ranked No. 53 on NHL Central Scouting's North American midterm ranking. "I think I have really good vision on the ice and I'm able to beat guys one-on-one and dish the puck off.
"I think I can work on my defence part of the game. Maybe be a little tougher in the corners, hitting guys when they're coming down on me. I think I use my stick really well to take my one-on-one battles."
The 5-foot-11¾, 182-pound Dunn has 13 goals and 42 points across 55 games for Niagara, where he's a mainstay on a power play alongside two NHL first-rounders, Josh Ho-Sang and Brendan Perlini. The 18-year-old has helped the IceDogs distance themselves from a stumble out of the gate in the fall, as they have won 26 of their past 42 games to emerge as an Eastern Conference darkhorse.
"I think we thought we were a lot better than we actually were at that point," says Dunn, who credits his mother Tracy for helping him hone the focus essentially for being an elite young athlete. "We were playing with a little too much confidence and not sticking to our systems exactly."
1. What did spending your first year in junior (2012-13) in Junior B with Thorold do for your growth?
"I felt I developed the strength necessary to compete in the OHL... it was a great opportunity for me. I got a lot of playing time. I didn't see the OHL being the right fit for me if I was to make the team as a seventh or eighth D. It benefited me to play more minutes rather than to sit on the bench.."
2. What do you credit for being able to have good agility and footwork on the ice?
"It's been a strength all the way since my first days of hockey. I've done a lot of power skating as a younger player. A lot of strength coaches have worked with me to have a good stride."
3. Outside of family, who is one person you really credit for helping you advance this far in competitive hockey?
"My one main coach would be Brandon O'Grady who's definitely pushed me to be the best player I am right now. When I was a young kid, he wanted to keep me on defence. He knew that it would be best for me to play there and use my offensive skills from that position."
4. Who has been the most challenging forward to play against in the OHL?
"Over my career, probably [Andreas] Athanasiou, who's now playing in the Detroit Red Wings organization."
5. Where is your favourite road rink in the OHL?
"It is definitely London. Even though the fans are always on you, it's fun to play in front of so many thousands of people."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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