Unlike many players with his body type, being light on his feet does not a pose a problem for Zach Senyshyn.
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds rookie winger has stood out through the first half of the season due to having exceptional speed, particularly for a 17-year-old who is 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds. Last month, NHL Central Scouting gauged Senyshyn, who has helped the 'Hounds to the Ontario Hockey League's third-best record, as a candidate to be drafted in the second or third round next summer. That all owes to the Nepean, Ont., native getting started young at working with aptly named Ottawa Senators skating coach Mark Power.
"I started with Mark Power when I was around minor bantam [age 13] and he's helped me a lot with my skating stride and a lot of technical stuff," says Senyshyn, who has six goals and 10 points across 25 games with a balanced Greyhounds team. "It just helped a lot. I owe [his speed] to lots of hard work at a young age, lots of power skating lessons that my parents [Melissa and Paul Senyshyn] put me in.
"It's always been a natural gift but I like to think it's hard work."
Senyshyn stayed close to home last season with the Central Canada Hockey League's Smiths Falls Bears and posted 22 goals across 57 games to lead all 16-year-olds ("I cannot say enough about my time there," he says.) The 'Hounds have deployed Senyshyn in a number of roles; on Thursday, coach Sheldon Keefe entrusted him to protect a late lead against Windsor and he tallied an empty-netter to put away an 8-5 win.
"We have a lot of skill on this team, a lot of high-end players," Senyshyn says. "Right now I'm just trying to take as much as I can from the other players and learn as much as I can and I try to add little pieces of their games to mine."
Athleticism courses through the young Greyhound's lineage. His father, Paul Senyshyn, played quarterback at Queen's University in the late 1980s, going bombs away to Jock Climie of later CFL and TSN panel fame. Zach says he oftens taps into his dad's experience with being expected to perform on demand.
"It's helped me a lot, just him being a high-level athlete," says Senyshyn, who scored his first OHL goal on Oct. 1. |He's been able to give me lots of guidance throughout all my days in sports."
1. What quality do you need to exhibit more of over the rest of this season?
"I really would like to show my defensive game a lot more. And be able to show the teams and show my coaches that I'm a two-way player and I can use my speed defensively as well as offensively."
2. You have to be yourself, but which National Hockey League players do you try to emulate?
"I really like watching Matt Duchene on the Colorado Avalanche. He plays with a lot of speed, and a lot of skill. I also like Taylor Hall on the Edmonton Oilers. Those are two players I really look toward."
3. Apart from parents, who is one person responsible for your success?
"My coaches and my trainers. Chris Schwarz helped me in the off-season a lot, get to the next level physically. My coaches in minor midget, especially Gregg Kennedy [former coach of the CCHL's Kanata Lasers]. It's really been a group effort. There's been so many people who have had an impact on my hockey career so far."
4. If you had not chosen hockey, what sport would you be playing?
"As a kid I played football and soccer and lots of sports. I had to eventually make that choice to pick either hockey and football. I chose hockey, but maybe at a different time, I would have picked football. It was kind of one of those things where my parents had to force me one way because it was a big strain on their time."
5. Who has been the toughest defenceman that you have faced thus far?
"I would have to saw one of my own guys — Colton White. When I'm coming down on those 1-on-1s [in practice], he's really hard to get around."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.