As the son of a long-time Swiss league player and coach, Mike Richard, the Guelph Storm left wing grew used to winters in Switzerland and summers in Sarnia, Ont., throughout his youth. Tanner Richard believes that's helped him understand that as a pro, there will be times when he has to face the hockey world alone.
"I learned pretty early on that I had to let go of things," says the 19-year-old Richard, one of several Canadian Hockey League import players who was passed up in the 2011 draft but may get selected after making the move to North America. "I didn't really have much contact with the friends in the other country and I didn't have my relatives around a lot. I'd have my family and that was about it for eight months. So I learned to really appreciate the time that I did have with the people I was around.
"In this kind of business, you never know where you're going to be, you never know how long it's going to last," the 5-foot-11 3/4, 182-pounder adds. "You're not going to be playing hockey until you're 65. You just have to enjoy it while you're there."
Richard was a point-a-game player this season with 13 goals, 35 assists and 48 points during 43 games in an injury-shortened campaign with Guelph. The Storm listed him at left wing but he shifted to centre for Team Switzerland at the world junior championship and displayed a superb facility on faceoffs. Moving to the middle, given that playmaking wingers don't often project well to the NHL, might help his NHL prospects. As the son of a coach, he didn't set off many red flags about his attention to defence or willingness to lay the body despite being modestly sized. His skating, as can sometimes be the case for players coming from the bigger international ice surface, will need work.
Injuries, including a concussion, slowed Richard down in the second half of the season. He was NHL Central Scouting's 41st-ranked North American skater in April was one of three Storm who competed in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game along with centre Scott Kosmachuk and defender Matt Finn. Right wing Brock McGinn is also expected to be drafted. Centre Jason Dickinson, who's up for the 2013 draft, might have more potential than many players who will be first-rounders this summer.
Richard credits Storm coach Scott Walker, a former NHLer, helped him adapt to the North American game.
"I learned a lot of things about my game, especially on the defensive end," says Richard, who played for Rapperswil in Switzerland. "Over there, not everyone is focused on stats like plus-minus. For forwards they look at points, they don't take it seriously for like checking defencemen. They don't have any faceoff stats. They're not as deep into details and I think that's what makes you a better player, the details."
1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?
"I think I personally had a good season along with our team. I wouldn't quite say we overachieved because we didn't get past the first round of the playoffs but we were happy with what we did do."
2. Aside from the obvious such as skating and strength, what are some specific components of your game that need work before you will be ready to turn pro?
"I think I have to work on my consistency. I'd come up and I'd have great games and then I'd have a bad game, maybe two or three in a row. My goal is to be the best player on the ice every time and be as good as I can and I got to be more consistent."
3. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely, not necessarily to model your game upon, but because he plays a similar style?
"Obviously, everyone there is doing something right because they are in the NHL. Everyone's going to be watching the Ovechkins and the Crosbys. But I like to watch [long-time Tampa Bay Lightning centre] Vincent Lecavalier. He's an amazing leader. He's not the most flashy player but he probably doesn't get enough credit for his defensive work and his commitment to the team. Anyone who knows hockey will see that."
4. What teammate(s) had the greatest impact on you this season?
"I got to be really close friends with [Toronto Maple Leafs-drafted goalie] Garret Sparks. We lived on the same street and did a lot together in our free time. I was close with top prospects like [Scott] Kosmachuk and [Matt] Finn because we all went through this together. I had great teammates and they all knew their roles."
5. Nutrition is vital for an athlete, but we all get cravings. What's your guilty pleasure, food or drink?
"Probably Mountain Dew and chips. Especially because they don't have Mountain Dew in Switzerland. Nor do they have the different kinds of chips, like the barbecue kind or sour cream and onion, just plain chips. Dill pickle is my absolute favourite."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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