As the new year kicks off, the Niagara IceDogs are gearing up for a playoff push. After a dismal start to the season, Niagara developed into a more complete team going 14-12 since the start of November, pushing their overall record to 16-21-2, a .410 winning percentage. The IceDogs’ current four-game winning streak has lifted them to eighth place in the Eastern Conference and playoff contention. The Brock Press spoke with second-year standout defenseman Vince Dunn, fresh off of a successful two-game road swing against Barrie and Sudbury. We discussed the team’s growth and his future with both the NHL/CHL top 40 Prospects Game, and NHL Draft on the horizon.
Brock Press: Following the win against Sudbury last night, your record improved to 16 wins, 21 losses and 2 shootout losses. The IceDogs started off slow in September and October, winning only 2 of 13 games. Since then it seemed like the team has gelled together.
What has changed since the slow start? Vince: I think at the start we were a little too relaxed and confident out there, trying to do too much. We also weren’t sticking to our systems as much as we could. Although we’ve started to turn it around, and we’ve started off the new year well. BP: The Mississauga Steelheads are up next on Tuesday, a team you beat 6-3 the last time you played (December 28). Will there be any tinkering of the gameplan against Mississauga as the team goes for its fifth straight win? Vince: Yeah for sure, it’s definitely a big two points that we needed to keep the playoff position that we have. We need to keep winning against teams in our division, especially because any loss could catch up to us in the end.
BP: You’re not the biggest defenseman by any stretch of the imagination (6’0, 175 lbs), so being selected to the (CHL/NHL) Top 40 Prospects Game must be exciting, as many scouts at this stage mainly look at physical traits of players as a determinate for their future. To me, this selection must then be based on your potential for year-to-year improvement. So with that in mind, what has been your biggest improvement since last year? What aspects of your game do you look to continually improve upon as the draft draws closer?
Vince: I definitely feel more confident with a full year under my belt, learning how the league (OHL) has changed all the way from Junior B. I know I’m not one of the biggest defensemen out there, but if my stick is really good in one-on-one battles and I keep guys on the outside as much as possible, I’ll be able to succeed in the defensive end. Being one of the smaller defenseman out, there my stick skills are essential. Since last year, I have been working on my defensive skills especially. I think my offensive ability is pretty much there, but if I can play defense just as well, then I’ll be as good as I can be. BP: Do you model your game after anyone? A player? Coach?
Vince: No one in particular really, but maybe like a Ryan Ellis type player; a puck mover. I like to take control of the puck, especially on the back end of the power play, moving the puck up fast and turning up ice to join the forecheck and use my offensive ability. BP: You’re projected as a 2nd to 3rd round selection in the upcoming NHL draft. Having seen your teammates go through the same draft process, what have you learned from their experience?
Vince: I’ve learned that you just have to play your game and not be focused on the rankings. You can be ranked 20th overall and not get drafted, so it doesn’t really mean anything compared to what you put on the ice and how you finish your year off. I think you just have to stick to your game and not try to do too much. The scouts will really appreciate that.
BP: What do you think those scouts see as your main strength?
Vince: I have a lot of offensive ability as a defender. I can turn the puck around very quickly so that opposing forwards can’t crash down on me, which is rare for a defenseman at this age.
BP: Let’s do a quick fire round of questions to finish off the interview, you up for it?
Vince: Alright, shoot.
BP: Who has the best flow on the IceDogs?
Vince: None of us really have flow anymore, probably Graham Knott.
BP: What’s your go to pre-game song?
Vince: That’s a tricky question. Depends on what I’m liking at the time, we’ll normally listen to a rap song before a game.
BP: Who’s the last person you’d want to fight on the IceDogs?
Vince: Aaron Haydon. I consider him a heavyweight in the league and he’s my D partner.
BP: If you score in the Prospects Game, will you celly with a thumbs up for Grapes (Dunn was selected to Don Cherry’s team for the prospects game against Bobby Orr’s team)
Vince: I’m not really one to celly so probably not, maybe I will, but it’s got to be a big goal. BP: There isn’t really such thing as a great pick up line, what’s your go to move when talking to girls? Or is it a secret…?
Vince: (laughs) I’ll have to keep that one a secret.
BP: Alright, thanks a lot and best of luck.
Vince: No problem.