With their first pick of the 2nd round in the 2001 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres chose center Derek Roy of the Kitchener Rangers. It’s fairly certain that Buffalo was most interested in Derek’s offensive skills, a part of his game that has not disappointed during the 2001-02 season.
Roy is currently Kitchener’s leading scorer, having notched 46 points (22G, 24A) in 35 games. After having missed the playoffs the past couple of seasons, Derek and his Kitchener teammates are in the hunt for a playoff spot. A recent 11 game unbeaten streak pushed the Rangers towards the top of the OHL, where they are currently in a dogfight with the Erie Otters and the Guelph Storm in that league’s Midwest Division.
I had a chance to speak with Derek prior to Kitchener’s 1/5/02 game vs. division rival Erie. The following is a transcript of that conversation, with “HF” representing the interviewer and “DR” signifying Derek’s answers.
HF: Let’s start with the present. You guys are one of the hottest teams in the league, if not all of the CHL. What has kicked in for the team in the last 10 games that has made things go so much better for you?
DR: Pretty much everything has been clicking really well. We’ve got good goaltending from Scott Dickie and Matt Harpwood. We’re playing good defensively, and waiting for our opportunities. We’ve been bearing down on our opportunities, in which case we win games by one goal. So, those have been the big differences.
HF: I noticed you had a big game last night (1/4 vs. Brampton), where you picked up the hat trick. Are you trying to prove to people that you should have been on the World Junior team? Has that factored into your play lately?
DR: It’s a tough lineup to crack. I felt I had a pretty good start to the season, our team was doing really well, but I didn’t get the call unfortunately. So, I was a little mad, and I want to show them that they made a mistake, and that they should have at least picked me for the (December) camp. I’d rather that (Kitchener) have success, than focus on personal goals, though.
HF: Getting back to the Rangers, tonight is a big game against a division rival, and a team that has had your number a bit the last couple of years. What do you need to do to break the hex, so to speak, that you have against Erie?
DR: It’s always hard to come into Erie. It’s a bad trip, and the fans give you a lot of trouble. But, it’s a thing we have to do. I don’t think we’ve won many times in this barn in the 3 years that I’ve been here. But, if we want to win, we’re going to have to play this team in the playoffs, so right now it’s a playoff game.
HF: As far as you and the special teams- I know you play on the power play, but do you play on the penalty killing unit, as well?
DR: I do pretty much both, and we rotate a lot of guys on the penalty kill. But, I usually kill a lot of penalties, and I like it because it gets me in the game, and gets my legs going. So, I just try to do my best, and play two-way hockey.
HF: Going back to your first NHL training camp, what were your impressions of your time in St. Catherines?
DR: It was different, because you walk in the room, and everyone, you know, is making millions of dollars, and you’re just a rookie walking in the room. It’s different for the first day- it’s hard to hit these guys, because you respect them so much. But then the first game goes by, and you feel more comfortable, and it’s a different pace- it’s twice as fast as juniors. It’s a big step, and the gaps are closed, and there is not much room out there, so you have to think faster. It’s just an all-around faster game.
HF: Were there any of the veteran players that you got to know during camp?
DR: My line for a couple shifts was Miroslav Satan and Kozlov, and me at center, so I kind of liked that. Curtis Brown was a really nice guy, and all the veteran players were really welcoming to the junior players. It was a good time.
HF: As far as (Buffalo’s) coaching staff, were there any things they said to you before they sent you back to Kitchener, at least as far as what they would like to see you work on?
DR: They just said, “work hard”, and stuff like that, and they said I had a really good camp. But, I’m a little young, and they have an older team this year. I think they are in a rebuilding stage, so right now I’m in a pretty good spot. They just said have a good season this year, and we’ll see you next year. And next year, you’ll have a better chance of making this team.
HF: Who are your linemates normally? Who have you been playing with this year?
DR: Right now, it’s (Jeff) Szwez and (John) Osborne. As soon as Osborne got to this team, he’s played on my line. Usually, I switch a lot. (Petr) Hemsky (brother of Ales) has been playing with me, (Petr) Kanko a little, (Ryan) Ramsay at the beginning of the year. We’ve been switching lines all year, and I think right now we’ve found good chemistry between the lines, so me, Szwez and Osborne have worked pretty well.
HF: Are you originally from Kitchener?
DR: No, I’m from the Ottawa area, Rockland, in eastern Ontario.
HF: Who was your favorite player growing up?
DR: I had Peter Forsberg as a favorite. I liked watching him- he’s a good player, and I hope he comes back. I like watching his style of hockey, sort of like Thereon Fleury, or like smaller players that skate fast, score and excite the crowd.
HF: Do you pattern your game after Forsberg, or do you just enjoy watching him play?
DR: Yeah, I try to pattern my own game, but my game resembles his game in some ways. I love watching him play, but I don’t want to pattern myself after somebody, I just want to be my own unique person.
HF: So was Colorado a favorite team growing up, or maybe Toronto or Ottawa?
DR: I didn’t really have a favorite team. I liked watching Detroit, Yzerman and those guys, but I didn’t really have a favorite team.
HF: You weren’t a Sabres fan, then?
DR: (laughs) No, but I am now!
HF: Going back to draft day, it must have been pretty exciting to have your name called, especially in the 2nd round, which is a high draft slot.
DR: Yeah, it was a good time in Florida. We had a vacation with my family and myself, so we had fun. Then the draft came up, and I was pretty nervous, but my parents were more nervous than I was. I wasn’t really thinking about Buffalo- I had some other teams in mind, but Buffalo came up, and they drafted me, so I was pretty surprised. It shows they have confidence in me, drafting me early like that.
HF: Your goals going forward- I think Kitchener is in the playoff hunt for the first time in a couple of years. Do you guys see yourselves as contenders to go to the Memorial Cup?
DR: We’ve played against pretty much every team, except for Ottawa and Peterborough, and we feel right now that we can beat a lot of these teams. We’re 1-0-1 against (1st overall) Plymouth, so we feel that we can beat all these teams. Going unbeaten in 11 is just huge for our team, confidence-wise, so I think the Memorial Cup is not out of the question.
HF: What has your coach, Peter DeBoer, done to get this team to the level that you’re at right now?
DR: He’s put a system in place that is pretty much a “work hard” system, you know, to achieve success. If you slack off in the system, you might lose a couple of games, so you have to play the system the way he taught us. He’s given us a lot of discipline in the room, and he’s expecting a lot out of the boys.
HF: One thing I’ve always been curious about- when you came up through Bantam hockey, how much do they lean on you to learn the defensive part of the game? Or, do they just throw a puck on the ice and say “after it, boys!” Or, is the defensive part of the game pushed once you get to the CHL?
DR: In Bantam, you’re not really thinking defense, you just go nuts on the offense. Once you get in the OHL, they start talking about defense. Players are a little lost because they don’t know what to do, but I’ve adapted pretty well. I’ve had some good coaching, and pretty much learned on my own a lot of the defensive strategy picked up from watching NHL games. It’s pretty hard coming in your first year and playing like that, but I played a lot my first year, so I guess that helped a lot.
HF: Game winning goals- you’ve got 5 of them, which is 3rd in the OHL. Do you have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, or is it just one of those years where the puck seems to be on your stick at crunch time?
DR: I kind of like playing when the pressure is on, mostly at the end of games when it’s tied. I’m playing a lot in those games, so, in games where I play a lot I think I play better, but in blowout games I don’t think I play well. I like the competition, so at the end of the close games I pretty much strive a lot to score goals, and to help the team win.
HF: I’ll let you go. Thank you very much Derek. Good luck tonight. Hope you guys finally beat Erie.
DR: Thanks. We beat ‘em once this year, though!
HF: Hey, that is something to build on, then!
Unfortunately, this writer must not have been a lucky charm, since Erie went on to win a game dominated by Kitchener, 4-3.