Talking with an USHL top rookie

By Oliver Janz

Is it greeding

Is he greedy? It looks like Danny Richmond got his talent from his father, Steven L. (known as Steve) Richmond, who skated in 163 NHL games while scoring 27 points for the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings. Now, he is 42 years old. Son Danny started his hockey playin’ days several years before he ended his own professional career in 1991. Steve was a defenseman and now Danny has become a defenseman too.

Now, roughly eleven years later, Steve Richmond can be proud of his 17 year old son. After playing at the Midget AAA level for Team Illinois last season, Danny is now a member of the Chicago Steel from the United States Hockey League. It’s his first year in a Junior A league, so we have to call him a rookie.

However, he hasn’t looked and played like a rookie. His scoring numbers thus far are also very high. He currently has totals of 5-33-38 in 41 games. Four of his five goals have come on the powerplay. “I love the powerplay! Most of my goals are on the powerplay, but my assists are pretty much spread out between various situations”. These assists are a result of his passing skills – one of his biggest strengths. “I’m pretty good at getting the puck out of the zone, either through a pass or skating it up.”

“I’ve played defense since I was ten years old”. He prefers to play defense rather than offense because of the view a defenseman has from his own zone. He is an offensive defenseman who has the ability to read a game. “I play more on defense and I think you can see the ice better back there”.

Since all typical offensive defensemen have to work on their defense, Danny claims, “I need to work on my defensive positioning.” An important weakness? Not really, “It is not bad, but it could be better”. The next thing that is typical for most offensive defensemen is the lack of physical play. They usually can’t or don’t hit as good as a Kasparaitis and they aren’t as good in fighting as Paul Laus. This is not the case with the gifted Danny Richmond. He has received 109 penalty minutes so far in this season and he is leading the United States Hockey League in major penalties with eleven.

Penalties just seem to ‘follow him’. As he played for the United States Under-18 team in August 2001 several days after his 17th birthday (8/1/84), he received a major penalty. “I slashed a kid and he went down – but he was back playing the next shift.” Nothing really bad happened. Danny isn’t a goon, yet he does need to reduce his penalty minutes in the future and must show the ability to keep a cool head. On the bright side, he does get respect and is known by forwards. If there is anyone who they do not want to be checked by ‘from the other team’, it is usually Richmond, who checks in at 6′ , 170 pounds. At this point, eleven major penalties are too much for a player like him.

Let’s talk about a highlight in his season so far. It was the prospect game in Detroit, USHL against NAHL. Danny’s team from the USHL won 5-4, the defender scored two goals. And he won the Three Stars Award. Why? Due to a tremendous performance and an awesome goal: With Team USHL trailing 4-1 early in the second period, Richmond found himself alone with the puck behind the NAHL goal. He then re-created a piece of Michigan hockey history, scooping the puck onto his blade, carrying it lacrosse-style around the side of the net and then stuffing it over the goalie’s shoulder in the top corner. “I’ve practiced it,” said Richmond. “I did it in practice just a couple of weeks ago. This time, I knew I had a lot of time so I just gave it a shot and it went in. I was just like, ‘wow.'”

Back to August, the month Danny was in Germany for the four nations tournament in Füssen. “It’s a cool place and they have a pretty nice rink there”. The USA, Norway and Germany’s U17 and U18 teams took part in this tournament. Guys like Tyler Hirsch or Zach Parise (CSB’s #38 at NA Skaters) were the main reasons why the USA won all games. Too easy? “Not really, we just had a pretty good team”.

It is possible that you’ll see his name on the US roster in the world junior championships in April. “I’m not quite sure, it depends on the tryouts – but I think I can make it”. That will be his first chance to impress the visitors from all countries. Various scouts from the US have already noticed him and the Central Scouting Service displays his name at position 56 of the North American Skaters.

“I won’t be drafted this year because I’m going to college next season. If I go into the Draft, I won’t eligible to play college hockey.” For now, NHL scouts have to write the word ‘ineligible’ behind his name. Numerous teams wanted to see a player like him on their varsity team. He has decided to study at the University of Michigan and play for the Wolverines in the CCHA. Why did he chose that University? “I have been working real hard on the ice and even harder in the classroom to get this opportunity. They have a lot of highly drafted players on their team and it is a good school. So, a good place for me to be.” The Wolverines have players who have been drafted, for example, Mike Cammalleri and Mike Komisarek. They have other prospects such as Eric Nystrom (Bobby Nystrom’s son). “I’m hoping to play a bit alongside Komisarek. He is an awesome player.” Does Komisarek have the same playing style as Danny? “I am more offensive, I think. He hits a lot more”.

“We are very pleased that Danny is going to be a part of our program,” said Rod Berenson, the hockey coach at the University of Michigan. “He is going to add an offensive dimension to our blueline that we need, and his left-handed shot is definitely going to help us on the power play. Danny is an offensively-gifted defenseman and has great character.”

In addition, the University of Michigan is also the university his father attended from 1978 to 1982. However, Danny’s hockey role model is not his father. Danny listed Komisarek as an awesome player he respects and noted that he likes Niklas Lidström, but his idol is the legendary defender Bobby Orr. “I watch a tape of him before every game”. And what has Danny learned to appreciate from watching Mister Orr, “He had some pretty good moves, and he could see the entire ice when he had the puck.” To avoid paying more than $400 dollars for a signed Bobby Orr print, it may be wise to try and meet Orr in person for an autograph. Has this ever happened? Unfortunately not, “I have never met him before.”

Although Danny’s favorite player is Orr, Orr’s Bruins don’t impress him that much. The fact that Orr played his last 26 games of his career for the Blackhawks is more important. Danny was born in Buffalo Grove, Illinois and the whole family comes from Chicago. The closest NHL-team is the Chicago Blackhawks, the team he “loves”. Learning from Orr is one thing, watching the Blackhawks is another. “I used to go to about 20 games a year. Sure I’d love to play for them one day, but of course I would play for any NHL team”.

The Blackhawks are not doing too poorly in the National Hockey League this season. In Danny’s opinion, “They have been playing awesome this year. I’m just hoping they will do well in the playoffs”. The player he likes the most is Phil Housley, a guy who most likely won’t be in the NHL when Danny gets his chance to play with the big boys. First things first though. We’ll have to wait for the NHL Entry Draft in 2003. So, in the years to come, keep your eyes open for the name Danny Richmond.