by Lisa Brown on 10/04/11 at 11:30 AM ET
Apparently, 95% of parents have a favourite child and that the other 5% are lying. With that in mind I won’t bother suggesting that I don’t have favourite prospects, even though the two situations are completely different. I try to remain unbiased, and can be successful in that regard in many ways, but certainly not all. Quite simply, some prospects make my job easy; they’re confident, well spoken, friendly and put me at ease as much as I hope I do for them. Drew Czerwonka of the Kootenay Ice is one of those prospects. With his calm yet friendly demeanor, million dollar smile and thoughtful responses Czerwonka has quickly become a favourite of mine.
Had Czerwonka played in the lineup, or had I thought to ask him to pose for a photo, I wouldn’t be left with this gem from the Oilers development camp.
Drew Czerwonka is a left winger born in Glenavon Saskatchewan and drafted by the Oilers late in the 2010 NHL entry draft, the sixth round. Standing at 6’2”, this gritty winger could defy the odds and one day make it to the NHL based off of his WHL performance and his play with the other Oiler rookies. If Stu MacGregor’s track record is any indication, there is something truly special in Czerwonka.
The offseason was busy and short for Czerwonka. After winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup, the Kootenay Ice headed to the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately, the Ice didn’t go the distance for the Memorial Cup, but not many people had thought the Ice would make it as far as they did. To many, they were made of nobodies and no names. In July, Czerwonka participated in the Oilers development camp before heading off to get some down time. In September Czerwonka once again sported the Oiler uniform, playing in the Young Stars Tournament, and then headed back to Edmonton for the official training camp. Unfortunately, Czerwonka suffered a shoulder injury and missed out on many opportunities the Oilers training camp would have delivered. This shoulder injury is expected to keep Czerwonka out of the lineup for another two weeks, but thankfully not from travelling with the team.
I hadn’t seen Czerwonka in the pressbox, or roaming the hallways of the Saddledome on Sunday, so worried that all was lost and I would have to wait until the next opportunity presented itself. Thankfully, I am one of the luckiest people I know. While speaking with Max Reinhart, who should walk down the hallway but Mr. Czerwonka; smiling despite his team’s loss.
How was Oilers training camp? “It was really good. It was fun. I played pretty good in Penticton, and then I got hurt. That kind of sucked, but I had a lot of fun. I met some new guys and I learned a lot from the older guys.”
There is so much more to training and development camps than the play, the relationships forged with other players and prospects can be just as important. “I had some connections with the younger guys, [Curtis] Hamilton, [Ryan] Martindale and those younger guys, but I got to meet some of the older guys like [Ryan] Smyth, and [Theo] Peckham and [Shawn] Horcoff. Just to see how hard they work is special because I got to learn from those guys who have been in the NHL for so long. It was nice.”
It’s funny to hear Czerwonka refer to Peckham as one of the older guys, but that shows how quickly things can change in the NHL or in professional hockey in general. Perhaps Czerwonka meant older guy as a term of respect, since Peckham has reached the next level.
So learning from Smyth, how was that? “It was cool. I’ve been watching him since I was really little, back when he was with the Oilers the first time. He knows a lot about the game so it was nice to learn from him.”
Czerwonka was smiling as soon as we started speaking, but he lit up speaking about Smyth. It may have been that I lit up as soon as Smyth’s name was mentioned, but really that’s not the most important part.
How was learning from Smyth? “I think it’s really cool. He’s a fan favourite. I was watching the Joey Moss Cup and every time he touched the puck the place would erupt. It was cool to see that and to hear that. He’s a really good player and I think Edmonton is really lucky to have him back.” So do I. I saw and heard the same reaction at the Joey Moss Cup, it was something I never thought I would get to see, but am delighted that this is now a reality.
Looking forward to this season, Czerwonka has some goals. “I’ve got to get this injury fixed, and from then on I’ve got to do the same thing as last year and I’ll have a bigger role on the team this year. So I think that if I can build off of that I’ll be fine.”
Specifically, there are other goals, “I have some goals set in mind for this year points wise and to be a bigger leader on the team this year. I think I’ll have some more PK and power play time so that will help me out points wise.“
Participating in the Oilers camp, Czerwonka was able to meet some of the other Oilers’ prospects and hopefuls including Taylor Fedun. Fedun suffered a traumatic injury on Friday night in Minnesota “I saw that, it was really gross. Taylor is a really great guy and it was really bad for that to happen to him. He was playing well. I think that the no touch icing works really well in the dub really well, there are no injuries and I think that the NHL could adapt. “
Some argue that touch icing makes the game faster, that those foot races are exciting. What does Czerwonka think about bringing in no touch icing? “I don’t think that it takes away from the speed or the game in any way. It’s going to be icing either way. There are a few times that a guy beats another guy out for icing, but I think it’s a lot safer this way and it doesn’t take away from the speed.”
Czerwonka hopes to be back in the lineup before too long and hopefully the winger will have just as successful year for himself as last year, maybe even more successful. If Czerwonka continues to work hard, and if luck is on his side, this could be his last year of junior. A goal of being more of a leader on the Kootenay Ice team, made up of varying aged players, makes sense because Czerwonka is one of three NHL drafted players on the team. As such, Czerwonka has had many experiences that younger players hope to have. Czerwonka will have the opportunity to be a leader both on and off the ice this season, and that is something that Czerwonka is looking forward to, of course once he can play again.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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