It's amazing, when you think about: Mike Hoffman, currently playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs and leading the QMJHL in goals (32) and ninth in in the league in points (60) was completely ignored in his first year of draft eligibility. Even after putting up 94P (52G, 42A) in 2008-09, Hoffman managed to slide all the way to the Ottawa Senators in the fifth round (130 overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Of course, the Senators organization--thirsting for some strong offensive talent to come up through the prospect pipeline--had no problems with that, not letting the fact that he was a 19-year-old deter them from taking a chance on his tremendous scoring upside.
Hoffman's success hasn't gone unnoticed, and the winger-turned-centre is almost certainly the Senators' strongest forward prospect currently playing Canadian major junior hockey, and perhaps the most promising forward overall. (Ottawa drafted him at 130 overall; check out the rankings of 2008 and 2009 prospects to see where he'd rank based on his current production.) He spoke with Silver Seven on Wednesday evening about his season so far, the type of game he plays, how he's liked his journey so far, and where he's looking for the future.
|2009-10, Saint John Sea Dogs||38||32||28||60||+35||16||13||0||11||178||18.0|
|2008-09 Playoffs, Drummondville||19||21||13||34||+2||26||13||0||2||105||20.0|
|2008-09, Drummondville Voltigeurs||62||52||42||94||+25||86||24||1||7||246||21.1|
|2007-08, Drummondville Voltigeurs||43||19||17||36||--||77||--||--||--||--||--|
|2007-08, Gatineau Olympiques||19||5||7||12||--||16||--||--||--||--||--|
|2006-07, Kitchener Rangers||2||0||0||0||--||2||--||--||--||--||--|
Silver Seven: How do you classify yourself as a player, and where do you think you'd fit on a pro team?
Mike Hoffman: Well, I'm a speedy type of player, with a good shot and pretty good vision. I think I'd have to be on the top two lines if I wanted to play at the pro level.
S7: Do you compare yourself to any current NHLers, or try to model yourself after any?
MH: Well, like most people say, I look a little bit like Mike Richards. If I could compare myself to anyone in the NHL, it would probably be him.
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S7: In the past two seasons, you've had good success, particularly after you were acquired by Drummondville, and your numbers are even better so far with Saint John. What was the big change after leaving Gatineau?
MH: I think just getting the experience in the league, getting older and stronger and bigger and just working on your game every chance you can. Just trying to get better.
S7: Your team's having a heck of a season so far, and you guys are ranked tops in the CHL right now. What's the key to your success as a team?
MH: We play together, and we've got pretty good team chemistry. All the guys get along, one the ice and off the ice, together. We have pretty good depth this year with our team, all four lines can produce and we've got two good goalies and a good, solid defence corps. I think that's probably our biggest asset.
S7: You're one of the biggest surprises, if I can say so, of the 2009 draft. Why do you think you were looked over in your first year?
MH: I think my first year, I just came into the Q and not too many people knew who I was in the professional world. If they were going to take me, I think I might be a high-risk situation because I was just starting in the Q. Last year, getting drafted, was pretty rare; you don't see too many 19-year-olds getting drafted, it's usually the guys in their first draft year.
S7: Did you take the fact that you weren't drafted in your first year of eligibility as motivation to improve your game?
MH: Once I was rated to be drafted, I just kind of realized that I could have a chance at hockey, so I just worked even harder, and that was my goal coming into last year's season: To be draftedas a 19-year-old.
S7: Going into the draft, did you have many talks with the Senators? Did you have a good feeling, going into the draft, that the Senators or any other teams might be interested in drafting you?
MH: I talked to, I'm going to say maybe around 13 teams last year, and the funny thing is that Ottawa wasn't one of them. I had no idea I was going to be taken by Ottawa.
S7: After the prospect camp, what did the Senators tell you to work on through the season to give you a better chance next season in training camp?
MH: Just to get bigger and stronger, maybe play a little more physical on the ice. Finishing checks and taking checks.
S7: Your goal is obviously to make the NHL, but how do you keep motivated while working your way through the system?
MH: I just look at as it's not a race to get there, it's a marathon. If it's meant to happen, it'll happen.
S7: What are your plans for next season? You can't return to the Q, so are you looking at university, college, or are you gunning for the pros?
MH: I'm looking to play professional hockey next year, for one of Ottawa's teams.
S7: Finally, do you have any thoughts on the Patrice Cormier hit and subsequent suspension?
MH: Well, I don't really like to comment on stuff like that too often, but it's a decision that the league made to suspend him. I don't really know if it was the right one or the wrong one, but I know you don't like to see stuff like that happen in hockey.