Saturday, December 18, 2010

Choose Your Own Junior Adventure

I think every hockey-playing Canadian boy has fantasized about stepping onto an NHL sheet of ice and living the life of a pro athlete. I think most of the time its a murky, ephemeral thought; flashes of holding Lord Stanley, highlight reel moves on top-flight goalies. Generally the most concrete realization for the general population is inputting our name and idealized stats into a NHL video game.

I always thought it would be fun to take it a few steps farther. I've always had an active imagination, and in this case I did not fantasize about some Wayne Gretzky'esque castle-in-the-sky fantasy version but rather a direct extrapolation.

For instance I'm about 5'11, 205lbs (xmas holidays might have something to say about that number, lets just say those are my official roster numbers). If I took that size and placed it against the backdrop of US average weight and height numbers of 5'9 and 190lbs, that puts me about 3% taller than the average American male and about 8% heavier. The average NHL size is 6'1 and 204 (based on this) so if I extrapolate my size I come out to 6'3 (1.03 * 73) and 220 (1.08 * 204). So now we know what my NHL extrapolated version looks like. I'm a pretty big dude. Which is good because now it's time to move onto phase two.

I played minor hockey mostly as a goalie, and pickup and rec hockey mostly as a defenceman. While it might be fun to make a goalie persona, there is something about being the teams designated hitman that always has appealed to me. I also shoot right, and those are a beauty on the backend. So lets take a look at this player:

John Klappstein #64 - D

* DOB: 1980/10/05
* POB: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
* Height: 6-3 Weight: 220lbs
* Shoots: R

My junior career after the hop.

I might catch some grief for #64 but damn it I like having a unique number. Otherwise, that's starting to look like a hockey player. Now we are going to need some of the fun stuff: total, 100%, fabricated bullshit. I wouldn't have an NHL career without having some kind of junior career, so lets build one of those.

First I'll need a route. The likeliest is via the WHL; I was born and raised in E-town, so why not start our adventure from there. Ok, now I need my WHL Bantam draft scouting report. For that I will look to the wise words of Darrell May, who was named the Edmonton area WHL scout previous to 1996 (don't ask me how I found that, prolly a year too late to scout me for the WHL Bantam draft anyways).
"I've had a chance to see [John] live about a dozen times, and he's an interesting defenceman in that he uses his hockey-smarts to cover up some of the deficiencies in his game... He probably has one of the hardest shots on his team, and when he gets a chance to get it off he can put a lot of velocity on the puck. He is nearly impossible to knock off his feet and he is a fearless shot-blocker... He has mechanical issues with his skating, especially in terms of top speed... Some of the quicker players can beat him to the outside... An excellent passer, who isn't afraid to try for the odd long-bomb. Plays a fairly simple game, and is [his team's] most responsible defenceman, but could afford to be more aggressive offensively... He's clearly got a competitive spirit and he doesn't back down from anyone. Projectable frame and will likely go in the first three rounds."
Of course I take some of my own positive traits (I spent a few years weight training regularly, and I do have fairly excellent balance and shot velocity), as well as a few of the negative ones (I will never have the extra gear like some players have, and have been known to be overly cautious). Clearly the:

agreed with May's assessment of my skills as they took me 2nd round, 21st overall in the WHL Bantam Draft (sorry Dallas Stanton):

2  21  Lethbridge KLAPPSTEIN, JOHN RD EDMONTON, AB OCT 05/80

Nice, now it was time to have a WHL career to catch the eyes of some NHL scouts. With the magic of fantasy we can fast forward to my draft year, and in the interim I generated the following WHL numbers:

Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1995-96 Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL 2 0 0 0 0 - - - - -
1996-97 Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL 48 3 13 16 52 19 1 4 5 6
1997-98 Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL 68 12 34 46 118 4 0 1 1 8
1998-99 Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL 48 13 26 39 102 4 0 2 2 4

Not bad at all, if I do say so myself. Lets break down those seasons:
  • 1995-96 - 15 year old: Owing to basic WHL procedure, I was only allowed 5 games as a 15 year old, and only actually got in two. Not much to report there. I don't remember much about them, they went by in a blur *wink*.
  • 1996-97 - 16 year old: They eased me into the rotation, but I quickly proved I was a capable defender even as a 16 year old. As the season went on I received increased icetime until I was a regular PK defender. I played every game in the playoffs on our way to Lethbridge's first WHL championship. While not a star cog in the machine, I definitely logged hard minutes on the way to the championship. Fell short in the memorial cup finals to the Hull Olympiques 5-1.
  • 1997-98 - 17 year old: I started the year as the teams #3 defenceman and received the first regular PP time of my junior career. Eventually was given shutdown duties every night and always faced the other teams top scorers. Managed to score a dozen goals (9 on the PP) with my booming shot - most of the increased offence came from regular PP time.
  • 1998-99 - 18 year old: I was a known force in the WHL by this time, but during training camp I suffered the first knee injury of my career. I had a partial ACL tear combined with a meniscus tear on both sides. I had arthroscopic surgery immediately but I missed the first 20 games of the season recovering from the injury. This also led to a slow start, going 10gp 1-1-2 -2 in my first ten. I turned it around, shook off the rust and had a strong finish to the season, playing a meaner, more mature game.
I had already drawn some attention as a 16 year-old but by my second full season I started getting the kind of buzz that would lead to be drafted by an NHL team. Because I was an October '80 birth I would have to wait till the 1999 draft. Lets take a look at some of those draft year reports:

Red Line Report (I hope they were around in '99 heh):
16. John Klappstein - Lethbridge RD

A gritty, strong defender who plays a nearly immaculate defensive game. Reads plays extremely well, and positioning is always perfect. Aggressive in clearing the front of his net, and does not back down physically. Already strong for his age group, and should be a presence once he fills out. Not a tremendously fast skater, and can be beat by pure speed. Balance is top notch, but overall is a coarse skater, and could refine his first step and overall agility for the big league. Has the shot and puck-moving ability to contribute at the NHL level but many have questioned his ability to translate his junior offence. We simply believe he is too tentative in the offensive zone - often has more time and space available than he allows for. Absolutely fearless shot blocker and is basically impervious to pain. Untapped leadership potential. Has a heavy shot with above average accuracy. Relative lack of offensive upside but has all of the tools to be an elite shutdown defender.

Projection: Gritty, shutdown #3 Defender
Style compares to: Adam Foote
High praise indeed. RLR has me going mid first round. Let's check in with central scouting:

Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire: "Has the best defensive instincts in the draft and plays a no-nonsense game that contributes to a winning effort. He has a good first pass out of his zone, and generally is mistake free. He may never be a vocal leader on his team but he will always lay his body on the line and displays a ferocious competitive spirit that coaches love. Possesses one of the hardest shots in the draft, potentially allowing him to contribute on the power play. His major weakness is his skating. He does not have great acceleration or top speed, but his average skating ability should not prevent him from having a long and successful NHL career."

Overall rankings by scouting services:

Red Line Report: #16
Central Scouting Services: #20
McKeens: #22
The Hockey News: #14
International Scouting Services: #33 (bastards!)

Average: #21

Well that was kind of fun, but I'm much more interested to see what I do as a professional hockey player. Stay tuned for my professional NHL career in Choose Your Own NHL Adventure.


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