Monday, June 2, 2008

NHL draft guide announcement & Wiercioch profile

By Rick Morris

Two of the greatest names in sports journalism have come together to provide unparalleled coverage of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and the NHL offseason as a whole. Sportsology and have co-produced HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY, an electronic magazine available for free download via their websites and on Tuesday, June 10.
These two entities each bring different, but complementary backgrounds to their coverage of how this summer will shape the future of hockey. Sportsology has provided in-depth coverage of the NHL Entry Draft for years, while has previously produced free online magazines for the NFL and NBA drafts. Together, the breadth of their association will encompass all of the following:
^ Exclusive interviews with top North American prospects: forwards Danny Kristo and Colin Wilson, defenseman David Carle and Eric Mestery and goalie Chet Pickard
^ Exclusive interview with top European goalie prospect Harri Sateri
^ A profile of North American defense prospect Patrick Wiercioch, who has played with many of the top players in this year's draft
^ Assessment of talent levels in each NHL organization -- with an additional list of needs in terms of priority for each franchise
^ A compilation of quotes and stories from top NHL prospects, including many future legends, over the past few decades
^ A compilation of some of the silliest question-and-answer sessions with top prospects since 2001
^ For the hockey pool players, an exclusive first look at's Ultimate Quantitative Baseline statistic going into the 2008-09 season -- the absolute measure of value in terms of how the top players at each position are comparing to one another in terms of their rotisserie value
^ A preview of the free agency period that will begin July 1
Serialized installments of HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY will be posted here leading up to the June 10 release of the entire guide. Today, we bring you the profile of Patrick Wiercioch, an outstanding young man with a Canadian and American hockey background whose path has crossed with many other top prospects.

Wiercioch is One To Watch

by Russ Cohen


Patrick Wiercioch is a kid out of Maple Grove, BC and he is one of the best young hockey prospects in the world. He is currently the 77th ranked North American skater according to Central Scouting and someday he hopes to play in the NHL. For now, he is just your above average athlete and everyday teenager.

At the age of 18, he is gearing up for the NHL draft. He has been around the block playing in the BCHL and then the USHL and soon will skate for the University of Wisconsin. It’s not the normal route for a Canadian player to take.

“No it’s not,” he agreed. “It’s a decision I had to make based on the fact that I wanted to leave home. I felt that if I wanted to go to college next year, then the first step I had to take is to play away from home, kind of get that first step under my belt. When Omaha gave me an offer to play for the team, the opportunity presented itself at the right time.”

This past year he played for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL and he helped them win the Clark Cup. In the regular season, he was good for 21 points in 40 games with a plus 21. In the playoffs he was still a plus player and he stepped up his point production to 11 points in 14 games. His last assist helped set up the game and series-winning goal! He had three points in the final contest, showing he has a flair for the dramatic.

“It was an unbelievable experience to win. We had a group of guys that would have been disappointed had it ended any other way; second place was not really an option for the expectations and standards we had set for ourselves. It's a memory and a bond that we will share for as along as our names will be engraved on those trophies and that’s a special feeling -- to know that you are a part of history.”

The amazing part about his offensive production is the fact that he is a defenseman! Playing was easy but living away from home proved to be a challenge.

“It was different. It was an experience. Everything that I didn’t know would hit me did. The time change, not being able to talk to my family when I wanted to, the food, the culture. Just making all the decisions day in and day out.”

Now Omaha is known for its beef, so was that to his liking?

“No it’s just different because I have two very European parents,” he said proudly. “Eating a different lifestyle was good. It kind of opened me up to new things.”

Then he talked about his billet family.

“The people that I stayed with were phenomenal. They made the transition almost as easy as it could have been. Without them, I don’t know if I would have been able to do it. I stayed with Clint and Janet Shafer in Omaha. They took me in as one of their own kids. I know for a fact without them I wouldn’t have made it through the year.”

And like most teens, he’s still growing!

“I am 6-4, 6-4 ½ maybe and 180 is pretty accurate,” he laughed. “Still growing strong both ways now, which is good because I have only grown one way before….I stretched myself pretty good, now I am just trying to get wide.”

He gave me a scouting report about himself.

“I think after going to the USHL I went from being more of an offensive defenseman to a two-way,” Wiercioch said like a pro. “I know my strengths as an individual are definitely offensive but I think that’s where I am most gifted. That’s where I can use my talent the most, on the power play. I try to find open guys and make players around me better. The style of play that the USHL had to offer kind of forced me to work on my defensive game in my own zone. I think by making that move I kind of rounded myself more as an individual.”

After spending his days playing a fast-paced game like hockey, he likes to relax in the great outdoors.

“I like anything outdoors. I just got into fishing lately. Pretty much the slower the better. Even slower than fishing would be ice fishing when it’s freezing.”

Since he is of Polish descent, he notes that the jokes that we hear in the U.S. are prevalent in Canada as well.

“They are just as bad,” he added.

Kyle Turris was a top draft pick last year and he will be a teammate of Patrick’s at Wisconsin.

“It’s such a great program. The fans there -- you can’t help but get excited with the atmosphere that you are going to be placed in, where hockey really means a lot to them. Words can’t describe how excited I am to don a Badgers jersey,” he said like a true recruit.

Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Zubov are two of the defenseman he grew up watching but he is a fan of another famous Canadian.

“I am a huge fan of Sidney Crosby,” but when he realized he might have to face him in the future that changed. “I’ll be a fan up until I get the chance that I go on the other side of him. I still have a couple of more years of rooting then.”

When asked if it mattered what position he was drafted in, he gave a two-part answer.

“It’s just an honor to be considered and have your name tossed around with some of the names in this year’s crop of kids. I played against Steven Stamkos (the #1 ranked N.A. skater) when I was in Pee Wee’s (10 or 11 years of age).”

“Still the same dominant player. He’s been dominant ever since I can remember signing autographs at a Winnipeg banquet. Every kid is sitting at the table and you are supposed to exchange autographs at the table and everyone got up and walked over to that kid. Taveres (John, expected to be a top-five pick in next year’s draft), Hodgson (Cody, ranked as the 9th N.A. skater), Livingston (James ranked 53rd), it’s funny how kids you grow up with are eventually going to get the opportunity to turn pro. It would be an honor to be drafted and to go high. But either way I’m proud that I have a scholarship to Wisconsin and that’s something that no one can take from me.”

Now what if he was drafted by Phoenix, like Turris, and he would come face to face with his first hockey idol, Wayne Gretzky?

“If I got taken by Phoenix, I probably have a poster for him to sign,” he said like a true fan. “I don’t know if I’ll drop down to one knee. I’m not sure. It’s beyond belief to even thinking about playing for the guy as much as meeting him.”

This kid will get drafted for his talent and his character. Keep an eye out for him.

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