Chris Driedger‘s performance in the nets for Team Orr at the CHL’s Top Prospect Game may not have been as flashy as that of goaltender Matt Murray on Team Cherry, but that isn’t to say it wasn’t impressive.
The 17-year-old was absolutely rock solid, and gave the opposing squad very little to shoot at. He was unbelievably calm, cool, and collected, on one of the biggest stages of his young career so far.
It was the icing on the cake to the month of January that saw the Winnipeg product post a 6-0 record with two shutouts, a miniscule 1.29 goals-against average, and .954 save percentage for the Hitmen. So far this season, Driedger has gone 16-8-2, and has been a huge part of the turnaround in Calgary.
Which, is why the Hitmen acquired the talented netminder from the Tri-City Americans after finishing dead last in the WHL last year. The six-foot-two, 186-pound goalie is a superb talent that combines size, athleticism and a professional demeanor that should have NHL scouts drooling. He is postionally and technically sound, has a good glove, excellent rebound control, and never gives up on a puck. Driedger simply has all the qualities that you look for in a premier tender.
I had the opportunity to catch up with the standout puckstopper, for a quick Q and A.
You’re a Winnipeg native, so does that mean you’re a Jets fan?
Chris: Yes, love the Jets. I was really excited when they moved back to Winnipeg.
Who has been the biggest help and influence in developing your game so far?
Chris: Probably my goalie coach Tony D’Angelo. I work with him every summer and we understand each other very well. I get better every time I work with him.
You’re a big guy that does a lot of things extremely well in the nets, but what do you see being your best attributes as a goalie?
Chris: I would say my size has helped me out a lot. Being able to use it to my advantage really helps me as a goalie.
Is there a golatender in the NHL you style your game after?
Chris: I like to look at Carey Price just because in my opinion he is technically perfect. If I could get anywhere near that I’d be very happy.
What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the WHL?
Chris: Well Brett Connolly pulled off a triple toe-drag to the slot and ripped one past me during my first regular season game. I came to realize he’s pretty good.
You were recently named WHL goaltender of the month, stopped all 14 shots you faced at the CHL’s Top Prospects game, and have numerous hockey achievements to your name including a silver medal at the 2009 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup. What would you say the highlight of your young career has been thus far?
Chris: I think going to the Hockey Canada Goaltending camp/evaluation during last summer was probably the highlight of my career. There were so many great goalies there my age and older. The coaching was the best I’ve ever had as well. Great experience.
You have been a huge part of the Hitmen’s success this season, how do you like the make up of this team, and how do you like your chances of making a run deep into the playoffs?
Chris: Our team was struggling a lot during the first half of the season, but I think over the Christmas break we all came back refocused and realized we’re a great hockey team. When we’re on our game we don’t lose, so I really like our chances as a playoff contender.
With this being your NHL draft year, have you felt any added pressure to perform at all?
Chris: It’s pretty cool knowing that I have a chance to get drafted to the NHL, but I try not to let that affect me. If I play my game, the draft and all that will work itself out.
Who, in your opinion, has the hardest shot in the WHL?
Chris: Hardest shot I might have to give to my buddy Ryan Pulock on the Wheat Kings…the kid has a cannon.
A lot of guys like to talk trash on the ice, especially at the tenders, what is the funniest chirp you’ve ever heard while playing?
Chris: You’d be surprised how bad the chirps are towards goalies. I haven’t heard anything towards me that is even notable this year.
Goalies are seen as being superstitious, do you have any rituals you go through before or during the course of a game?
Chris: Well everybody has their routines, I like to keep my pre-game pretty consistent. My one superstition is you can’t say the “S” word (shutout) before or during games. Otherwise it won’t happen.
What is the worst goal you’ve ever surrendered?
Chris: I scored on myself once in Midget. My passing option was cut off, so I dumped it in the other corner, only the net got in the way. Oops! We won 7-1 to break my shutout.