It only seems appropriate that the draft be held in Los Angeles this year. While the NHL’s signature event is usually reserved for cities in the northeast, the league has spent the better part of two decades tyring to establish a strong footprint in the southwest.
It seems to be working – with kids from Arizona, Texas and Nevada expected to be drafted this weekend. Even more impressive is the strong representation of players with ties to Southern California – including forwards Emerson Etem (Long Beach), Beau Bennett (Gardena), Jason Zucker (LA Selects) and Jake Fallon (former LAHC player). There’s also a pair of defenseman Brandon Underwood (San Diego) and Taylor Aronson (Placentia) among others.
Yesterday we posted an interview with Underwood (available here). Today we’re back to share a conversation between The Mayor and Taylor Aronson.
He’s a kid that’s ranked #88 by NHL Central Scouting, not bad for a player from California – where some people say the hockey choices are limited for youngsters.
Aronson has found no shortage of opportunities to date though, including being a first round selection in the USHL junior hockey draft last year. He ultimately passed on that opportunity, as well as U.S. college hockey, to head north and play for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
That’s an important part of his story, as he played this past season on a ‘Hawks team that was the darling of many scouts and media, due to having five players ranked in this draft’s top-100. One could even argue that perhaps he’d be getting more attention if it weren’t for the stellar play of his teammates Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen – who are both expected to be long gone by the time the Kings pick at #19 in the first round.
Taylor will probably go a few rounds later. Yet, whichever team gets him can thank the Kings, in small part, for helping…he says the Kings and Wayne Gretzky inspired him to start playing when he was younger. See what else he has to say…
Talk about growing up playing hockey in California. What are some of the challenges in playing a non-traditional SoCal sport? And what motivated you to keep playing when most of your classmates were probably playing baseball or football?
My cousins got me started off in hockey when I was 4. But, nobody really knows about hockey in California, so nobody thought I was going to actually try and make a living off of it. It was definitely hard trying to get respect from teams back east and up in Canada. But we kept on winning, so they had to start respecting us. All the motivation just came from nobody expecting California teams to win.
Last season you played for the LA Junior Kings, one of the top-ranked midget teams in the country. Because of that, do you feel a strong connection to the NHL Kings? If so, what would it mean to you to be drafted by the Kings next weekend?
I don’t really think there was a strong connection from the LA Kings when I played for the Jr. Kings because they weren’t really looking for kids that young. That said, it would be amazing to get drafted to a California team. To be drafted to a team so close to home would be really neat.
In past interviews you’ve spoken highly of your coach with the Jr Kings, Jack Bochus. What specific areas of your game – on or off the ice – has he helped you develop?
Jack was a really good coach for me. He helped me by being hard on me and making me earn my ice time. He skated us and worked us hard off the ice so we were in the best condition possible. He taught me many other things – from when is the right time to jump in the play, to also staying back behind the play, etc.
Junior hockey or college hockey is a big decision for a lot of players. You were also a first round draft pick of the Tri-City Storm (USHL). Why did you ultimately chose the WHL over those two options?
I chose Portland because I was looking for the best place for me to develop as a player. I knew Mike Johnston and Travis Green were unbelievable coaches, so that was the right place for me.
Unfortunately, you weren’t invited to the evaluation camp next month for Team USA’s World Jrs team. Is that something you were pushing for? Do you think you still have a chance to be added, even though you haven’t played for the developmental program. And what would it mean to you to wear the USA sweater and represent your country?
I think that any player that gets the opportunity is lucky to play for their country. I’d like to believe (I still have) a chance at making the team and hopefully I can one day be that guy. I would feel really honored to wear a USA sweater. It would be a very huge step in my hockey career.
The draft has never been to California. Being a SoCal native, when you found out this year’s draft was going to be in LA at the Staples Center, what were your first thoughts?
I thought it was really neat for the draft to be at home. Players rarely get that opportunity, to have the draft in their hometown when its their draft year. It’s also going to be exciting to go to it and just see what it’s like.
Your CSS ranking has stayed pretty steady all year and the so called draft experts have you pegged around the third round. Knowing that anything can happen once the draft begins, what are your expectations for next weekend?
I would hope to get drafted around the 3rd round. It would be amazing for me. I don’t really have any expectations because you never know what is going to happen on draft day. You can only just sit, watch, hope, and wait.
When you make your pro debut, what number do you hope to be wearing? And what’s the significance of that number?
#4 because it’s the number I’ve been wearing since I first started playing hockey…well, until I started playing for Portland. (He had to switch to #37)
What three words best describe the type of defenseman you see yourself as?
Opportunistic, reliable, and intelligent
Outside of hockey related activities, what one thing takes up the most of your time on a daily basis?
Hanging out with friends.
What one thing do most coaches or scouts tell you that you still need to work on?
Who is the hardest hitter you’ve ever faced?
Ryan Letts (Newport Beach native, now playing with the Spokane Chiefs – WHL)
Who is the best goalie you’ve ever faced?
Martin Jones of the Calgary Hitman (more love for a Kings prospect!)
Mike Modano or Jeremy Roenick?
Chris Chelios or Brian Leetch?
Metallica, Jay-Z or Dave Matthews?
Dodgers or Angels?
Disneyland or Magic Mountain?
What’s your least favorite sport and why?
Soccer. It’s bring to watch.
If somebody was to write a book about your life up to this point in time, what would the title be?
The Life of a SoCal Hockey Player
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The next chapter of that book will probably be written this Saturday when Aronson is expected to be a mid-round pick by one of the 30 NHL teams.
Life in SoCal is about to get a little better for one local hockey player.
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Other Draft 2010 links of interest on Mayors Manor:
Interview with Brandon Underwood
Interview with Charlie Coyle