Wed Jun 06 12:00pm EDT
Colton Sissons gives off an impression it is just a question of what role he will fill at the next level.
The Kelowna Rockets captain is one of the more mature players in the NHL draft class of 2012 and probably plays more of a 200-foot game than any other forward coming out of the WHL. The fact he wore the 'C' for the Rockets speaks to how he can lead by example. He's hopeful that will translate well to the NHL once he gets there. With his versatility, there is some debate over whether he will be expected to contribute more offensively or defensively as a pro.
"Being captain is definitely a huge part of my game," says Sissons, who projects to be a first-round NHL pick after the big league's Central Scouting service ranked him 14th among North American skaters. "I have the biggest leadership role on my team, obviously, and that's something I'd like to take to the pros. That was a common question in every [NHL combine] interview I did."
Sissons, who played for a youngish Rockets team this season, counted 26 goals and 41 points in 58 games while finishing minus-14. At 6-foot-1 and 189 pounds, he showed he could finish off plays in tight space, although he likely will need to show a greater array of ways he can chip in on the offensive end — such as scoring off the rush or setting up teammates. There isn't much question with his defensive instincts. It goes without saying that improving his skating could cause him to really break out next fall, when he enters his age-19 season.
One refreshing takeaway from speaking with Sissons, a North Vancouver, B.C., native, is that he doesn't take being the Rockets' captain for granted. He notes there were times he assumed his younger teammates didn't need to be told certain things this past season, when Kelowna finished sixth in the WHL's Western Conference with a .500 record. That answer came in response to a question about adversity — which he could have easily steered toward the concussion that kept him out during the late-season playoff push.
"Team-wise, we were really young this year," Sissons says. "So that was a big challenge, being a young team and battling some inconsistency. I learned about being more vocal and really staying on top of the guys to stay focused on the task at hand. It's a learning process. I was a young captain this year."
1. Everyone your age still needs to become faster and stronger. What are some specific components of the game that you really need to brush up on?
"I'm definitely working on my faceoffs. As a centreman, that's a big thing to do in the NHL and the WHL. My coach, Ryan Huska, used to be a pretty good faceoff man [in the WHL with Kamloops in the mid-1990s] ."
2. Whom in the NHL do you watch and think, "I have to do what he just did there" or "I think I can do what he just did?"
3. Outside of family, who has had the largest influence on you in hockey?
"Probably the coaching staff in Kelowna. They taught me to play an all-around game, which is why I'm here today. I owe a lot to him."
4. Prospera Place is considered one of the most beautiful arenas in the WHL. So what's your favourite road rink?
"By far my favourite is playing in the Pacific Coliseum against the [Vancouver] Giants. It's my hometown and it feels like I've scored 60 per cent of my goals there. I grew up watching the Giants, watching the Canucks. It's kind of sunk in and I'm used to it."
5. What's your favourite diversion when you need to unplug from hockey?
"I play a bit of golf. If you want to call what I do golf, that's what I do. Mostly I just hang out with my buddies back home that I graduated from, guys who aren't hockey players. We do get out on the water a bit in Deep Cove, where I live."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.