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While growing up with his two older brothers, Mike and Paul Comrie, working their way to the NHL, Eric Comrie was thrown between pipes to help his brothers sharpen up on their shooting.
At the time, it seemed Eric was doing his brothers a favour by being their personal puck stopper. But in hindsight it appears they were doing Eric the solid by grooming him into one of the top goalie prospects of the 2013 draft class.
"My brothers would make me be their practice goalie when I was young," says the 17-year-old Tri-City Americans 'tender, whom NHL Central Scouting has deemed an A goaltender for the draft. "They needed a goalie to shoot on and I was their younger brother, so I didn't have much of a choice. So I would strap on the pads for them to have someone to practice on. I decided to stick with it because I just kept on getting better and better at it."
Comrie's older brothers, who have since retired from hockey, did more for him than just shoot pucks his way. They showed the 17-year-old what type of work ethic and attitude it takes to get to The Show.
"My older brothers were great influences for me in hockey," says Comrie. "I got to see through them how hard you have to work to get to the NHL. They also would help my game out by giving me pointers and showing me ways to improve how I play."
The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder gained hype in the blue paint at a very young age. After being selected in the first round of the 2010 bantam draft by Tri-City, Comrie posted a 1.34 average and a .940 save percentage for the L.A. Selects under-16 team. His remarkable showing with the Selects and Team Alberta at the 2011 Canada Winter Games had some scouts praising him as the top North American netminder of his age group.
Since the only goaltender that was selected by the Americans in the first round before Comrie was Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price, comparisons of the two netminders were inevitable. Although the comparison is clearly far-fetched for the time being, on paper they aren't that far apart. In his second season with the Americans, Comrie has posted a 2.26 average and .925 save percentage throughout 11 games. In Price's sophomore season in Tri-City, he maintained a 2.34 average and a .920 percentage in 63 games.
But there is a reason scouts hardly look at stats. They only show a very small part of a player's skill-set and development potential.
"It's fun to be compared to Price," says Comrie. "He is actually a goaltender I really look up to. I know I have a long way to go to get where he is, though. And we're different people. I think we have a lot of differences."
With Adam Hughesman, Brendan Shinnimin, and Patrick Holland moving on to the pros in the offseason, it seems Tri-City won't be able to outscore top teams as they have in the past. The Americans will likely live or die by Comrie's play in the second season. The Newport Beach, Calif., native will be heavily relied on to keep high-end offenses such as the Kamloops Blazers and Portland Winterhawks in check.
1. Do you try to model your style after a goaltender in the NHL?
"I really like how Price plays. He makes saves very smoothly and is very composed. I also have been watching a lot of European goaltenders. I like how a handful of them move fluently and are very active in the crease."
2. Why did you decide to choose the major junior route over the NCAA route?
"I weighed both options. I chose the WHL because I think it's closer to the NHL. There are more games and I think more skill. I also was drafted by a great organization. Tri-City has great coaching and great tradition."
3. You have been really hot this year. What is going right in your game?
"My team has played great in front of me. They're letting me see the puck and making my job a lot easier. Everything is just clicking right now."
4. What is it like having Hilary Duff as your sister-in-law?
"It's great. She is a fantastic person. The guys bug me a bit in the dressing room for having a celebrity sister-in-law, but it is all in fun."
5. What was it like growing up in California?
"Well I lived in Edmonton until I was nine. Then we moved to California. I thought it was great. You can't beat the weather and there is a lot to do down there."
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen.