NHL prospect profile: Justin Shugg

Neate Sager, Yahoo! Sports
Yahoo! Sports

Justin Shugg's role with the Windsor Spitfires was a moving target much of the season, not that he minded.

Playing for a loaded Windsor Spitfires team which went on repeat as MasterCard Memorial Cup champions meant Shugg, who is projected as a second- or third-round pick in the NHL draft, was often shuffled around in coach Bob Boughner's lineup. He shone it through, finishing second on the Spitfires with 39 goals and 79 points in the regular-season.

After missing the 2009 MasterCard Memorial Cup due to broken clavicle, he ended up appearing in a team-high 89 of Windsor's 91 regular-season and post-season games. By the time the Spitfires arrived in Brandon to defend their title, the 5-foot-10, 184-pound Shugg was holding down right wing on Windsor's top line with potential No. 1 pick Taylor Hall and New Jersey Devils prospect Adam Henrique.

The native of Niagara Falls, Ont., who grew up in Southern Ontario cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs, was NHL Central Scouting's 53rd-ranked North American skater when the final rankings were released in April. His solid post-season might have pushed him up into the 40s. Shugg does not offer great size or speed to burn. He has superb balance and is a responsible two-way player. The big variable is whether he'll provide a ton of scoring at the next level.

1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?

"I definitely had a roller-coaster season. Coming in, [coach Bob Boughner] asked me to be a top-six forward. I think I had accomplished that goal by about halfway through the [regular] season. The trade deadline came around and guys [five teammates] were away at the world junior and I proved to [Boughner] I could be a player who could do a lot of things with the puck while guys were out of the lineup.

"Then we traded for Zack Kassian and [Boughner] said, 'Your power-play time's over.' But I think I came back from that, earned my stripes the second half and before I knew it, I was back on the power play with some top-end guys in the playoffs. I was in a shutdown role for the first couple series, but then I got a chance to play on a line with [Taylor] Hall and Henny [Henrique]. That felt like quite an accomplishment in my draft year, to move all the way from the third line to the first line in one whole season."

2. In your mind, what would scouts say you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?

"Strength and conditioning are big for me. I haven't had the opportunity to work out for two summers in a row due to injuries. This will be my first year I'm able to work out. Agility and speed are such a big part of today's game and that's something I'll be able to focus on this summer in Niagara."

3. What do you consider your proudest hockey achievement?

"I had a lot of butterflies before the final game of the Memorial Cup after sitting in the stands last year, so I was so happy to raise the Cup with two hands this year. "We faced a lot of adversity in the playoffs. A lot of people would look at us and say that's a dream team we had and I'd agree. I'm proud that I had the opportunity to play with some great, prolific young hockey players this year.

"It's going to be something next year to watch some of the guys play against each other. You always get a laugh out of seeing a guy in a new jersey. We had great relationships on our team and I think that was one of our great assets. We were like a band of brothers. Sometimes talent will win you championships but most of the time what puts you over the top is the chemistry guys have with each other."

4. Whom do you consider your biggest hockey influence?

"It would have to be my friends. I have a lot of friends who play in the OHL, guys like [Niagara IceDogs left wing] Johnson Andrews and [Guelph Storm left wing and Nashville Predators prospect] Taylor Beck from back home who know what it takes to be a hockey player. Whenever we're watching each other's games, we're always letting each other know what we could be doing better."

5. Favourite TV show or movie?

"Favourite TV show is Lost ... movie, I think it's Avatar. I know a lot of people don't like it, but it brings a lot of different assets. There's a bit of romance, there's action and the picture's unbelievable."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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