Blues' second round pick in 2015 understands chances of sticking are tough
ST. LOUIS -- Vince Dunn has a sensible head about this.
The Blues' second-round pick of the 2015 NHL Draft realizes his chances of knocking the socks off of management at training camp are remote at best, so the defenseman is doing his best to leave a lasting impression on what he hopes is a prolonged NHL career in St. Louis one day.
And having a strong tournament in Traverse City, Mich. was a first step in the right direction.
|(Niagara Ice Dogs file photo)|
Vince Dunn played for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL
last season. He was the Blues' top pick (second round)
in the 2015 NHL Draft.
"Yeah, I think it was about getting a few shifts in and getting my confidence back," Dunn said. "I don't really need to change my game style, I just need to realize what players I'm playing against and realize what time on the clock there is and the game scenario that's going around me. I think once I'm in my comfort zone, I can play my style. I'm really offensive and I can create as much as possible.
"I think when I'm dialed in on defense, I'm fine there. It's just a matter of staying focused the whole game. The players are getting so good now and it's just a matter of seconds for you to make a mistake. I think it's just staying in the moment and just realizing your surroundings."
Dunn's surroundings have come quite naturally and quite comfortably thus far at his first NHL training camp. The 18-year-old Lindsay, Ontario native is known for his offensive prowess after scoring 18 goals and putting up 56 points in 68 regular season games and 10 points (six goals) in eight playoff games with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario League last season.
He will make his NHL preseason debut tonight during the Blues' split squad game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Dunn will play with the group that travels to Columbus and play in a pairing with veteran Peter Harrold.
"It's pretty amazing," Dunn said of his first NHL camp. "You watched these guys growing up and now you're playing against them, with them. It's a pretty great experience. A lot of the guys are being really helpful to me and giving me a lot of confidence and advice in the room and on the ice. The guys around me that have were on the team last year, they're really showing their leadership and really helped me out here."
Among them include Kevin Shattenkirk and Carl Gunnarsson, some of the veterans he's been skating with and will team up with tonight.
"I'm watching every move they make," Dunn said. "They're really good leadership guys. They talk to me and give me advice, give me compliments on my plays and stuff like that. I'm learning as much as I can from them. It's not an easy process to get to the next level. It's just a matter of who wants to work the hardest, who's going to show how hard they can play."
Dunn finished with one goal in four games at Traverse City but was a plus-3. He had Blues brass watching leave very impressed.
"Yeah, I think it was another steppingstone," Dunn said. "It's not quite the speed that this is at right here, but there's good players there. I played with guys like (Colton) Parayko and (Tommy) Vannelli, who came to camp last year. I learned a lot from them. They've been kind of helping me get through this so far. It's a great learning experience, but I'm definitely impressed with myself how well I did there."
Dunn's poise has been quite noticeable thus far. He doesn't have that deer in headlights mentality that some his age would naturally have by being in the spotlight and at times overwhelmed by their situation and surroundings.
"That's what you're careful for with these younger players," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Some guys, it is overwhelming. ... Once the energy of the first day of camp wore off, you could see some guys that were overwhelmed. That's what you're looking for; don't out them in positions where they can fail or have a tough go and lose confidence because some of them, it's their first experience or second experience and they're going to go back and play junior hockey. You just want them to really have a positive time here. We're cognizant of that. We just met on to see where some guys are at and who do we need to talk to to get them to relax and calm down and stuff like that. Most of our focus is making sure the young guys are enjoying the experience.
"(Dunn's) got lots of moxie. He's a competitive guy, he's a young kid just learning. To come and just get drafted and to carry his own weight in this type of camp, that's a good sign moving forward organizational-wise. You get a player that's that competitive and that smart, he's got a good future is he stays with it."
Dunn's main objective is to improve his defensive awareness. He wants to be known more than just an offensive defenseman.
"It's coming along," Dunn said of his defensive game. "Everyone has a weakness in their game and I think that my defensive awareness is kind of that for me. As long as I'm dialed in my own zone and I'm realizing what style of game that I have to play and to be at the next level, I think that if I'm just focused on my own end and I realize what's going on around me, it's just a matter of playing my own style of game and that'll take care of it."
It's not to say Dunn isn't here with the mindset of taking someone's job, but he called his first impression the best one and wants to leave a lasting mark no matter what happens.
|(Niagara Ice Dogs file photo)|
Defenseman Vince Dunn had 56 points in 68 regular
season games in Niagara last season.
"Your first camp is definitely your first impression," Dunn said. "I think if you give it all you can, you make your first mistake, you shake it off and you just bounce back and have a harder shift the next one. I think the coaches really expect that and I think just playing your own game style and not trying to be someone who you're not, coaches will really appreciate that. You just can't do too much. The guys that are here are so good. Just play hard and that's how you're going to earn your spot on the team. Obviously I probably don't have the best chances this year, but it's just working stuff and you have to wait your turn and take every chance you get.
"... I had a meeting with the management staff after Traverse and they said they were really impressed with me. I'm going to stay in touch with them as much as possible through the season just trying to get myself inching closer to making the team. I know it's not going to be easy. There's a lot of prospects that are ahead of me, not just on this team but free agents elsewhere. It's just going to take a lot of hard work and I'm going to do everything I can to make this team."