Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Blues' 2015 top pick appreciative they wanted him "first"

Defenseman Vince Dunn taking high road over not being selected in first 
round of 2015 NHL Draft; a player high on confidence with willingness to learn

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Coming into the 2015 NHL Draft, defenseman Vince Dunn heard all the right talk. 

So like any other 18-year-old that hears nothing but positive things about himself, Dunn set his sights high.

Dunn wasn't completely banking on being selected in the first round, but the Lindsay, Ontario native was hopeful he would don a new NHL jersey on the Friday night when first round selections were made on the surface where the Florida Panthers play in Sunrise, Fla.

But as the evening went on, Dunn sat there, and sat there, and sat there ... name after name was called and none were his.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
2015 second round pick Vince Dunn is all smiles after the Blues chose
him at the NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla.

Dunn could have interpreted that in many ways, mostly negative, but he chose not to.

So when Saturday came around, more names came and went in the second round and Dunn's wasn't yet bellowed over the microphone. But at pick No. 56, finally, "With the 56th pick, the St. Louis Blues have selected Vince Dunn ..."

The rest is history. 

Dunn was the Blues' first selection of the draft. They didn't have a pick this year after surrendering it to the Buffalo Sabres in the trade for goalie Ryan Miller. And according to Dunn, there wasn't any disappointment from a first-round that came and went without hearing his name. Initially, he wondered though.

Dunn has chosen a path that serves as motivation for 29 other teams that passed on him, but the one that wanted him first, well the gratitude is overwhelming.

"Being chosen in the first round is what every kid dreams of, but I think being the first pick of St. Louis, it's almost like being a first rounder," Dunn said recently at Blues Prospect Camp. "No matter if I'm picked in the first round or the seventh, you're walking on in camp and you have to earn your spot out there just as much as everyone else. I feel like if I work hard and I stick to my own game plan and I do the extra things to get me to the next level, I think I have a great chance of making this team.

The Blues made Dunn, who has spent the past two seasons with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League, their priority. Dunn, who had 18 goals and 56 points in 68 regular season games last year, got the best impression from the Blues.

"They told me they were hoping to get me all day," Dunn said of the Blues. "I talked to a lot of teams and they were considering taking me earlier, but I know St. Louis really wanted me and they said after the draft. It's a great feeling I was chosen by them.

"You're a little itchy and after the first round is over, you're a little bit disappointed that you didn't hear your name called, but you're just anxious and it's just kind of a waiting game. Finally when your name's called, it's such a relief. There are really no words to describe it. It's just a great feeling."

Dunn, a left-handed defenseman who is listed at 6-foot, 187 pounds, gives the Blues a player that has an offensive mentality and adds to a solid variety of blue liners. And Dunn doesn't shy away from going up against the best on the ice and talking about it afterwards.

"Definitely an offensive-defenseman," Dunn said. "I bring a lot of offense from the blue line. I like to quarterback the power play as much as I can. I think that my skating is really elite. That makes it easier for me to play guys 1-on-1. I feel like if I can excel at that, I can keep moving forward there. That'll keep me at an elite level. 

"My defense is there, too. I'm the only guy to shut down Connor McDavid. He's such an elite player, a good friend of mine and someone I respect a lot. I have proven that I can play defense. I was killing penalties this year and I wasn't the year before. I think I've definitely made improvements there and coaches can really trust me when they put me on the ice."

Young defenseman that aspire to come into the league often name off somebody that's left quite the imprint on the game, a player that is a likely Hall of Famer or is in the Hall of Fame. Dunn models his game after someone not much older than him but has the foot in the door already, someone who's just as eager to prove himself.

"I think I play maybe like Morgan Reilly," Dunn said of the 21-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs blue liner. "He definitely has that offensive instinct I have and we have very comparable stats in junior, but obviously being here, I follow guys like 'Petro' (Alex Pietrangelo) and 'Shatty' (Kevin Shattenkirk). They're really elite players. I'm definitely looking forward to watching them play at main camp. I'll try to watch the defensive guys. I'm an offensive guy so I think I've got it there. Obviously there's room for improvement there, but I think if I watch the defensive guys and learned the little things there, that can really help me in the future."

Dunn was part of a group of 25 that took part in his first prospect camp, trying to get a taste of what NHL life is all about. He called it a definite eye-opener.

"For sure," Dunn said. "Just talking to the people around here and try to figure things out and how they are at the next level, it's kind of a learning experience every day. Talking to a few guys that have been around here for a few years, it's kind of nice to have them talk to me and tell me what it's like at this level. It's a good learning experience and I'm just trying to compete as much as I can."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Vince Dunn (pictured) winds up with a slap shot recently at
the Blues Prospect Camp at the Ice Zone.

Dunn will return to St. Louis and take part in training camp in September but his realistic expectation is to play with the IceDogs for a third season. But gaining the necessary experience to what life in the NHL is all about as an 18-year-old gives Dunn not only the motivation to improve but the incentive to prove to the Blues they made the right choice in picking him "first."

"Obviously I'll be back in Niagara, but I'm definitely trying to push myself to be at the next level, hopefully play pro the next year and I think I have a really good chance at that," Dunn said. "My future is bright there. Just trying to push myself every day and doing the extra little things to make me more efficient. 

"I know what I'm capable of; I'm not intimidated by anyone I'm competing with. If I just stick to my game plan and try to play my game as much as possible and be as responsible on the ice, that'll get me to the next level."

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