Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. Previously I reviewed the prospects of all thirty NHL teams, and previewed the CHL season. If you missed any of my previous articles you can find a complete listing of my them here.
This Friday I had the opportunity to speak to Antoine Corbin, a 20 year old defenceman who is a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs. This was done as part of a “scrum” with a number of my fellow fans also getting questions in. I’d like to thank Gerald, (aka “HabinBurlington” or “Burly”) from HockeyInsideout.com and Greg Diamond from the Bulldogs front office for helping to make this possible.
Corbin was coming off a rough night against the Toronto Marlies, where he was victimized for a couple of goals against and he finished the game at -2. He was very hard on himself and you could tell he was upset with his performance. In assessing Corbin I didn’t think that he played as poorly as the stat sheet showed, or as Corbin said he did, but despite him being obviously upset at his own performance and a tough overtime loss for the team, Corbin was a gentleman who gave time to us the fans, and I’d like to thank him for that. Now on with the Interview.
Question: What is the biggest difference you are finding as a rookie in the AHL versus your time in the WHL?
Corbin stated that the speed of the game and the offensive ability of his opponents is a big adjustment. Things move a lot faster in the AHL and every little hiccup or oops (he clarified he didn’t use the word ‘mistake’ because they aren’t even really big enough gaffes to be called mistakes) but every little miscalculation out on the ice is capitalized on by your opponents. Every misstep with the puck, or with letting your man go for just a split second seems to result in a scoring chance or a goal. He specifically pointed to the Mike Zigomanis goal that gave the Marlies a 4-3 lead in the game on Friday, where he let his man get by him just a couple inches and the next thing he knew the puck was in the back of the Bulldogs net.
Question: What is the difference in media and fan attention like in the AHL versus Junior hockey?
Corbin mentioned that in Junior he rarely saw reporters, stating that there was usually 1, and at most 2 beat writers or reporters in the dressing room after a game. He stated that there is a lot more coverage of the AHL saying that there are 3 to 4 times the number of reporters and the amount of coverage in his short time in Hamilton. He also mentionned that while he enjoyed interacting with us, and other fans, this wasn’t something that players are expected to do in junior. They did appear at schools and at charity functions but they didn’t have to face fan questions on a regular basis like he does now. He wasn’t complaining, merely stating the differences that he noticed.
Question: You made the Bulldogs as one of four overage juniors who were trying out for the club, what do you think set you apart from the other three defencemen trying to make the team?
Corbin felt that a big advantage he had over the fellow tryouts in Bulldogs camp was his size. He is 6’3″ tall and thanks his parents for the good genes they have given him over the years. He felt that size and his ability to play physical due to that size was a big factor in the coaches decision.
Speaking further of size, he also noticed that in the AHL he felt that at 6’3″ tall he was “average size” for the league, and that there were more and more players his size than at any other level of hockey. Where he often towered over opponents in junior, that was no longer the case in the AHL and he needed to adjust by playing more fundamentally solid defence.
Corbin stated that his goal in camp was to play a calm and poised defensive game, and that he felt this was a big reason why he made the team. He stated that he believes the coaches kept him around for his ability in his own end of the rink, and sees himself as mainly a defence-first type of defenceman right now, though he does hope to develop some offence in the AHL in time. He stated that his mobility and skating was a good asset, and in my viewing, I can’t disagree with that assessment.
Question: What kind of Feedback did you get from your coaches moving forward?
He stated that Sylvain Lefebvre and all the Bulldogs coaches have been a great source of knowledge and information at the AHL level. He continues to work with the coaches daily on little things in his game, on becoming even more poised and confident in his own end of the rink, and in avoiding the little “oopsies or hiccups” he discussed earlier. He stated that there are a lot of rookies on the Bulldogs defence core and that the coaching staff has been great in helping them and working with them to prepare for AHL hockey.
Question; If you didn’t sign with the Bulldogs (the farm team of the Montreal Canadiens) what organization would you like to be a part of?
Corbin indicated that signing with the Montreal affiliate was always his first and only choice and he didn’t even consider any other organizations once the Habs made the call. He and his family grew up in Montreal and his parents were season ticket holders at the Montreal Forum, and the Bell Centre (when it was known as the Molson Centre). He indicated that even though his family moved out west when he was a teenager, he considered himself a Montrealer and a Canadiens Fan.
Question: What is it like playing with Brendan Gallagher, after playing against him in the WHL? Can you tell us what it was like to defend against him.
While he only played against Vancouver twice per year last season as he was in Prince Albert, he talked about facing Gallagher more in previous years when Corbin was a member of the Kelowna Rockets. He stated that Kelowna and the Vancouver Giants have a healthy rivalry and he always enjoyed those games.
Corbin praised Gallagher as a great player, but also called him a “pain in the butt” to defend against. He described Gallagher as a player who was quite the pest and quite relentless in creating offence. He has a non-stop motor and would spend the entire game in Corbin’s face (even if he had to jump to get there). Corbin stated that he was happy to be on the same team as Gallagher can be very annoying to match up with, but that he is a talented player who can produce offensively.
Question: Who has been your toughest opponent in the AHL?
Corbin mentionned that even though the Bulldogs have played 5 AHL games (to that point on Friday), three of those games, plus two exhibition games were all against the Toronto Marlies. He had also faced Grand Rapids and Rochester, but was looking forward to the coming weeks and playing some more variety in the AHL schedule.
Again I’d like to thank Corbin for sharing his time with us, and for being patient with our questions. He’s earned some extra fans, and hopefully he can beat the odds as an undrafted player and eventually develop into an NHL capable player. He’s certainly taken some good first steps in making the Bulldogs this season (a year in which he would have been back in Prince Albert as an overager if he didn’t make the club.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to join Max Vasilyev and I on Wednesday Nights at 10:00pm when we host the hockey radio show “Puckheads” on the Last Word Radio Network. You can listen in live or to our past podcasts by clicking here,