Windsor - August 1, 2013 - Kerby Rychel, left winger for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, leaves this Saturday for Team Canada's National Junior Team summer development camp. The Columbus Blue Jackets' 2013 first round pick is excited to have the opportunity to play for his country, and took time to talk with me recently.
TC: At the NHL draft you were chosen in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. What was it like to hear your name called?
KR: It was definitely something special, a dream come true. I've worked all my life for this.
TC: Have they told you what to expect at training camp and how to prepare for it?
KR: We haven't really talked much, but I know I have to work as hard as I can, and do my best.
TC: Tell me about your experience at the NHL combine.
KR: It was pretty tough, really nerve wracking . You're being watched by 200 people, so you have to be well prepared.
TC: I'm going to take you back to your first season. In a playoff series against the Erie Otters, you and Anthony Luciani got tangled up and you ended up upside down on the Otters' bench. Was that his way of saying "Welcome to the OHL, kid"?
KR: (Laughs) Yeah, I remember that. It was just one of those plays. We were up against the boards, and I ended up in the bench. It happens.
TC: Recently it was announced that Spits' assistant coach Dave Matsos has accepted a similar position with the Sudbury Wolves. Can you comment on the move?
KR: It's tough to see him go, because he's a great coach, and a great guy. I wish him all the best.
TC: His spot will be filled by Jarrod Smith, who has been the Spits' video coach.
KR: Yeah, he's been with the club for the past couple years. It will be a bigger role for him. He's good on the ice, and he's a great guy too. He'll do well.
TC: Earlier this year you were honoured at the WESPY awards in the male/hockey category. What did winning that award mean to you?
KR: It's definitely an honour to be recognized in the community, and I'm very proud of where I come from. But I couldn't have done it without my teammates.
TC: What can you tell me about Nikita Yazkov, one of the new Spitfires taken in the import draft?
KR: I've been on the ice a couple of times with him, and he's got great skills. He'll really contribute, and I'm looking forward to playing with him.
TC: How are you guys doing with the communication, English and Russian?
KR: (Laughs) Yeah, we're working on it.
TC: You;ve been selected to attend the Hockey Canada National Junior Team summer development camp. What are you expecting?
KR: It's going to be a great experience, it's the best development program around. Getting to play with the best players, I'm ready for it.
TC: Here's something a little off topic, what's on your iPod?
KR: (Laughs) A little bit of everything, country, oldies, rock; depends on my mood.
TC: How important has your family been in your development as a player?
KR: Family is huge, the number one thing. Family helps you with everything , not just hockey. My family has taught me many life lessons, and they have always supported me.
TC: Speaking of family, your dad played for many years in the NHL, and retired in 1999. You would have been 4 or 5 years old at the time. Do you have any memories of those days?
KR: Not too many, but I do remember being in the dressing room with the guys. I also remember that in Anaheim, there was a smoke machine that went off whenever they scored. I used to cry every time.
TC: How do you think the Spitfires will do this season?
KR: We'e really looking forward to an exciting year. The past couple of seasons have been disappointing, and we want to step forward, and be one of the best teams in the league.
TC: What do you think about the new team jerseys?
KR: I like them, they're a good change, and I can't wait to put them on.
TC: How important are the fans?
KR: The fans are everything! Without them, there would be no game. Home fans make you feel welcome, especially here in Windsor. They are diehards, and they make it a great place to play!
TC: Last question, Kerby, what do you think about the Winter Classic coming to this area?
KR: I think it's pretty cool, but I'm really hoping to be at the World Juniors.
TC: I was thinking you'd say that! Thanks for your time, Kerby, good luck at camp!
KR: Thanks Tim, good talking to you.