McKegg warms up for Team Irish wearing number 74.
Saturday afternoon, I caught up with Greg McKegg in Lucan, Ontario, where he was playing in a charity game for Lucan Minor Hockey. The event was spearheaded by Logan Couture, and brought together a mix of hockey players from across North America.
This isn’t the first year that Couture has held this tournament in support of his hometown hockey organization, and he also donated the money he won for being selected last in the All-Star Fantasy Draft. I think it speaks volumes about a player’s character if they go to these types of events, not occasionally, but regularly. Of course, my hat is off to all the players that spent hours signing autographs for small-town hockey fans, and of course, played the game. Well done, boys.
JPN: Jim Hughes, the Leafs director of player development, recently said that you have a great hockey IQ, great hockey smarts, but that one thing you’re working on is adding an explosiveness to your skating. What are you doing this off-season to focus on that?
GMcK: They’ve got me down there with a skating coach – Barb Underhill – she’s really good with all the guys, so it’s been great working with her so far.
So with Barb Underhill, what kind of things are you doing, specifically?
It’s basically an overview of my stride and quick starts.
So you’re looking at a lot of video footage?
Yeah, we look at a little video footage, examining the stride and trying to break it down.
Has she given you any specific exercises?
We do a little bit on the ice, but we are doing more technique. We do a lot of stretching and things like that help, too.
So a lot of the actual conditioning stuff is still coming from the Knights or Leafs?
Yeah, the Knights team trainers are awesome he do a great job with all the guys.
On that note, are all the Leafs picks working with Underhill?
Yeah, they usually have a group of two or three guys down there working at a time. It’s a good group.
Ah, so you’re working in pretty small groups, then?
Yeah, it makes it a lot easier for her, right?
For sure. Have you talked to Dallas Eakins (or any other front office people) about the possibility of starting with the Marlies next year?
Not a whole lot, really. I mean, they’re still kind of busy after the season they just had and things like that, so no, I haven’t talked to them. I’m sure once camp comes a little closer we’ll talk.
You had an injury to your shoulder towards the end of the season, is that all healed up?
Yeah, it’s all good to go now. It was a nagging injury through the playoffs, but now it’s fine.
Right on. You played a much longer season last year than you have so far in your career – did you find the grind difficult?
Yeah, it’s definitely tough, especially in May and June.
Dave Poulin said recently that those longer seasons make for a whole different kind of development, learning to play through the grind of the playoffs with an injury. Do you feel this was important for your development?
Yeah, it was a good experience, going through something like that. It was a lot of fun and cool to be a part of.
I know that Brian Burke is big on community service work being done by players. Do you keep that kind of thing in mind [in choosing to come to something like the Logan Couture All-Star Hockey Game]?
Well, no, not really. Most teams are big on it these days, and I’m always involved in this stuff anyway.
How did you get involved in this?
Eh, I just got talking to a few of the local guys.
Last question: have you ever gotten into advanced hockey stats? Ever heard of ‘Behind the Net?"
[Laugh] Uh, no.
A Few Notes On The Game Itself:
It was obviously going to be a laid back game. A few buddies playing 4-on-4 for charity is no time for body contact or real competition. That said, it was interesting to see players’ skill being isolated for viewing by the lack of physical contact.
Even in what was basically a low-level scrimmage, lazy wrist shots seemed to rocket around the ice. Players seemed to be able to thread the puck through any skates, sticks, or bodies at will. No matter how impossible the angle, a tip was perfectly placed. Saucer passes that came up to waist level settled perfectly on the blade of their recipients. In short, even though these players were just fooling around, it was pretty cool to witness.
It was also interesting to see the difference between an NHLer and OHLer side by side. OHL players seemed to take the competition a little more seriously (probably wanting to make an impression on the big kids), but if an NHL player – any of them – ever even briefly switched from "this is fun" to "no, seriously, you’re not going to take the puck from me", things inevitably went in their favour. They looked stronger (just plain bigger), and a lot more relaxed.
For his part, McKegg’s hands look good, but not stellar. He scored a few nice goals on a wrist shot, a tip, and a backhand in what was a 14-13 shootout win for the other side. Much better is his passing ability, and creativity on the rush. When Jim Hughes commented on his hockey I.Q., he wasn’t kidding.
Hope to see you do well playing for the Marlies next year, Greg.