At the 2011 draft the New York Rangers sent Evgeny Grachev, who was failing to live up to the hype, to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a third round pick. That pick was used on center Steven Fogarty, a high schooler from Minnesota. Fogarty spent last season with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. There, Fogarty produced 81 points in 60 games and earned a spot on the BCHL All-Rookie Team. And his Pencticton Vees won the RBC Cup while shattering all sorts of records in the process.
I had the opportunity to talk to Steven on Monday. Steven was kind enough to put aside time to talk about his season with the Vees, what he expects now that he will be playing at Notre Dame, what kind of player he is, and much more. Keep reading to see my exchange with Fogarty.
Adam: For the Rangers fans who do not know much about you, could you describe what kind of game you play?
Steve: My game has changed tremendously [since I was drafted]. We had so much firepower [with the Vees] that I kind of had to find my own role and establish myself as that role. So now I would classifty myself as a defensive centerman. I feel like my game defensively is the part of my game that has improved the most. I definitely think defense first… I’m not afraid to chip in offensively. I had two really good wings this year so I was able to put up a decent number of points. I like to play on the penalty kill and I like to be put out there in pressure situations and shut down other teams’ top guys.
Adam: Are there any NHL players that you try to model your game after or that you perhaps grew up admiring?
Steve: You know, now that I’ve been watching a lot of NHL hockey… you do try to think of who you play like…someone like Patrice Bergeron or David Backes and the physical aspect that he brings to the game. With Patrice Bergeron I like how sound he is defensively but also puts up a lot of points. Obviously he won the Selke this year so he’s probably the best at what he does and that’s what I try to model my game after.
Adam: Can you describe the experience of living and playing in Canada?
Steve: It was a lot of fun. I didn’t really k[now what to expect going in because I hadn’t been up to Canada too much but everything is hockey there. The SportsCentre… instead of seeing the basketball and baseball highlights it’s pretty much all hockey. Every night there were three games on TV instead of just one primetime game here in the States. It’s so cool how hockey is really the main attraction there and so the whole city was aware of what was going on with our team when we were able to bring the championship home. We had so much support at the parade and whatnot but it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget.
Adam: You guys went 54-4 last season and had 49 consecutive wins at one point. How do you ensure that you don’t get complacent both from a team and personal development perspective when winning is coming relatively easily?
Steve: Well we got to give a lot of credit to our coaching staff and our captains. We had a lot of older guys who had been in the league. After every game and no matter who we were playing [the coaches] made sure… “alright on to the next one”… and it was always one game at a time. To be honest, we never really talked about the streak. It’s something that kind of came up on us. When we were halfway through we didn’t really know about it. We were presented with some records… and presents for most wins in North America. Like I said we just focused on one game at a time and the records I guess took care of themselves. It’s definitely a combination of our coaching staff and the older guys who kept us level headed throughout the whole season.
Adam: During the season did you have any contact at all with the Rangers? Did they send scouts or other management to check on you or did they kind of just leave you alone?
Steve: There is a [Rangers] scout Ernie Gare who lives in that area so he came to a lot of the games. And Gordie Clark came out in January to see me play because [Shane] McColgan plays in Kelowna which is only about an hour from where I was. Also, for the CHL Top Prospects Game, I knew a lot of the staff was going to be at that game so I drove and watched that game and I was able to spend a lot of time with Adam Graves and Jeff Gorton and Gordie [Clark] was there so that was a cool experience for me.
Adam: So now that you have been an NHL prospect for a full year, what do you now know or what do you have a different perspective on last year before the draft?
Steve: Yeah I think being an NHL prospect is kind of like bragging rights for me. Like you said I’m only a year into it and there’s just so much hard work ahead of me and… I’m at Notre Dame now and it’s the next chapter of my life. Right now I’m here to win a National Championship for Notre Dame and as long as I work hard and play my game then hopefully the NHL is in the near future. But I really just gotta focus on the now, I guess. Obviously it’s something you dream of, playing in the NHL one day, but right now I’m just focusing on having a success career here and working hard to hopefully put on a Rangers’ jersey one day.
Adam: What went into your decision making as far as choosing to go the NCAA route instead of maybe playing in the CHL?
Steve: Well being from Minnesota, it’s a pretty popular route to take… playing high school or at Shattuck and then play juniors for a year and then go to NCAA. You watch guys like Derek Stepan, McDonagh, and even Kreider and how they followed that route and they’re really successful in the NHL and there are countless other names on other teams. But I guess it’s just that we grow up and we see other players who did the same thing and how successful they are. It’s important to me and my family to have a degree to rely on because you can only play hockey for so long… or if hockey doesn’t work out in general… so you need to have something to fall back on.
Adam: Like you said, there have been many successful Rangers prospects who have played in the NCAA, but that being said… I remember JT Miller… they pushed instead of going to college route to play in the CHL. So did the Rangers talk to you about the decision or have any influence on it?
Steve: No they didn’t really push me too much. Obviously that was definitely an option. My team was the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL and they approached me… they were really nice about it and didn’t really want to force me into anything and they left it up to me. But ultimately it came down to… I kind of wanted to stay loyal to this option. I knew that it was a good fit for me. I’ve been here all summer now and I feel like I’m getting better off the ice and on the ice. So I feel it was the best option for me and so I’m sure it will work out.
Adam: So now that you are at Notre Dame, I’m assuming you’ve done some sort of training with the coaches. What is the difference between playing in Canada in a Junior league and now NCAA where you have to balance school and hockey?
Steve: Yeah, it’s definitely an adjustment. Last year I wasn’t in school at all so I kind of took the year off. So the first day of school here and going right into college was definitely a big jump for me. But I’m getting back into the routine. The summer program is a really good idea, I think, because it kind of gets you in the swing of things before the year comes around and also the season. So you’re used to it. We’re taking math this summer and I can get that out of the way for the Fall so the courseload isn’t as heavy and we can focus on the season and on developing.
Adam: What do you think you need to do, or what parts of your game do you think you need to work on to take the next step and be ready for pro hockey?
Steve: I just have to work on every aspect of my game and just get better at everything. Whether it’s off the ice or on the ice. Everybody is so much bigger and stronger and smarter and skilled. There are no bad teams and no bad players so I think it’s just being around… even in practice and even in shinny hockey this summer… the guys are just so big and so good. So I think I just need to develop. I think I can put on a lot of strength and work on my skating because it’s something I’ve always needed to work on and explosiveness. We’ve had a consistent workout plan here that we’ve been doing all summer and that will continue until the season and also during the season.
Adam: When you were playing junior hockey in Canada you were up against guys your age or maybe even younger. In college I’m sure you’re going to be playing with and against guys who are 20, 21, even 22. How big of an adjustment do you think that is going to be?
Steve: Yeah, I know it will be a big adjustment at first. You always have to have a game or two to get your feet wet in NCAA hockey. But I think practicing with the guys on my team for a month and a half for training camp and then getting into my first couple of games… hopefully it won’t take me too long to adjust but it’s definitely a challenge I’m looking forward to.
Adam: Earlier you mentioned Shane McColgan and visiting the Top Prospects game. Do you have any contact with other Rangers prospects or players?
Steve: Not too much. I talked to Michael St. Croix a little bit because I congratulated him on [the Edmonton Oil Kings] had and he had individually. I kind of knew him from before and meeting him last year at the camp. He’s really the only guy I’ve talked to but we have the World Juniors camp coming up in a couple of weeks so I’ll see J.T. Miller again and Brady Skjei… I kind of know him because we’re both from Minnesota. But as far as that I don’t have too much contact… and I don’t really know the current players either.
Adam: I’m sure you heard about the Rick Nash trade today…
Adam: So when you hear the Rangers are making a big trade like that you know that young players and prospects are going the other way. Do you get nervous or do you just not think about it? What goes through your mind?
Steve: It’s definitely something you think about but I really did try to not think about it at all. Hockey is a business and they’ll do whatever helps them and obviously they got one of the best players in the league. So whatever decision they make is going to work out for both sides of it. But it’s definitely not something I really think about. If it would have happened it would have happened and it would have been I guess a new opportunity.
Much thanks to Steve for taking time out of his day to talk to me. And also a thank you to Timothy Connor over at Notre Dame for helping me get into contact with Steve. Here of some of my post-interview thoughts:
– When Fogarty was drafted, one of the biggest knocks on him was his weak defensive zone play. So the fact that he needed to take on a more defensive role with the Penticton Vees is probably what is best for his development long-term. Glad to see that he is making this a focus.
– It’s very clear Steve loves hockey and badly wants to be successful. He mentions watching hockey on TV all of the time and points out Patrice Bergeron’s Selke and how McDonagh, Stepan, and Kreider went the NCAA route. He went out of his way to drive just to meet with the Rangers’ staff. Perhaps it comes off as more obvious when hearing him speak, but it’s very clear to me that he lives and breathes hockey.
– Because he implies that he plans on earning a degree before going pro, I expect him to spend three or even all four years at Notre Dame. Considering that Fogarty was young for his draft class and is a raw talent, this might be ideal, anyway.
– Someone tell Dylan McIlrath to get in touch with Steven Fogarty. He seems to be the social chairman of the Rangers prospects and poor Steve is talking to nobody except Michael St. Croix.
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