McKeen's recently had a chance to conduct a Q&A with 2007 NHL Draft prospect Patrick Cullen, who led the Washington Jr. Nationals in goals (38) and points (70) and helped them get to the semifinals. Named to the Second Team All-AJHL Squad, Cullen talks about his game, his experience playing for the Jr. Nationals, future college commitments and his thoughts on the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
McKeen's: How did you become interested in hockey? At what age did you start playing organized hockey?
Cullen: My dad and I would watch the Caps' play all the time and eventually we routinely began going to the local ice rink and skating as much as I could. After that I joined the local travel team and looked to get better from there on out. I began all this around the age of 6.
McKeen's: Describe the type of game you play. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
Cullen: I play a pretty offensive game that involves my skating and heavy shot. I love to get as many shots as I can in a game from all over the ice. I think that my skating, shot, and hockey sense are my main strengths. I tend to usually read the play pretty well and pick off passes often. I think my weakness is my strength. I need to get stronger to battle more along the boards and corners.
McKeen's: What would you say is the most underrated facet to your game?
Cullen: I would say that defensemen sometimes usually think I'm soft and are somewhat surprised when I drive the net hard and create some havoc in front of the net.
McKeen's: Which NHL player do you model your game after and why?
Cullen: I like to watch a couple of players and pick things up from them. I love to watch Thomas Vanek and his creativity with the puck and how he always seems to create something out of nothing. I also like to watch Zach Parise and how he is so responsible in all three zones. Last but not least, I like watching Joe Sakic and how quick and accurate his release is.
McKeen's: Who are the five most talented players you have played against or with and what specifically do you admire about their styles?
1. Nick Peterson ? One of the best players that I have ever played with. We played together all last year and the combination of his vision and hands made us work very well together. The puck seems to never leave his stick.
2. Andrew Panzarella ?The toughest kid on our team last year and never gives up on any play. A solid leader in the locker room as well.
3. Tony Romano ? A great player with tons of speed and great hands. Always seemed to play at a high intensity no matter what the score was.
4. John Carlson ? Young defenseman who always finishes his checks and plays hard every shift. Also has a blast from the point.
5. Ben Blood ? Big, strong defenseman who has a good set of hands and a wicked shot. He also is pretty quick on his feet for such a big man. I believe that he is about 6-foot-4.
McKeen's: What do you focus on during off-season training?
Cullen: I focus a lot on my overall strength. I train with former Nashville Predators strength and conditioner, Mark Nemish. We have been working together for about four years and year after year, I find great results from him. We focus a lot on the lower body and core area with some upper-body exercises in there as well. I also like to keep my conditioning up with a few mile runs here and there during the week.
McKeen's: What was your main reason for choosing RPI? Was it nice to get the commitment out of the way early? And what are you looking forward to most about playing for the Engineers and with coach Appert?
Cullen: The main reason I chose RPI was that I felt the most comfortable there with the coaches and guys. Each time I talked with the coaching staff and players, they all seemed really genuine. I knew it right away when I visited that I wanted to be there in the future. It felt good to commit mid-way through the season and it just let me relax and be free from all the stress I put on myself. I am just looking to go up there and learn from the coaching staff as much as I can. I really wish I was heading there this year but I need to take the year off and develop more in a few areas of my game. But one thing that I have as a goal would be to get to the Frozen Four in my hometown of Washington, D.C.
McKeen's: What were some of the other colleges you were interested in?
Cullen: Colorado College, Denver, UNH, and Miami-Ohio
McKeen's: You are scheduled to go to RPI for 2008, where are you planning to play next year (Indiana USHL)?
Cullen: I am planning to play in Indiana next year assuming I make the team. I am really excited to go out there and check it all out. I think we could have a pretty good team with all the kids that are in the system. I am really looking forward to playing up in Quebec against two of the QMJHL teams.
McKeen's: Which areas do you consider you have to improve to succeed at the next level in college and further?
Cullen: My strength and defensive coverage. I feel that I have been improving in those aspects but I need to push myself to be more consistent with my d-zone coverage.
McKeen's: The NHL Entry Draft will be coming up for you this year. Are you thinking about it at all?
Cullen: I am thinking about it, but nothing to bad. If I get selected, then I get selected, but I am not banking on anything at this point. If I don't get selected this summer, it will just motivate me more for next year. So I look at it as a win/win situation.
McKeen's: If you were drafted, what team would be your preference?
Cullen: I could careless at that point. Getting drafted by anyone is an honor and I would be ecstatic. But if I had to make a choice I would say the Washington Capitals. I think it would be really cool to play in front of all my family and friends' night in and night out.
McKeen's: What did you get the most out of playing for the Jr. Nationals and the Atlantic Junior Hockey League? What did you enjoy the most?
Cullen: I got so much out of playing for the Jr. Nationals mainly from the coaching staff. Coach Mark Tinordi obviously knows a ton about the game, and coach Brian Saint Louis is really young and knows how we all feel since he is close in range of age. The league has really helped me a ton but I believe that it all started with the coaching staff of the Jr. Nationals and all their hard work to help all of us develop. I enjoyed playing with all my friends from around my home and all the long road trips and the friendships that were made along the way. We had a really good team and everyone got along really well, so every night at the rink we all had a great time.
McKeen's Fun Questions
1. What was your 'welcome to the 'AJHL' moment? (Goal, Hit etc.)
Cullen: Playing against the NY Bobcats 2 years ago when they had Tony Romano and blew us out 11-1.
2. Best place to see in Washington, DC besides the White House?
Cullen: The Verizon Center for a Caps game.
3. Favourite actor/ actress?
Cullen: Ben Stiller
4. If you had your own theme song after a goal, what would it be?
Cullen: Next Contestant ? Nickelback
5. Best arena in the AJHL?
Cullen: Either of our two rinks is good I think. We finished playing mostly at the Capitals new practice rink, which is on top of a parking garage. It is called the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.