"Checking In With" reaches the halfway mark with Ann Arbor native Tristin Llewellyn. A self-proclaimed defensive defenseman, Llewellyn is very happy to be back home after attending five different schools while moving around the junior hockey ranks.
Llewellyn is a true rink rat, having learned to skate before he could walk. As a result, Tristin developed swiftly and left home at the age of 15 to play in the highly competitive United States Hockey League. Torn between Canadian junior hockey and college hockey, he was drawn to Michigan's tradition and strong academic reputation -- not to mention his mom wanted him to attend U-M.
Never at a loss for words, Llewellyn is quick to the point when it comes to defining his role on the ice: keep the puck out of his net. His favorite players include Scott Stevens and Bryan Berard. Tristin's jersey number, 34, is in honor of Berard and is not just a goalie number according to Llewellyn.
On his roommate ... "I live with Louie Caporussso. It is a constant blast. We are always playing video games, hanging out, and messing with each other. (Carl) Hagelin always comes and jumps into my room. It is a constant gong show. The clowns are always in the same room. We have been hanging out almost every day."
On what video games he and his friends play ... "Hockey, soccer, and I get the occasional war game in, but they are not big fans of that. We have seasons, and then we have playoffs. Carl just destroys us in soccer. But we are all pretty good at hockey."
On what it is like with 12 freshmen ... "It is one big family. A lot of people think that it would be pretty hard to keep track of everyone, but it is really comfortable and we are always together. It is a blast. I haven't had this much fun in quite a few years."
On being from Ann Arbor and Michigan hockey ... "I didn't come to my first game of Michigan hockey until my freshman year of high school. I grew up watching major junior hockey because my dad played it. We used to go watch the Plymouth Whalers play, back when they were called the Ambassadors. I grew up around that. My mom told me that I needed the education and I was going to college, and I was like, okay."
On his decision between major junior and college hockey ... "It really came down to my mom telling me that if I was going to go to major juniors, they would not support me financially. But if I went to college, they would be there. My mom's mom taught in foreign countries and my family is just huge on education. Her parents went to school at Michigan."
On when he started playing hockey ... "Well, I could skate before I could walk. My dad is from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, so there is a lot of hockey up there and that is how I got into it. I pretty much started playing in leagues when I was five or six. I played a little bit of soccer too; I was a goalie. And then I played lacrosse, and I was a midfielder in that."
On if he was always a defenseman in hockey and why ... "I was always a defenseman. Honestly, at one of my skating practices when I was really young a coach came up to my dad and me and told us that I skated like a defenseman and should play defense. So it has just always been engraved in my mind, and unlike a lot of players who come up these days that are worried about being on offense and the point, my first concern has always been getting the puck out. Even when we play drop-in hockey, when there is supposed to be no defense, I am always sitting back at the far blue line. I dont really know, my brother is a forward, my dad was a forward, but I don't know, it has always been stuck in my head."
On his siblings and hockey in his family ... "I have one younger brother who is 11 years old and he plays hockey for a local team called Victory Honda. He is funny; he dropped his gloves and challenged the other team's bench two years ago when he was nine. But he is really, really good. My brother is probably going to end up being better than me. But hockey is my family, we live and breathe it."
On if it has been easy to stick with hockey his whole life ... "I have always wanted to play hockey. I used to go out on the driveway and shoot at our cutout of (former Detroit Red Wings goalie) Tim Cheveldae and shoot on that all day and all night, in snow, rain or anything. It has always been what I wanted to do. I didn't know if I was going to play college or major junior, but hockey has always been a part of me"
On where he played growing up ... "I played for a team called Detroit Honeybaked. I played with Matt Rust and (Aaron) Palushaj for a year. And then I moved up an age group, so I got to play with Steve Kampfer and Chris Summers."
On what made him decide to go to the USHL and leave home ... "My coach from Honeybaked had just received a scouting job in Indiana. And then the draft came up, and they said that they would take a look at me and that they may draft me. I didn't think there was any way that they would draft me. The draft went 19 rounds and then all of a sudden, Indiana said, 'Wait, we want one more round.' And then in the 21st round, completely by myself, I was drafted. I went down there because I went with my coach to his midget major tryout, and I met the GM and the people. I really enjoyed it. Then I went down to tryouts and I had made a deal with me mom that if I made the team, she said I could stay. But in the back of her mind she didn't think there was any way I would make the team. But I made it, and I ended up doing very well. I had just gotten my hand out of a cast so it was even funnier. And then I had an interview with GM and he was sitting there thinking how I was only 15, I don't know if we want to do this. So we will see how mature he is and see from there. I was ecstatic. My mom was trying to convince me out of it all summer, but I went down there and had a blast."
On his USHL career ... "It started off in Indiana. I went to a school called Lawrence Central; it was a blast. The only problem was that the teachers didn't really care about me, so my grades slipped. And I was with a lot of older guys. We were awful on the road -- we ended up winning three games all year -- but we were awesome at home, so I had a lot of fun playing there. And then I went and played for a coach named Red Gendron, who is at UMass-Amherst now. He was an amazing coach and treated me like one of the older guys but still helped me out. The next guy closest to my age was 18 or 19. We were the only two in high school. So it was not a lot of fun. I came back the next season with Indiana supposedly to be a good veteran, but they didn't use me so much. So I asked for a trade and I ended up in Tri-City, and I didn't know anything about them. But I ended there with Bliss Littler and I absolutely loved the place. I played half that season there and made it to the playoffs. I came back the next year to Tri-City again."
On what he learned playing in the USHL ... "It made me mature a lot faster. I had to learn how to deal with things off the ice, without my parents, than say a guy that is living at home playing midget major. And I was exposed to a lot more, too. I had a 20-year-old roommate my first year. I had to learn how to be responsible. I really had to rely on other people, especially not being able to drive my first year and a half in the USHL. I learned who to trust and how much I could rely on someone else."
On how he feels about himself as a player ... "I feel really confident. I know that on the ice I can't go out and be Wayne Gretzky. I am more of a Willie Mitchell, Derian Hatcher -- I am going to go out there and muck it up. But at the same time, that is not saying that I can't go out there and do what the team needs. I will go out there and pop one in every now and then. Off the ice, I know that I am not going to win an award for building a rocket, but at the same time, I know that I can put the effort in and learn."
On what he is studying ... "Right now, I am doing sports management. But I want to go into some form of business. But I am not quite sure what end of it. I want to do some form of advertising. I really want to apply to the business school next year, but I am also very worried on if I would be able to get into it and if I would be able to handle it with the kind of schedule that we have. I am going to see how this year goes and go from there."
On the recruiting process ... "It was actually kind of funny because I met (associate head coach) Mel Pearson on a bus at the USA Hockey Select 14 or 15 camp and sometime during that month I had it in my head that I was going major junior and I knew exactly who I was going to play with. I met Mel and I told him that I was going to play for Kitchener in the OHL, and Mel said to me, 'Oh yeah Are you sure about that' Then my coach found out and he called me and started yelling at me like, 'How can you say this You haven't done anything yet and you're not drafted.' I ended up calling Mel and apologizing. So that is how I met Mel from Michigan. We talked, back in midget minor, and they kept a tab on me and came to a few games. The OHL was really looking at me and my team because it was draft year for everyone else because they were '88s (birth year) and I am an '89. But I went down to the USHL, played and committed because Michigan had offered me (a scholarship). I was 15. I picked Michigan because it was a local school, a great school and a great team. There was no reason I shouldn't commit to them. I had gotten letters from a few other schools, and knew they were interested, but I knew I was going to Michigan. I was a Wolverine. Then the OHL draft came up and being committed you'd think the teams would back off, but I honestly have never received so much mail in my life. I got a packet a month from every OHL team. I was drafted in the fifth round (by Saginaw), and was the only committed guy to get drafted in the first 10 rounds. They were all over me, and they still call me every now and then. But I just knew I wasn't going to do it."
On how he likes being back in Ann Arbor after moving so much for junior hockey ... "It's honestly really calming and it makes me feel a lot better. Bouncing around so much and just being ready to get here, it's almost like I've been waiting for the past two and a half years to get here. I've had fun, but I've wanted to be here. Since I've been here, I've had nothing but fun. The guys are great. I'm constantly hanging out with them."
On he felt about going undrafted by the NHL this past summer ... "At the beginning of last year I was really focused on 'I need to be drafted, I need to be rated.' I talked to some friends and being drafted only says some team has my rights. Going undrafted, I can still get drafted again, so I have another year to develop. Otherwise if I don't get drafted I have four years at a great place, and if a team really wants me that bad I can sign wherever I want for as much as I want. When the draft came around I was up in Calgary training. My roommate and I were both supposed to get drafted and neither one of us got drafted. He was really bent out of shape because he's a WHL guy and after two more years he's done if he doesn't sign a pro contract. I thought this isn't a bad thing. This gives me more of a chance to develop and I have more time. I saw a lot of guys get drafted and I think I just got passed up, what just happened. But it's good for them. Maybe it turns out to be a good thing for me."
On his strengths as a defenseman ... "I know I need to definitely keep working on my skating and physical strength. I need to get a lot quicker with not only my feet, but also my shot and my decision making. My strong suit is I'm willing to do whatever it's going to take. Defense is my specialty. I'll get back and play defense whenever we need someone to get back. I love playing the penalty kill. I get to go wild and hit everything that moves. I'll cash in and set up plays out front. I love shooting from outside the red line because goalies don't have a clue it's coming. I scored four goals that way in the past three years. I scored one from behind my own goal line."
On what makes him a solid defensive player ... "I like the physical aspect. I like to hit everything that moves. I'm mean like Chris Chelios -- I've been told that on many occasions. I like to have a bigger presence like Zdeno Chara and Derian Hatcher. I play a lot bigger than I am -- I'm not huge, but I'm not small. I'm average, but I play like I'm 6-5."
On who he likes to watch and pattern his game after ... "My favorite players are Scott Stevens and Bryan Berard. I grew up watching Bryan Berard at the Whalers and he's always been my favorite player. Scott Stevens is just an animal. I met him once and the guy's huge. He's like 5-10, 5-11, but he's the biggest hitter I've ever seen. I pattern my game after a guy named Willie Mitchell (who's with the Vancouver Canucks). He's a very defensive defenseman. He takes care of all the business. Occasionally when he needs to he'll set the tone and make something happen."
On why he's wearing jersey number 34 ... "Bryan Berard. He wore 34 all growing up and then he wore it for a while in the NHL before he got to Chicago and then he switched to 4. I've worn 34 because of him for years. Until I got to Tri-City, I wore 34. They didn't have 34 so they gave me 28. I've just always worn it and had pretty good luck with it. It's not only a goalie number -- Jamie Macoun wore it too. Plenty of defensemen have worn 34."
Checking In With ... Schedule
Sept. 20 -- forward Louie Caporusso
Sept. 21 -- forward Carl Hagelin
Sept. 24 -- goalie Bryan Hogan
Sept. 25 -- goalie Shawn Hunwick
Sept. 26 -- defenseman Chad Langlais
Sept. 27 -- defenseman Tristin Llewellyn
Sept. 28 -- forward Max Pacioretty
Oct. 1 -- forward Aaron Palushaj
Oct. 2 -- defenseman Kevin Quick
Oct. 3 -- forward Matt Rust
Oct. 4 -- defenseman Scooter Vaughan
Oct. 5 -- forward Ben Winnett
Contact: Matt Trevor (734) 763-4423