Forward Max Pacioretty is the seventh freshman in the preseason "Checking In With" series. Pacioretty is a big (6-2, 203), strong winger who hails from New Canaan, Conn.
Perhaps an unknown commodity a few years ago, Max left his prep school, The Taft School, in his home state of Connecticut in favor of the USHL. All Pacioretty did then was rack up a 21-42-63 line for the Sioux City Musketeers en route to earning the league's Rookie of the Year award.
Pacioretty's standout year in the USHL caught the attention of NHL scouts as he was picked in the first round of June's draft by the storied Montreal Canadiens. Despite the heightened expectations surrounding him, Pacioretty is quite grounded and hopes to step onto the Yost ice and emulate one of his favorite players, former Wolverine captain Jed Ortmeyer.
On his roommate ... "I am roommates with Aaron Palushaj and we decided to room together when we were playing together at a USHL jamboree earlier in the year. We were on the same team and the same line and we really got to know each other. And since then we kept in touch and really got to know each other. We came into school and it is a good situation. We both feel the same way about hockey and about school work, so we keep each other focused and motivated."
On the 12-man freshman class ... "I like having a lot of freshmen because I feel like it brings your team closer. I have talked to a lot of kids going into college, and they say that the older guys don't hang out with the freshman that much. But since we have 12 freshmen and a great group of upperclassmen, we all seem to hang out together and we mix well. People don't really pull out the seniority card in a bad way. I think it will help our team a lot in fitting in and being held to the same standards."
On when he started playing hockey ... "I started skating when I was five. The next year they needed someone to start playing on the mite B team, so I just decided to play. And then I liked it so much so I kept going from there."
On where he grew up ... "I was born in Connecticut, but my whole family lives in California. But my parents moved out (to Connecticut) before I was born, so no one out there has been exposed to hockey. I was the first one in my family to play. It was weird for me to play it because no one in my family knew anything about it. It was just what I loved to do, so I followed through with it."
On the support of his family through his career ... "Both my parents are really laid back. They always made it my decision and I obviously made the decision that I wanted to be a hockey player. So, they are supporting it and they realize that it was a good decision and I am focused and trying to achieve it."
On how Connecticut compares to the rest of the Northeast in hockey ... "Connecticut is much better now. When I was younger, my team would almost idolize teams like Detroit Honeybaked and Little Caesars and they were the same age as us. But now, the team I played for in Mid-Fairfield is kind of the powerhouse. They are winning nationals and they are considered a team like Honeybaked and the strong AAA teams out here."
On when he started committing himself to hockey ... "It was more of an all of a sudden type thing. I was playing to play and then I went to prep school, and I was much smaller than everyone. I had the mind set that I wanted to play college hockey, but I thought that out of prep school I may go Division III and I had a good year, and got a new trainer and it worked out really well from there. I saw what the USHL was like and saw that it was a big jump, so I knew that I wanted to play in the USHL and that I wanted to play college hockey."
On why he picked Taft for prep school and the USHL over the East coast ... "There is some good hockey in the East. Prep school is good but it seems more of a Division III-type recruiting. I was never really exposed to the USHL and I went out there for a visit after I was drafted. I saw how fast-paced it was, and how competitive the league was and I knew right away, after I saw a game, that I had to be in that environment to make it to the next level."
On how it was leaving home and going to Iowa ... "I had never been there before, but I like I said, I wanted to be a hockey player. So it was a decision that I didn't even need to think twice about. I knew that it was going to help my game and my career so I was really psyched to do that."
On if being away from home helped him mature ... "Yeah. I was playing public school hockey and I had never been exposed to anything else. I had thought that prep school hockey was the best out there. That is what is in your mind when you live out East. So moving away from home and playing in prep school helped me mature and taught me how to work on my studies on my own without having people force me to do my homework. So I think that is going to help me out a lot when I am doing my work here too."
On his experience in Sioux City ... "It was great hockey. I think if I was not put into as good of a situation and didn't do so well, I might have missed home a little bit, but I was so caught up in hockey. I was put in one of the best situations. I was a rookie playing with two of the best kids in the league. So that made the transition so much easier and I didn't have time to think about how much I missed home or being at prep school."
On his decision to play college hockey over Canadian major junior ... "I was always going to college. Education means too much to me and to my family. That is the reason I went to prep school - for the academics. I could just never give up the opportunity to play college hockey to play in a league like the Quebec Major Junior league."
On when he knew he would play college hockey ... "After my sophomore year, my team went to nationals and we did pretty well there. So I started talking to some colleges, and I think that was the first stepping stone. That was my motivation to do even better. Since then, I have been taking little steps and I feel like I have been getting better and better each year."
On how he decided to go to Michigan ... "I had just heard so much about the tradition here. I came out for a visit, and it seemed like an amazing environment to play hockey. Not many people from out East come out here, but I kind of like to do things differently than everybody else. It just seemed like a really good fit, with great academics."
On what his first experience at Yost ... "Just the environment, it was like nothing else that I had ever been a part of. I am a high-energy type player, and I really love playing in good environments because I love getting the crowd into the game whether it is making a hit or something little like blocking a shot. So, things like that get the crowd in the game, and that is what I love."
On what it will be like to wear the Michigan jersey ... "I don't know. I know I am going to have a pretty weird feeling in my stomach for awhile. But I just can't wait to put on a jersey. I can't wait to finally play a game. I am aching to play real competitive hockey right now."
On what he is like on a game day ... "I like getting pumped up before a game. Like I said, I like bringing energy to the game. So first shift, I try to get our team ready."
On what the past year has been like and getting drafted in the first round by Montreal ... "I just try to stay as laid back as possible. I have heard so many times that it is great that I got drafted in the first round, but what happens after that is what really matters. And I agree with that completely. It is just more motivation for me to do really well my freshman year here. I try to think about people who might say that I didn't deserve to be in the first round, so I try to use that as motivation to prove them wrong."
On where he has improved most the past few years ... "I have improved most with my work ethic and consistency. I have realized how important it is to work out as much as possible both on and off the ice. Little things like hitting the gym a couple extra hours a week has really helped my game. In terms of consistency, I feel like every year I get more and more consistent but it is still something I have to work on the most. With the type of style that I play, it is hard on your body to go out and bring that energy every shift. But my ideal game is to be able to do that every shift of every game."
On what part of the game he enjoys most ... "Really, just whatever makes a difference for the team. Whether it is blocking a shot or making a hit or scoring, it really doesn't matter - whatever makes a difference in the game."
On his strengths on the ice ... "I try to use my size in all areas of the ice, whether it is in front of the net or in the corners, I have gotten a lot bigger every summer. So I try to use my strength and my size to my advantage."
On liking the New York Rangers and Jed Ortmeyer ... "I have heard so much about (Ortmeyer) from the Michigan guys and a lot of the Ranger guys. I just heard how much of a leader he is, and he does all the little things right. No one ever looks at players who could have saved the game by blocking a big shot or getting the puck out. Little things like that are what make me like a player like Jed Ortmeyer."
On other players he would like to play like ... "I have heard that I am like Keith Tkachuk. And that is the type of player I would like to be. I want to be a power forward. I am not there yet, but I think that if I get big enough, I can use my body even more than I do now. That doesn't mean just in terms of hitting people, but also not being a fancy player, but instead going to the net hard and putting in the junk goals. I also like Ryan Getzlaf. He really impressed me because he is a bigger type player, too. He is probably a little flashier than I am, but he still hits people, and he goes to the net hard."
On being at the draft this summer ... "It was pretty nerve racking at first but I realized whatever happens, happens. I tried to stay laid back during the whole thing. When they called my name, I didn't even realize what happened. It has kind of been a cloud since then. I can't even explain the feeling when they yell out your name and you walk up there. But like I said, I try to not let it get to me and try to stay motivated after something like that."
On his tie to Quebec and being drafted to an Original Six team ... "My grandmother doesn't live (in Quebec) anymore but we still have relatives up there and we used to go up there all the time. My dad and I went to a couple games, but I don't really remember them because I was so young. But I have heard so much about the atmosphere there. They kind of seem like the NHL team of Michigan in terms of the atmosphere and how much people love the hockey. So it seemed like a good fit. The media is really difficult - I can't understand them. I can't speak French and I can't understand the people that speak English because of their accents. It is pretty tough to understand some of it, but I have had so many interviews, that I am beginning to understand it."
On if he had the chance to talk to U-M alumnus and Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek ... "I talked to him briefly, but he had nothing but good news about Michigan. He said it was the best time of his life and to really enjoy my time here. These four years are not like any other years are going to be between hockey, school, and hanging out with the team, it is just an awesome experience. And he told me to never lose touch with the guys on the team because they are like your family."
On why he chose number 39 ... "Ben Winnett had 16, and like I said, I like to be different. I didn't know about (Mike) Comrie at first, so I have been getting a hard time about that. Phil DeSimone, who was on my team last year, talked about wearing 39 this year, but he ended up not getting it. The number doesn't really matter to me."
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