Winterhawks star looking to impress
By Steve Ewen, The Province
December 11, 2011
If Brad Ross can be picky about when he's prickly, he might be a Don Hay guy.
Hay is coach of the Canadian world junior team this time around, and tryouts opened for 42 players Saturday in Calgary.
In his day job, Hay guides the Vancouver Giants, and he's always been keen about having an agitator type, just as long as the player is responsible defensively and doesn't take selfish, illtimed penalties. Garet Hunt comes to mind with Hay teams of the past.
Ross, 19, could fill that role with this season. The Portland Winterhawks forward has been known for going over that edge, but he maintains that he's made smarter choices this season.
He has 84 penalty minutes in 33 games, after spending 171 minutes in the sin bin in 67 regular season contests a campaign ago.
He does head into the camp playing well offensively, too; his marker in Friday's 5-3 loss to the Giants was his fourth in as many games and his 20th on the year. He also has 18 assists, putting him on pace to surpass last year's point total of 69, which included 31 goals.
"I've tightened up my game," said the 6-foot-1, 183-pound Lethbridge, Alta., native, who's one of 24 forwards vying for 13 posts under Hay. "I don't need to stay in the box and take stupid penalties. I'm trying to stay out of the needless scrums."
He does have some insider knowledge into Hay. Nick Ross, a defenceman, was a midseason trade pickup by the Giants from the Kamloops Blazers in 2008-09 and passed down some Hay expectations to his younger brother.
"He really, really liked him," said Ross, whose 22-year-old brother, a first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007, is playing sparingly with the AHL Portland Pirates currently. "Favourite coach he ever had.
"And playing for him in the Subway Series, I know that he's a direct guy. He likes simple things - chip it in, get pucks on the net."
That's part of what isn't in Ross's favour, nor that of his two Portland teammates, forward Ty Rattie and defenceman Joe Morrow, trying out for the Canadian side. Hay's game is structured, regimented.
The Winterhawks, under Mike Johnston, are much more freewheeling. And Ross, too, is a minus-seven on the campaign, despite playing for a team that, as of Friday, had scored 26 more goals than it had given up.
"When you go to those things, you have to adapt to what they want to do," said Ross, a second-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010 who was a plus-29 last season. "I believe I can do that."
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