Sabres Prospect Close-up: Talking Pucks with Brad Eidsness

By Kris Baker

With their fifth-round pick in the 2007 draft, the Buffalo Sabres looked north to the province of Alberta, selecting goaltender Brad Eidsness of the AJHL's Okotoks Oilers.

Eidsness, 18, was coming off his first full season of Junior "A" hockey, where he posted a 24-18-2 record in 48 games, earning a scholarship to NCAA powerhouse North Dakota along the way.

The 2007-08 season has seen Eidsness elevate his play in the Oilers crease. The 5'11 netminder currently leads the league in wins (25), goals against average (1.97), and save percentage (.939) in 29 starts. He's even joined the offense, racking up a pair of assists to round out an impressive stat line. For his work, he was unanimously named a South Division All-Star.

In November, Eidsness backstopped Canada West to a gold medal in the World Junior "A" Challenge in Trail, British Columbia.

This isn't the first time that the Sabres used a fifth-round pick on a Junior "A" goalie on his way to the college game. Back in 1999, Ryan Miller was chosen 138th overall out of the NAHL. Miller used his collegiate minutes at Michigan State to develop into a Hobey Baker winner, and later an NHL All-Star.

Selected 139th, there is no need to place similar expectations on Eidsness' shoulders as he heads to Grand Forks. Nonetheless, Sabres fans should be pleased with the prospect's progression since being drafted.

An engaging talent with a good approach to the game, the AJHL's top goaltender recently took a break from stopping pucks (and writing papers) to talk hockey with

Your Oilers have lost just three of their last 27 games, and have already eclipsed last year's regular season win total. What, if anything, is different this year?

BE: We have a very strong team this year. The biggest difference between this year’s team and lasts is our depth. We have 4 solid lines that contribute this season. Last season we relied heavily on one or two lines. We’ve also had a lot of production from a much more experienced blue line.

You battled mono at the start of the AJHL season. Can you tell me about the process of getting back on the ice? Getting back to 100% had to take some time.

BE: I actually ended up getting it the first day of training camp for our team. It was tough, with a lot of expectations on both myself and the team to have good seasons, to sit out and watch the first month of the season. I ended up in the hospital for seven days and wasn’t able to eat or drink anything over that time period. I lost about 15 pounds in 10 days or so. The doctors said I had the worst case of acute mono they had ever seen.

With that being said, I recovered much faster than anyone expected. I spent about two weeks at my house in Chestermere just recovering and not doing anything. At that point I felt a hundred times better and we decided I would go back and start doing light workouts and see how my body responded. My body felt fine. It was just a matter of building back up my stamina and weight. I did off-ice workouts and on-ice training with my goalie coach for about two weeks before I returned with my team.

I actually ended up starting to play after only one real practice. The biggest thing was just getting my body back into game shape and the only way that was going to happen was by starting to play games. Throughout the whole process my team was very supportive. We tried not to push too hard and in the end it is actually pretty remarkable how fast I recovered.

The Sabres seemed to keep you pretty busy this summer at their prospects camp. How was the experience, and the overall feedback from the Sabres staff?

BE: It was an awesome experience. The camp was very intense and a lot of fun. To see the level that a guy like Drew Stafford is at is pretty eye opening. It definitely gives you an idea of the time and effort you have to put in to be a pro hockey player.

The feedback from the Sabres staff was very good. They work with you one on one and let you know what they would like to see you improve on and at the same time what they think you're doing well. They have also been able to provide resources such as video that is very helpful in development.

You're heading to the University of North Dakota in the fall of 2008. Red Deer owns yours WHL rights. Was that something that was ever on the radar, or was college always your #1 choice to continue playing?

BE: Well, in Western Canada the WHL is much more recognizable than College Hockey. I think I definitely considered the WHL route but after really sitting down with my parents and discussing what the possibilities were we decided that the college route was the option for me.

First of all my parents have always stressed education and I personally believe that it is very important as well. Hockey can only last so long and a university degree is a great option to fall back onto.

The other thing was development. It is a known fact that goalies take longer to develop and we believed that college hockey would give me the best shot at developing. It takes a long time to mature as a goalie and we believed there was no better league than the WCHA to do that in.

Can you tell me about your first visit to Grand Forks? The Ralph is truly an amazing spectacle.

BE: I’ve only been there once and that was on my recruiting visit there last season. It is an amazing facility and it is certainly very exciting knowing I will be playing there next season. With the Ralph and the coaching staff that North Dakota has, I don’t think there is better place to play college hockey.

Who is the toughest shooter you've ever faced?

BE: I think that the best that I’ve played on the ice with was Drew Stafford at the prospects camp this summer. He was on a different level than everybody else and could just dominate. As far as this season goes on our World Jr. A challenge team, Zac Dalpe, who is highly ranked for this years up coming draft and is set to attend Ohio State next fall, has the best release I’ve seen this year.

The AJHL has seen talents like Dany Heatley and Mike Comrie continue on to the NCAA after being drafted. You'll be seeing a lot of another projected talent, 2008 eligible Joe Colborne of Camrose who's enrolling at WCHA rival Denver. How have you fared against him? Your respective performances at the World Jr.A Challenge shined a spotlight on the league.

BE: Joe is a very good player. He has an extremely large frame at 6’5 and when he develops his body he will be a force. Camrose has the top ranked team in the country and have only 6 losses. We are only 5 points behind them right now and play them four more times in the last ten games of the season. We lost to them in overtime early in the season and just recently beat them. It will be a big battle to finish out the year, something that as a team we are really looking forward to.

The World Jr A. Challenge was a great event that we were fortunate enough to win. It is always extremely special to wear the Maple Leaf on the front of your jersey and is a memory I cherish.

Did you have a favorite player growing up? Any goaltenders you modeled your game after?

BE: I think most goaltenders nowadays grew up watching Patrick Roy and tried to take things away from what he did. I am certainly in the boat. Growing up near Calgary I have seen a lot of very good goaltenders like Mikka Kiprusoff, Roberto Luongo, Marty Turco, J.S. Giguere, Curtis Joesph, Eddie Belfour and Patrick Roy come through and play for or against the Flames. I think you try and take a little bit of something out of every guy’s game to add to yours.

Can you tell me a little bit about Brad Eidsness off the ice? What would you be doing if you weren't playing hockey?

BE: I like to think I’m just a pretty normal kid. I really enjoy watching movies and just hanging out watching NHL games on tv with guys on my team. I enjoy most types of music but especially country, (Haha you have to love country growing up in a small town in Western Canada).

This season I’ve been super busy because I’ve also taken a couple university courses each semester just to prepare myself for next year. If I wasn’t playing hockey I’d probably just be enrolled in University in Calgary studying business.

History has shown that goalies can be somewhat strange. Do you have any quirks or pre-game rituals that you wish to share with the readers?

BE: Bill Ranford spoke at our all star game this season and was asked a question along the similar lines. He stated that he thought being a goaltender was difficult enough without having to worry about a bunch of superstitions. I feel the same way. I think to an extent every player prepares for games in their own way with naps, and pre-game meals and what not. I certainly try to maintain a routine when it comes to those things, but as far as superstitions go I try and not to worry about doing little things every game, and just try to go out and stop pucks.

Thanks again for taking the time. Good luck down the stretch. We'll be rooting for you.

BE: No problem. Thank you very much!

You can follow Brad down the stretch in the Oilers quest for the Rogers Wireless Cup by visiting the AJHL's official site.
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