Important guests helped Comrie develop mental side
Goaltender Eric Comrie of the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League recently was asked what he would say to an NHL general manager in need of a little convincing that he could be a future star for their organization.
"I battle as hard as I can to stop every single puck … and it doesn't matter if my helmet comes off in the process," Comrie told NHL.com. "I'm going to dive across head-first to make that save. It's all about keeping the puck out of the net and winning games.
"I'm an athletic goalie … I'll never give up on the puck."
Well, if that doesn't get a GM excited, nothing will.
NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen, who specializes in evaluating goalies, believes Comrie has the ability and mental makeup to become a star in the NHL.
"He reminds me of Tim Thomas with his lateral ability and lateral pushes," Jensen told NHL.com. "He competes hard, always gets himself in position and never gives up on a play. He's very aggressive and I like his upside."
"It's a huge honor [to be No. 2 among North American goalies]," Comrie said. "I feel that players get drafted by the teams that like the players, and I feel that once you get drafted, it starts fresh again because then you're competing against all the best professional players. In the end, if you want to be the best, you have to beat out those guys."
The 6-foot-0.75, 167-pound Comrie, ranked No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American goalies, finished 20-14-3 with a 2.62 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 37 games.
However, he played his last game in January, and underwent season-ending hip surgery in February. He's begun skating on his own already, said now he's feeling better than ever and expects to be ready by the start of next season.
"It was hard on me but [the injury] was a learning experience; I'll get to the next level," he said. "I think the surgery will help me improve my game. I'm going to get stronger, more flexible and faster, and I'm going to take this as a boost in my game. That can only make me even better next year."
While Comrie is quick to credit Tri-City goalie coach Lyle Mast for much of his progress and success, he said he also learned plenty from Swedish goalie coach Erik Granqvist last summer and current Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price during a visit earlier in the season. Price played with Tri-City from 2003 to 2007.
"He came to Tri-City during the work stoppage and it was an unbelievable experience," Comrie said of Price. "He came back and practiced with us and shared his knowledge with me, and it was the most fun I've ever had in some time. Just being around him … he showed you how hard you have to work. It was amazing how humble he was."
Comrie said Price's demeanor was the one thing that stood out the most during the visit.
"Just how relaxed he was," he said. "He was also such a nice guy. It just goes to show you how nice people are in the NHL, and how respectful everyone is in the League is. To want to come back to your junior team and have conversations with 16-year-olds … that's something. It just shows you how much respect there is in the NHL."
Comrie, who turns 18 on July 6, was introduced to Granqvist through his agent, Ritch Winter.
"[Granqvist] was instrumental in my mental game," Comrie said. "He taught me how to breathe and be relaxed. He taught me to think about what the puck sees instead of what the shooter sees, how much you have to do."
Comrie is a big believer in making certain he is mentally prepared each and every game.
"It's about being focused," he said. "You have to have a clear mind and be in the zone, but goaltending has become a lot more physical now, too. I find people are getting bigger and stronger, so you have to be quick and be able to cross the crease and understand the game. It's a combination of a lot of things."
Winter said he believes Comrie has the same work ethic as one of his other clients, six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek.
"Eric's work ethic and progress to date is far advanced, physically and psychologically," Winter told NHL.com. "He has as good a chance as any player I have represented to be a one of the best goalies in hockey … time will tell. If hard work and commitment is the key, Eric will be a franchise foundation for decades to come."
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer