Snuggerud on rising up draft boards and improving his skating

Jimmy Snuggerud is still looking for his draft-night fit.

“I actually haven’t got a suit yet,” said the USA National Team Development Program winger. “I’ll go get one this week some time and pick one out.”

Snuggerud is looking to keep things simple.

“I’m more of a low-key guy,” he said. “I’ll go with a light gray suit, a white shirt and normal tie. I don’t like to be super flashy and stand out too much.”

But it was hard not to notice Snuggerud this week when TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button published his final list of top draft-eligible prospects. The 18-year-old from Minnesota came in No. 8, which was up seven spots from January’s list.

“I’ve improved my game to a point to where I can be in that range,” said Snuggerud, who is the son of former Buffalo Saber Dave Snuggerud. “To hear that is really cool, but I’m not close to making it. This is the ‘mock’ part of it and once I’m picked, I’ll be on a depth chart and then I need to make the team .”

During an interview with TSN, Snuggerud outlined how he jumped up draft boards this season and explained why Vancouver Canuck Brock Boeser is his NHL role model. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

TSN: What’s it like to see an alumnus of the National Team Development Program in Auston Matthews win the Hart Trophy?

Snuggerud: “To see him win that award and know that he played at the Program and went through what I went through the last two years is really cool.”

TSN: How much do you watch him?

Snuggerud: “I watch him a lot. That pull-and-push shot is something he does very well and it’s something I’ve worked on a lot.”

TSN: What do you notice?

Snuggerud: “His quick release. To be able to pull and push around the defenseman’s stick, you know, is impressive. There’s long sticks in the National Hockey League and the way he has that quick release, it’s something he’s really good at.”

TSN: How do you feel about your shot?

Snuggerud: “It’s strong. I think it’s ready, but it can be a lot more ready. My accuracy isn’t where it needs to be at. The release and hardness of the shot is good, but my accuracy isn’t NHL ready yet.” ”

TSN: How do you improve that?

Snuggerud: “I go into the rink every day and do the best. I can hit the net with every shot. Every Tuesday and Thursday I have my skill skates, so I try and hit the net on every single shot.”

TSN: How would you describe your game?

Snuggerud: “I’m a competitive forward who likes to use his shot in certain situations. I have a strong hockey IQ. My work ethic and compete are two things I pride myself on. My offensive ability is strong, and my defensive ability is strong , but I need to improve a lot on my skating.”

TSN: Where’s your skating at now?

Snuggerud: “My 17-year-old year it wasn’t close to where it needed to be, and then over the summer I improved my straight north-and-south speed. I got stronger at it and in my 18-year-old” year I proved that. But now I’m working on moving more right and left and being more dynamic in zone.”

TSN: How much room do you have to grow in that department?

Snuggerud: “I have to grow a lot to be an NHL-ready skater. Coming into college next season [at the University of Minnesota] I’ll be an even better skater than I was last year. But to be an NHL player and be a career player, I need to be a lot better of a skater.”

TSN: How did you feel about your performance at the World Under-18 championship where Team USA won the silver medal?

Snuggerud: “It was good. Playing with [Logan] Cooley and [Cutter] Gauthier, we had a strong line together. We scored goals and produced, but we came across a strong goalie [Sweden’s Hugo Havelid] in the last game and couldn’t put the puck in the net when we needed to.”

TSN: Why was the chemistry good?

Snuggerud: “We each had our roles. Cooley is a super-skilled player and then you get the puck to Cutter, and he can shoot. I was more, like, getting the puck to those guys and working. I’ll be the determined player on the line and bring some energy … The chemistry always clicked.”

TSN: Who’s your NHL role model?

Snuggerud: “Brock Boeser is someone I really like to watch and model my game after. He has that strong right shot and that competitive edge. And he’s also from Minnesota.”

TSN: What’s the best advice your dad Dave has given you?

Snuggerud: “‘Stay on the path. It’s a long process and you need to enjoy it.’ He tells me that every single day. ‘Win every day. Get better every day.’ He played hockey for a long time, and he knows the process I’m going through.”

TSN: What’s the best story he’s told you about his playing days?

Snuggerud: “One of the cool things is he played against Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. He was one of the guys who shut down top lines, so he would go on the ice against them. Obviously, he didn’t do a very good job of shutting them down, but to be able to hear he played those guys is really cool.”

TSN: Did anything he say about Gretzky surprise you?

Snuggerud: “No, it was just normal stuff. They tried to stop Gretzky, but he told me, ‘You literally couldn’t. He’d sneak around. He’d get to open ice. He’d get to scoring areas like no other.””

TSN: Your grandfather, James Westby, also played hockey and represented the United States at the Olympics. What have you learned from him?

Snuggerud: “He took a little bit of a different route. He didn’t play in the NHL. He just played college and a couple World Championships and the Olympics. He’s still skating. He’s 85 and he’s skating with his buddies every day. He doesn’t give me a lot of tips, but he shows me what it takes to play and still be playing at 85.”

TSN: It’s another strong year for USA Hockey at the draft. Button has seven players from the National Team Development Program in his top 32. So, let’s finish with some word association when it comes to your teammates. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Cooley?

Snuggerud: “Skill set and dynamic. How he sets himself apart from everyone else is his skill set and his ability. I played with him most of the year and it was super easy. He’s an unbelievable hockey player.”

TSN: Gauthier?

Snuggerud: “His shot. He reminds me of watching Auston Matthews. He models his game a lot after Matthews. You get him the puck and he’s going to fire it. I think he had 14 shots in one game this year.”

TSN: Rutger McGroarty?

Snuggerud: “His work ethic, compete and leadership skills are three things he prides himself on. He’s a great role model on the team.”

TSN: Frank Nazar?

Snuggerud: “Speed. Speed ​​kills for him. He’s a player who uses speed in every situation.”

TSN: Isaac Howard?

Snuggerud: “Character. He’s a character guy. He’s a funny guy. He’s kind of like, I wouldn’t say ‘different,’ but just a funny guy.”

TSN: Lane Hutson?

Snuggerud: “Size. He’s really under-valued for his size (5-foot-8). He’s going to be an NHL player, for sure.”

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