Fireside Chats: William Wrenn
William Wrenn was chosen by the San Jose Sharks with their first selection (43rd overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he has been playing for the 6-3-1 University of Denver Pioneers, posting 3 assists in nine games to go along with a +6 rating. Mr. Wrenn was kind enough to spend twenty minutes on the phone with Plank and TCY, and answered some of our questions about his experience playing hockey in Alaska, his time spent playing in Denver, and his current development.
Fear the Fin would like to thank William Wrenn and University of Denver Director of Media Relations Eric Bacher for making this interview happen.
You said in an interview that Dion Phaneuf was your favorite player. Has that changed since being drafted by the Sharks?
Not really. I just like the way he plays, and I think it's more of the style he plays that I really like. I like how aggressive and physical he is, and then he can also shoot the puck and score goals.
Growing up in Alaska, did you play a lot of outdoor hockey, or was more of an emphasis placed on the indoor rinks?
When I was a kid we would have practice outside every once in a while. When I left for LA my freshman year my Dad built a rink in our backyard, so I'd come home from school every day and do my homework and then skate until dinner, and sometimes we'd even go back out there again at night. I skated outside a lot, actually.
You mentioned your dad. Some players say their biggest influence was their parents-- others say a specific coach, or the competition amongst their peers. Who was your biggest influence and why?
I'd probably say my dad, because he always supported me no matter what I wanted to do. He doesn't know very much about hockey as I'm the only person in my family so far with any kind of a hockey background. Seeing the time that he would put into the outdoor rink, he'd be out there hours trying to build it and get the ice ready, I really looked up to that and I took advantage of the fact that he worked so hard on it. I try to make him proud.
Like you said earlier, you moved to Los Angeles at the age of 14 to play for the Los Angeles Selects. What were the reasons behind this?
High school hockey in Alaska was slowly starting to go downhill, and kids were leaving at an earlier age. I came up with the opportunity, and every kid always wonders what LA is like, especially being from Alaska. I figured I'd give it a shot, and of course it was a great program and we were going to have a really good team. It wasn't that hard of a decision, the only hard part was having to leaving my family and friends. I knew that they'd still be there for me whenever though.
Many projected you to be selected in the third to fifth round of the NHL draft, but you were taken by the San Jose Sharks 43rd overall. Did you know that the Sharks were interested in you? Why do think you were drafted so early?
I think that my playing style might fit the team and they liked what they saw and what I could become in the future. I really had no idea where I would be drafted. At the combine, my interview with the Sharks was actually, what I thought, one of my worst ones. They drilled me with my flaws and then asked me some tough questions about my skating and my style of play. I really had no idea that they were going to be the team that drafted me.
Do you remember what any of those questions were?
Things like, "You're not the best skater, how do you think you're going to make it in the NHL?". Stuff like that, what they thought I could improve on, and if I thought I was good enough to to make it eventually. They picked apart my game. Other interviews were more generic, they didn't really point out any flaws or anything that I really struggled with. I didn't think it went that well, but obviously they really liked me.
Since being drafted by the Sharks, how much contact have you had with the team? Have they let you know what they expect out of you this season? What have they asked you to improve on?
I've had a decent amount. Right after the draft I talked to them a lot, and then I went to camp. So, that's been about it. I've talked to them once since I've been here, but I'm still young and I know that they want me to focus on hockey and school.
What things have they asked you to improve on specifically?
Skating. Skating was a big part. They think my skating can be a little bit better. You can always become faster, especially with the game and how it is today. They definitely emphasized that I really need to keep working on my skating and not give up on that.
A few weeks ago, you played the University of Minnesota, a team that features fellow Sharks prospect Patrick White. Do you ever think about the fact that the players in your league could be your eventual teammate in the AHL or NHL?
Not really. I guess I don't look too much into that because I'm focused on our team and what we can do. We're a team with really high expectations, so I'm really worried about that right now (laughs).
What's the biggest difference between the college game and the junior game? What was the hardest part about making that transition?
It's definitely faster. You don't have nearly as much time to make decisions with the puck and you have toget stronger. A lot stronger than you have to be in juniors. You have to be prepared to play every night, you can't take a night off, you have to be ready to go at any point in the game.
You captained the US Under-18 team to a 2009 World Championship gold medal in your second year in the National Team Development Program. What was that experience like for you? Do you see yourself being a leader throughout your career?
I've always prided myself on being a leader. I'm not the most vocal guy but I try really hard and try to lead by example. My experience with that was unbelievable, I loved every part of it. My friends that I got with that team, I'll always be really good friends with them. The road that we took and how hard it was, that was great. I really enjoyed it.
You've been compared favorably to Robyn Regehr, a hard nosed, defensive minded defensemen. Do you feel like that is an accurate description of your game?
I'd say it's pretty accurate. The best part of my game is definitely the defensive part and being tough to play against and moving the puck up to the forwards. But my offensive side and my shot are always improving. That's not to say that I'll become an offensive defenseman, but it's something that's good to add to my hockey arsenal.
What have you been working on this year to improve that?
Again, skating. They gave me some drills so that I could be faster with the puck if I want to rush up into the play or follow the play up. I'll also go out before practice and work on my shot. I'm also just concentrating when I'm out on the power play to make the right decisions and make good plays.
Do you see yourself as a power play defenseman going forward?
I think it's a definite possibility. If I don't, that's fine. Whatever team I end up on or wherever I'm at, it's whatever that team needs to make them the best that they can be. Wherever they need me.
Lightning round. One thing you have to do before games.
Tape my sticks.
Favorite thing to do in Denver.
Hang out with the boys from the team.
Miracle or Slap Shot?
Scott Stevens or Scott Niedermayer?
Hip check or poke check?
What's on your pre-game play-list?
Rock, Breaking Benjamin. Sometimes I'll throw in some techno (laughs). Depends on how I'm feeling for the day, usually upbeat, strong music that you can get focused with.
Board shorts or speedo?
Board shorts (laughs).
Do you get to watch any Sharks games?
I've watched a couple of them, whenever they're here and then I watch highlights.
Will we see the Pioneers in the Frozen Four?
Oh, man... yes (laughs). Tough question, but I'm not gonna say no (laughs). Yeah. Potentially, yes.
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Will. When is your next game?
Next weekend against North Dakota.
How are you preparing for that? How do they look?
They're good, hard hard practices this week. We have an off weekend this weekend this weekend so practices have been real tough. Just getting prepared for them.
Good luck with the rest of the season, and thanks again.
Thanks, you too.
We'd like to thank William again for taking to time to do this. During our conversation, we asked if he had access to NHL Gamecenter Online so that he could watch Sharks games. He said that he did not, but would love to have it. Plank and TCY agreed to pony up some cash to get that for him. If any of you would like to make a donation to the cause, send us an email.