Your father Paul and grandfather Wayne were born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Did you consider going to play in the Soo (OHL) this season?
“Not really. Playing against college guys is a little more pro like than kind of going backwards and playing junior.”
How close were you to playing in Sweden?
“It was talked about. It was kind of my decision to make. It was obviously a pretty enticing thing to do and a good opportunity, but at the end of the day I thought college hockey is still good, and we were going to be playing soon. I just thought that this would be the best decision for me to stay here instead of going to Europe and living by myself for a year.”
What are you taking at Wisconsin?
“Still just taking general classes…nothing too particular. I haven’t decided on a major.”
Geez…so I guess this means you want to have a career in hockey?
“Ha ha. Yeah.”
Why did you ultimately decide to stay at Wisconsin instead of turning pro?
“Another year to prepare your body and mature off the ice I thought would be really beneficial for me so when I do make the jump I will be a lot more prepared. Knowing that I can step right into the lineup and make an impact instead of rushing it.
Were you disappointed that so many (Wisconsin) teammates that weren’t seniors (Alex Turcotte, K’Andre Miller, Wyatt Kalynuk) turned pro?
“I kind of expected it. Obviously I’m super happy for them. You’ve got to work with what you have, and we’ve still got a strong team. It’s kind of expected that those guys would all turn pro.”
Sam Stange, Mathieu De St. Phalle and Cameron Rowe are all solid players that will be joining the Badgers this season. De St. Phalle led the USHL in scoring, Stange was a fourth round selection in the NHL draft (who finished top five in goals in the USHL), and Rowe was a teammate of yours on the 2018-19 USNTDP. Excited about the newcomers?
“We’ve got a pretty good freshman class. Obviously we felt we did last year too, but there’s no panic in the room losing all the guys we lost. College hockey for me is kind of about experience, and based on last year people thought we were going to be really successful, and I think we weren’t because there was a learning curve we had to get over, and I just don’t think we made that jump in time. It’s kind of why we struggled.”
I watched a lot of your games last season. You outplayed a lot of opponents last year, but it seemed like the goalies couldn’t come up with the big saves.
“Goaltending is a thing we wanted to rebuild this year, and we’ve got three new goalies coming in, two of them are freshman. My roomate actually this year is a transfer from Michigan Tech (Robbie Beydoun), so it’s kind of looking brighter in that spot of the lineup. It was obviously frustrating last year having to score five/six goals to win, but that’s just how it was. Now I think were a bit stronger on the back end too, so that will also help.
Are you expecting to play on a line with (14th-overall NHL draft pick) Dylan Holloway this year?
“(Dylan) Holloway is going to be going to Canada’s junior camp so he’s going to miss all of those games we play before the (WJC) tournament, which obviously isn’t the greatest thing for our team. He’s a solid player.”
How did the recent US U-20 evaluation camp go? Your coaches said some nice things about your play.
“Camp was really good. After last year, I saw it as a fresh start. It really was a tough one last year, kind of frustrating. This year it will kind of be my age group, and you’re a leader just based on being a guy that is coming back having that experience. Camp was good…getting to know the coaching staff and all of the other guys there. I felt good out there. Guys were competitng hard playing their first games in many months so it was good to see. It was just a lot of fun to have hockey back in general.”
How did (fellow Montreal Canadiens draft pick) Jayden Struble look at the camp?
“He was good. He had a little minor injury that’s been bothering him for a little bit. I think he only played one of the games, but he looks good.”
Do you think he makes the team?
“I hope so. I don’t think it’s my decision or anything like that. I know he’s a good player…but we’re so strong on the back end with this group that we have, I think it’s tough to crack the D lineup I guess.”
You lined up beside draft-eligible center Matthew Beniers and (Minnesota Wild 12th overall draft pick ) Matthew Boldy in junior camp. How did that go?
“We were pretty much together the whole time. It was a lot of fun. Those two guys are great players…it makes the game easier. It’s just easy to predict what they’re gonna do. I thought we were really successful; we put the puck in the back of the net a lot.
What was the other offensive line in camp?
It was a line of (Thomas) Bordeleau, John Beecher and Bobby Brink during most of the (scrimmages). They were the line we ended up playing against pretty much the whole time.”
Was there some added incentive going up against Brink, who beat you out for an offensive role on right wing last year?
How often did you play with Boldy on the USNTDP U-17 and U-18 teams when you were teammates?
“We played together a lot. I think him being left wing we always kind of just meshed with each other, and the centers would switch around with Jack (Hughes), (Alex) Turcotte and Trevor (Zegras). I just think that our chemistry has been there for awhile. He’s a great player, and you could tell from the second half last year that…the first half he just wasn’t getting the bounces and stuff. But I think he’s an unbelievable player, and he proved that the second half.”
Last year you played the majority of the world junior tournament on the bottom two lines with what could best be described as checkers. Not exactly the best role for you.
It was a little different thing than what I was expecting, but at those tournaments you’ve got to do whatever it takes to win. Obviously, it was frustrating not being able to be out there when you wanted (to be). I didn’t play the best that I could but apparently I wasn’t getting out there as much to be really in the game, and that’s tough. It’s kind of in the back of your head; you remember…and I’ll just use it to be better this year and hopefully have more success.
You want to get more points than Bobby Brink this time around?
Have you been following the development and success of KK and Suzuki?
“Oh yeah..all of the players there. They think the game really well and it’s good to see that they did well in the playoffs and they just have a very bright future.”
And Drouin is a good playmaker too. You are going to have guys that can get you the puck, and that’s what you want, right?
“That’s exactly what I want.” (laughs).
What did you do in terms of training during this time off?
“I went up to Michigan and trained with (Cam) York, (Alex) Turcotte and Jack (Hughes), so it was a pretty good summer for us, and I worked on pretty much everything. We skated three times a week. As an all-around player I think I got a lot better this summer. I feel a lot stronger on the ice, and I’m able to be more explosive and make more things happen driving the play. I think my summer training was probably one of the best I’ve had. I’m looking forward to being good in the games.”
(Caufield was 5-7.25 and 163 at the combine). What is your height and weight right now?
Is that with shoes on?
“No (laughs). I was 5-8 last year, but nobody updated any website or whatever.”
You were the first player under 5-8 to ever be drafted in the first round of the NHL draft. Ever. Do you think your height caused you to drop some on draft day?
“T think that the way the game is changing it’s not as big a factor as before, but I think I dropped a little bit because of that. Obviously, there’s a lot of great players taken ahead of me, but I dropped a bit because of that factor. At the end of the day, it’s what you do with your career, it’s not about where you get picked. So I’m not too worried about that, and I’m just gonna keep getting better every day. I’m not going to complain about being a first-round pick.”
COVID has been raging in Wisconsin recently. Have you been directly affected by COVID, someone you know?
“Yeah – I had it about a month ago. I think there were six guys on our team that were directly affected. Nobody really showed any symptoms of anything. I guess at the end of the day we already have had it for the future. Hopefully nobody tests positive or has it again this season. Hopefully now there is some sort of immunity and we can keep testing negative.”
Are there more Biden signs or Trump signs around where you live?
(chuckle) “I haven’t really noticed.”
This will be the first time you’ll be able to vote, are you going to?
Well I won’t ask you which guy..but it better be the guy I’m hoping for.
If you’re a Trump guy, keep it to yourself when you’re up here, because most of us aren’t a fan.
The Canadiens picked your teammate Jack Gorniak 123rd overall in the 2018 NHL draft. He’s a really good skater, but hasn’t been able to find a regular role yet in Wisconsin. Do you think with guys leaving and him gaining seniority on the team that he can be a regular contributor this season?
“He’s one of the faster guys I’ve seen. I think with some of the guys leaving he’s going to jump into a bit bigger role, and that’ll be good for him. His compete level and energy that he brings is really beneficial to our team, and I think that he’ll show a little bit more this year.”
The hitting part of the game. How have you adjusted through the years given that you are a smaller guy, but you rarely get knocked down. Do you have strong legs?
“I think that’s just something that you get used to throughout your whole life just trying to be able to see what it’s like to battle yourself in hitting situations. Becoming stronger. I don’t think it affects me as much as people would think. I feel comfortable, and could go in the corner with anyone in my opinion.”
How often have you been to Montreal?
“I have only been to Montreal one time, at last year’s development camp.
I never really got to go downtown. I think we just drove past it, but I’ve heard so many things about what a nice city it is. The organization is just great. I love what they’re doing right now, and I think they’re ready to break through to being contenders right now. Those young guys that they have are going to be around for awhile. It’s just exciting to be a part of something like that, and I think we’ll be pretty good for a while.”
You tweeted out the word “steal” when Sean Farrell was picked 124th overall by the Canadiens. Why in your opinion was he a steal?
“I just thought he’d go a lot higher. Just by knowing the type of player he is and playing with him. I was so excited to see that…him and Tuch being picked by Montreal, just because I know those guys and was around them for a couple of years. I just think Sean is a special player. He was really good at (junior) camp last week. I was just really surprised to see him drop that far…again…I guess because of the height factor but I just think where he got picked we got a really good player. He thinks the game really well, and he plays with a little edge too; he’s always in battles, creating things on the ice, and he’s just always around the puck.”
“He’s a big body that a lot of people don’t expect him to be very offensive, but he’s really good at what he does.”
If there was one Habs legend you could meet, who would it be, and what would be the one question you’d most like to ask him?
“That would be Ken Dryden. Just asking him about playing with all those great players back in the day with limited equipment and no helmets. I just think that would be really cool to talk about.”
I have been told that your coaches for the U-20 team haven’t ruled out having Jack Hughes playing if the NHL season hasn’t got rolling by the start of January.
“That would help us out a lot. Nobody really knows too much about what’s going to happen with those guys. Obviously that would be a bit boost. Do you want me to make a call and work my magic?”
Did you do anything special to develop your renowned shot?
“Nothing too crazy, just shooting the puck as much as I could growing up. I think it’s more IQ than shooting. It’s awfully hard to beat a goalie these days, but if you put yourself in a good spot, the goalie won’t be able to see it; won’t be able to get there in time. Some players just think of going to the front of the net as the only way to score, and obviously it’s a good place to score goals…in the playoffs pretty much every goal is scored there I guess…but I think finding ways around the net to make yourself open or get yourself a better opportunity to score is what’s most important.”
I have compared you to Brett Hull in that regard to a certain extent; being adept at finding the scoring areas. Have you ever heard that comparison?
“No, but it feels pretty good.”
Yeah. If you scored 70 goals I guess that’d be okay.
Did you convince your brother, dad or neighbourhood kid to play nets in the driveway growing up so you could practise that shot?
“No; we had one of those “shooter tutor” things. Nobody wanted to be a goalie.”
I guess not with you shooting!
Did you play any pond hockey?
“Growing up up there was a little pond hockey rink beside the high school, so we used to go there with our friends and just have some fun.”
Your play away from the puck is I guess one area of your game you are looking to improve?
“I think I feel a lot stronger in that aspect. I think becoming an all-around stronger player is something that I need to do, and I’m working on that. I feel comfortable now. Getting bigger and stronger every day is something that’s important to me. Play away from the puck is something that you’ve got to take really seriously, and playing in every zone. I think just being more engaged and being quick on loose pucks, and Tony’s (Granato) helped me out quite a bit.”
Can you play left wing?
“I feel that I can play any wing position. I don’t think it affects me; just being able to catch pucks on your backhand in the D zone and stuff. I feel comfortable playing any wing position, and I feel comfortable in either spot.”
Did you happen to notice that the players the Canadiens traded for and signed, Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, were right wingers as well”.
“Yeah, I did.”
What is the flex of your stick?
“The flex I used is 75. It’s in between. It’s something I’m used to since the (US development) program, and just stuck with it.”
What team or teams did you and your brother cheer for growing up?
“We cheer for the Avalanche. My dad was a Nordiques fan growing up and then when they switched over (to Denver) we just grew up watching those games on TV.”
Your dad was a Nordiques’ fan?? Montreal’s hated rival! Did dad cry a little bit when you got drafted by the Canadiens?
Your grandfather and father both played some pro hockey. Who would you say has influenced your hockey career the most?
“My dad was my biggest influence. Just learning from my dad and him being my coach growing up…I learned things that I just couldn’t get from anybody else. Always around to ask questions, and he pushed me a lot growing up, and at the time maybe I didn’t like it, but at the end of the day I can’t thank him enough, and I appreciate all that he’s done for me now rather than getting frustrated that he was so hard on me. And my brother too; skating with him growing up and playing with him. He’s one of those guys he’d always push you to be better. I think we always just created that competitiveness with anything that we did that still goes on to this day.
My mom (Kelly) especially has done a lot for us. Always being there, driving us to games and just being so supportive. Kind of seeing that other side of things where she kind of makes things a lot more happy.”
Seeing that they live close to where you play, do they get to many games?
“My parents come to all of the home games and they came to three or four of the away games (weekends). They’re there a lot, and it’s always good to see them and having them there. My dad’s a really smart guy in the hockey world, so he still helps me out a lot.”
Well I better let you go. I appreciate you taking all of this time. Best of luck in your career, and good luck at the World Juniors. I hope you score three goals in the finals against Canada but lose by a goal.
(laughs) “Thanks. I appreciate this”
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