There is an advantage to being a big man in the faceoff circle from leverage to reach to shielding. Buffalo Sabres prospect Steven Shipley is the largest center on his team and one of the bigger ones in the Ontario Hockey League.
The 6’3”, 212 lb pivot was the Sabres 4th round selection (98th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and his size has a lot to do with that commitment as well as his future as a pro.
“Being a big guy in the circle helps, but at the same time I need to get down low and take advantage of my strength against the other centers who might be 5’9”,” said Shipley.
But that isn’t all the soon to be 20 year old (April 22nd) can do.
Two games into January, he had registered points in eight of his last nine games including four goals and eight assists over 11 games in December and a pair of goals in the first two 2012 tilts.
Some of that offensive output was taking advantage of seeing extra special team minutes with four teammates playing a few weeks at the World Junior Tournament, but Shipley has also shown promise offensively with 18-32-50 in 65 games last season plus seven more points in 14 playoff games.
“The last few weeks I think I’ve been playing some pretty good hockey and I think my line as a whole is playing pretty well. And I try to take pride in my defensive game and be responsible in my own end as well as put up points.
“I’m trying to be a two-way center and I’ve been a part of the penalty kill since my first year and have always been a part of the power play. It’s something I take pride in.”
Shipley is in his second campaign with the Niagara IceDogs after being traded following two full seasons with Owen Sound where he netted 39 goals and 63 assists in 131 games and was invited to play in the CHL Top Prospects game in 2010. It took two players and three draft picks for the IceDogs to pry him away from Owen Sound.
“It was nice that Niagara wanted me and an opportunity to be part of a new system and a new program. Now we want to build of the success we had last year.”
The Ilderton, Ontario (near London, ON) native spent part of the past summer with all of the other Sabres prospects.
“Summer camp is mostly teaching and conditioning, but regular camp I just try to go in there and watch the pros and see what they do and how they take care of themselves. It’s kind of an eye-opener.
“Being a bigger guy, they want me to work on my speed to be able to keep up with the smaller guys who are quick. Typically I like to work down low and drive the net.”
In his favor may be that there are only four other centers listed among the Sabres prospects that aren’t already signed to pro contracts.
“I was excited to be drafted by the Sabres. They’re a team I watched growing up and I went to a lot of Sabres games when I was a kid since it’s not that far from where I live. We went to a game every year.”