By Mitch Brandner, Staff Writer | Follow him on Twitter
When Brady Vail was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft he gave hope to any kids playing hockey in the Sunbelt states.
Vail was born in North Carolina and moved to Florida at a young age. He played one year in the USHL for the Waterloo Black Hawks where he put up 8 points in 48 games. That summer he was selected by the Windsor Spitfires in the 4th round of the OHL Draft.
In his first season in the OHL Vail put up 10 points in 61 games. While those numbers don’t exactly scream offensive powerhouse, Vail was solid in his own end. In 2011-2012 his numbers were much better as he had 55 points in 68 games.
Once again he was great defensively and Windsor coach Bob Boughner used him as a shutdown center. The Montreal Canadiens liked him enough to use a 4th round pick on him. While Vail may never be a top offensive player in the NHL, shutdown forwards are difficult to come by and they are quite valuable. The Sunbelt Hockey Journal was able to interview Vail and get the insight of the Florida native.
SHJ: So you were born in North Carolina and then moved to Florida, neither of which are hockey hot beds. What made you choose the sport of hockey?
Vail: When I was younger my uncle got me a hockey stick and kind of from there on just starting playing in the driveway. From there I just gradually started playing inline for a while then switched over to the ice when I was 10.
SHJ: How was the transition from inline to ice?
Vail: It was tough but it was pretty much a lot of the same thing. You have an extra player in ice hockey, and the stopping which I still haven’t perfected yet (laughs), so there’s good and bad habits that came from it. I still play inline a lot to keep my hands and my vision.
SHJ: What was the quality of hockey like in the minor system in Florida?
Vail: It wasn’t bad. There were three or four teams that were pretty solid down there. Even now there are more and more players coming up from down there so it’s good to see that it’s progressing more and more. To be one of the first guys that kind of made it through everything is something that I’m pretty happy about.
SHJ: What made you choose the OHL?
Vail: It was tough. Being in the USHL for a year kept both options open. Me and my family talked about it and what it came down to was my dream was to play in the NHL and I thought coming to the OHL was the best way to get there. Once I came and visited Windsor it was kind of a no-brainer with the facility and the players that have come through here.
SHJ: What was going through your mind before the NHL draft?
Vail: Not much, really. I tried not to think about it too much, guys can get up and down about it so I was just going in with an open mind. I’m honoured that such a historic franchise chose me. I did go there for the rookie camp which was a great experience. The new coaching staff and new management was top notch. I’m really excited about it.
SHJ: Did they go through some of the things you’ll have to work on the make their team in the future?
Vail: Yeah, the main thing was my quickness, which I worked a lot on this summer. My first three steps was the main thing that they wanted me to focus on.
SHJ: What are some of your personal goals this season?
Vail: Points wise I want to be in the 80 point range with a high plus/minus playing as a shutdown guy. I’ll probably be mostly that guy this year again so the plus/minus is big this year for me. Just to kind of lead our team to hopefully a championship.
SHJ: A lot of scouts say that defensive play is a big part of your game, is that something you’ve always worked hard at?
Vail: No, when I was younger I was strictly offense, never played any defense whatsoever. When I came to Windsor they brainwashed me a bit I guess (laughs) to play more of a team game with defense first. It’s good to know that scouts think it’s a major part of my game. I owe that to the Spitfires.
SHJ: What do you eat for your pre-game meal?
Vail: César salad with chicken parmesan and spaghetti pasta not penne. I grab a red bull, a G2 and a oats and honey Nature Valley bar.