So much for hoping to do one of these every month. My interview with Landon Ferraro on Friday, March 16 was the third Wings prospect I’ve had the pleasure of interviewieng in just over two weeks. I chatted with Landon following a tough 2-0 loss to their North divisional rival the Toronto Marlies.
The Marlies lead the division with 77 points, while the Griffins sit fourth in the five team division at 64 points. The Griffs are seven points back with three games in hand on the eighth place Lake Erie Monsters, the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.
Landon, Detroit’s first pick at 32 overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is in his rookie season with the Griffins and has tallied eight goals and 18 points in 47 games.
Landon and I chatted about growing up in a hockey family, his junior career, how he feels he’s developing in his rookie professional season and what he does when he finds some down time. I also snuck in a question about NHL12 due to popular request. I hope you enjoy the latest segment of Talking With.
RB: We had a vote on Detroit Sports Nation, and you were the player the fans most wanted to hear from.
LF: Alright, sounds good.
RB: When did you first know you wanted to be a hockey player?
LF: My earliest memory is, I always loved playing, going to the rink with my dad, being around that. Ever since I was a little, little kid that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Teachers always asked what do you want to do, that’s what I said. They’d say seriously, what do you want to do? I never had another answer.
RB: I didn’t want to bring it up unless you did, but you brought it up, so is it hard to escape the comparisons to your dad (Ray Ferraro scored 408 goals in the NHL)? You know, as a small skilled centre?
LF: Yeah, I mean we don’t really get compared much. He’s a completely different player than what I am. He was fast and stuff (editor’s note: Landon won the fastest skater competition in the CHL Top Prospects game in 2009) but his best part was right around the net. I feel like I have a bit better shot, I can play on the outside more and work my way in. He was a goal-line down type of player. It’s obviously helped a ton (having Ray as a mentor), but at the same time it was more challenging when I was younger. Trying to make my own career, which obviously I’m still trying to do, but I don’t get compared nearly as much which is nice.
RB: So you don’t like the comparison then?
LF: I mean, he played for 18 years (laughs), if people want to compare me to him I’d be thrilled -
RB: – 400 goals -
LF: Yeah, I mean he had an unbelievable career. If I can have half of what he had, that’s pretty good. I take as much advice as I can. It’s something where I take it more seriously now than when I was mid-teens. You know, you never really want to listen to dad, but I feel like I’ve grown a bit, and I can take more from him now.
RB: Your dad retired when you were 11, 12, but you moved around a bit when you were a kid. Was that tough?
LF: It was a little tough, having to make friends and have to leave them. I’ve kept in touch with some of them, and I saw one of my best friends from Georgia on our road trip. It’s kinda nice to know people everywhere. It’s a different experience. I remember living in New York (Ray played for the Islanders and Rangers from 1990-96) I remember the tail end of that, then living in LA and Atlanta, it’s thing you normally don’t get to do. It’s a little challenging at times, but you get to have experiences that most people don’t.
RB: Do you feel like moving around a lot, and then playing minor hockey and then junior in Red Deer (with the Rebels of the WHL) and Everett (Silvertips, also WHL), and now in Grand Rapids and hopefully on to Detroit some day has prepared you for a career in professional hockey?
LF: I think it prepared me a bit. Anyone going through that, my brother going to school and now working, it gets you ready for anything. You meet new people and learn how to talk to people and how to act in different situations. Definitely the playing aspect of it, you learn to be able to pick up and move on a minute’s notice, and it doesn’t phase you as much as a someone who has lived in one place his whole life. It’s made it easier. My transition to Red Deer at 16 was easy, I loved it, and going to Everett last year same thing. You get here and I’m really on my own. It’s prepared me and I feel comfortable where I am.
RB: Your whole family is really involved in hockey. You play here, your dad played professional hockey for 18 years, your brother was a goalie and your step-mom Cammi (Granato is in the Hockey Hall of Fame), does that help having people in your circle to talk to about the game?
LF: Yeah, definitely. Getting to go to the rink with my dad all the time and getting to see all that, getting to talk to him about it. When I went to play U-18 (in 2009, Landon had four points in five games for Team Canada) getting to talk to Cammi about all her Olympic and World Championship experience. And then when I was younger, going through bantam and midget, getting to talk to my brother who was playing junior. I already knew that I wanted to do it, but getting to see him and how much fun he was having being away from home. Being around the guys all the time, you know at that age, you always look up to your older brother.
RB: Speaking about being around the guys all the time, you’re on your own now, who has taken you under his wing?
LF: It’s hard to say, there’s a lot of great guys on this team. I live with (Travis) Ehrhardt which makes it easier. This is his third year (playing professional hockey for Grand Rapids). I wasn’t so lost when I first got here, I could tag along, he knew where to go and what to do so that made it easier. Of the older guys, (Jamie) Johnson, (Chris) Minard. Minny came in a bit later with him being injured at the beginning of the year. Those two and (Chris) Conner, guys like that, (Griffins captain Garnet) Exelby. They’ve played games in the NHL, they’ve been around. They’ve all got advice and you take in as much as you can. You can always learn something new. They help out a lot and made me comfortable. You come in and you’re kind of quiet, you don’t want to say the wrong thing to the wrong person, they start giving it to you a little bit, you give it back, you see that they’re a couple years older but they’re still great guys. It helps with that.
RB: Who are some of the practical jokers on the team, and what pranks do they pull?
LF: (Francis) Pare, even when he’s not in the joke, he finds a way to get in on it. Just little things like putting water in a guy’s shin pad so when he pulls it down he gets soaked. The best ones are the ones where the guy does it to himself and doesn’t even know it, and someone clues in and tells someone else, and it just builds. It’s really not that funny (at first), but it turns into something hilarious.
RB: You mentioned living with Ehrhardt and having veterans on the team has helped you adjust, helped you know where to go and stuff, what is there to do in the city, what do you do on your downtime?
LF: When we can get ourselves off the couch (laughs), it’s pretty tiring. You come to the rink, you’re done by 12:30, 1 o’clock every day, you go grab lunch and kind of relax for a bit. Me and Ehrhardt and (Griffins goaltender Thomas) McCollum, we go bowling a lot, kill time, get away from hockey and give us something else (to do). I’ve seen probably every movie that’s come out this year, and over the last five years in junior too, even the ones you know aren’t going to be good you see them anyway (laughs). You’ve got nothing else to do, you kind of hang around, go hang out at a restaurant with the guys and BS around, it makes it fun to be around guys.
RB: Getting back to hockey, I know (Red Wings general manager) Ken Holland was here today, (Wings director of player development) Jiri Fischer is here a lot, how do they like your progress in your first year as a pro?
LF: I’m pretty sure they’re happy with how it’s gone so far. The beginning was rough. It’s a big transition going from playing against 16 to 20-year-olds to playing against men, so the biggest thing for me is just to move my feet. Win my puck battles on the board is something they’ve talked to me about for the last four years. That comes with strength, being more confident in your ability to stay on the puck, hold on to it until a play develops. That’s probably the biggest thing they’ve harped on me for.
RB: You mentioned traveling around playing in junior, what’s the travel schedule like? Is it hard?
LF: When we were in Red Deer (Alberta), it’s harder than here. You’re on the road, you do your big swings out east. When we were in Red Deer, we had big swings out east and out west, we were kind of in the middle. When I was in Everett (Washington), we had our eastern swing and you’re going to Brandon (Manitoba) and stuff like that, and PG (the Prince George Cougars, in British Columbia) are in our conference you go up there and that’s like -
RB: (Laughs) a couple hours on the bus?
LF: – (laughs) yeah, like a 12 hour bus ride and you’re playing the next night and the night after then you’re coming right home. We had one (road trip) where we went up to PG and played Friday, Saturday then we played Monday in Portland. I think that’s like a 15, 16 hour (bus ride). That’s the best part about the Western League, especially with a 72 game schedule.
RB: It’s a grind.
LF: It’s a grind, and it teaches you how to take care of your body and to make sure you’re ready for for pro hockey when it comes.
RB: How do you prepare your body? What’s your gym routine like.
LF: For me, I have to make sure I keep my strength, I’m doing squats and cleans and stuff like that, but for me I have to do shorter quicker reps, more powerful stuff I can’t do.
RB: More explosive?
LF: Yeah, I can’t do a ton, too much cardio. Obviously I have to stay in shape but weight is a big problem for me. I have to make sure what I have (Landon looks down at his arms), what little I have on me. So, I’ve got to be careful about doing too much but you have to make sure you’re keeping your strength. My speed is my biggest asset so I have to make sure that if there is a race for the puck, I can take two strides and be able to get ahead of that D or forward that’s chasing me. Other than that, making sure you get your rest. In junior, you stay up til 1, 2 in the morning playing video games and messing around, but your body, you know I’m only 20, but when I do that (now) I can’t move, I feel like I’m 40, so you have to make sure you’re taking care of your body.
RB: You kind of walked into a question I was going to ask. The fans on Detroit Sports Nation wanted to know if you play as yourself on the NHL12 video game. Is it cool seeing yourself in the video game?
LF: It is, last year was the first year they had the junior leagues in the video game. I played more video games in junior. Ehrhardt owns the TV and he doesn’t play too many video games, so it’s hard to tell him to beat it (laughs) but I don’t play too much. I don’t even own NHL12 now, which is kind of embarrassing. It used to be my favorite game, but now it’s more Call of Duty.
RB: Last question, who was your favorite team growing up?
LF: The Maple Leafs, simply because I loved Mats Sundin, he was my favorite player growing up. This is my second year that I haven’t worn 13 (Gustav Nyquist was already wearing it for Grand Rapids when Landon arrived). I wore it for soccer, baseball and hockey. I loved watching, he was a big guy that was physical but had good hands, that’s why I was a Leafs fan.