Like the other 100-plus peers of his who are in Minnesota this week to hear their names called at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Adam Clendening has put in a lot of work over the years to see his pro hockey dreams fulfilled.
He still has a ways to go, but the defenseman who scored five goals and 26 points in 39 games as a freshman at Boston University, is excited for the next big step and wearing an NHL jersey on Friday or Saturday. Although projected as a clear-cut top-60 pick, Clendening is on the bubble for the first round and may end up being a second-round selection on the draft's second day.
B2011DW sat down with him in Toronto during the NHL Scouting Combine a few weeks ago to get some of his thoughts on his season, the combine experience and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Even though he grew up in Buffalo, he's a Bruins fan, and he proved to be a pretty good prognosticator as you will read later on.
"I think my freshman season at BU went very well overall," he said. "The team- we kind of underachieved as a group of guys, but I think we’ll come back ready next year. We have the same group of guys coming back- great guys who love to work hard. So, hopefully we can put it all together."
Like many others at the combine, Clendening had a lot of interviews jammed into three days, with the majority frontloaded Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I got into Toronto on Monday and settled in, getting ready for the busy week," he said. "The first few days were pretty much the same: Early wakeup, around 8 a.m. and the get some breakfast. Meetings all day on Tuesday- I had 10 meetings on Tuesday. Same thing on Wednesday- I had nine on Wednesday. Had a light day on Thursday- only four. Get some rest and get a little food in mw Thursday to get ready for the testing Friday. And then once testing is done, be home Friday night."
He said there wasn't much grilling for him, but did single out a couple of questions he got throughout his 23 different interviews that stood out in his mind:
"The weirdest hockey question I got asked was: What is one thing I hate about hockey? I answered that I didn’t like the wait after the morning skate- - you’re ready to go after the morning skate and you still have to wait seven or eight hours. The weirdest non-hockey question was: Would I rather read a good poem or own a gun?"
Clendening opted for the softer side and chose the poem, adding that he decided to play it safe because he didn't have strong feelings one way or the other, so to box himself into a potential by answering about the gun might open himself up to having to defend a position he wasn't committed to.
He tested well in the fitness events portion and showed that he has some power to go with a more diminutive physical package.
Although undersized by defenseman standards, Clendening is strong. He's a dedicated gym rat who reminds us a lot of Don Sweeney (minus Sweeney's outstanding wheels) in terms of a smaller guy who has the strength and athleticism to play at the next level. Clendening's vision and hockey sense are outstanding, and it is his lack of elite speed combined with the size that is really the only thing holding him back from being a first-round pick.
Chicago and Boston have showed a lot of interest in him down the stretch. Neither team is particularly positioned to take him in the opening round at nine and 18 respectively, but you never know. At 40, the Bruins could snatch him up in the second and come away with a pretty intriguing player who may end up being more than the sum of his parts.
As for his Stanley Cup pick, we talked to him the day after Boston dropped Game 1, but Clendening kept the faith.
"My favorite NHL team is the Boston Bruins. Hopefully, they do well in the Stanley Cup finals. I watched the game (Game 1) last night in the hotel room here and it was a tough loss, but Tim Thomas is playing well. They’re a deep team and I think it will go a long way, probably seven games."
The more important pick- where Clendening ends up in the NHL draft- is yet to be made, but we'll all find out soon.