Safe to say, Muskegon Lumberjacks head coach Mike Hamilton is thrilled that Danil Gushchin is returning to the USHL.
Originally, his leading scorer last year was set to suit up for the Niagara IceDogs in 2020-21. But with the OHL not starting until February and Muskegon’s season beginning this Friday, the San Jose Sharks prospect will kick off his year back with the Lumberjacks.
Hamilton joined the Locked on Sharks podcast — hear the entire interview below — to share some telling stories about the 2020 third-round pick’s immense confidence and work ethic.
So why does Gushchin wear No. 66? And why did the Lumberjacks buy seven more spin bikes because of him?
Hamilton, on Gushchin’s skills and “areas of opportunity” where he can grow:
Dani doesn’t cheat. He’s that guy who everyday shows up, he’s going to bring it.
He has a very sneaky shot. I wouldn’t say it’s overpowering. But it’s very deceptive. It’s hard for the goalies to read.
He’s a phenomenal passer. If you listen to any of his interviews, he loves to pass first.
But he’s way more of a goal scorer than he gives himself credit for.
Areas of opportunity are continuing to improve in the d-zone.
Two years ago, he was a defensive liability. Last year, not so. He came a long way in regards to improving in the d-zone. He has six or seven short-handed goals. He gained so much of our respect that we started using him in all scenarios, not just on the power play.
He came a long way.
Other areas of opportunity for him are having a better active stick, making better reads in that regard.
He’s that guy, when we’re watching video, I’ll see it as a 50-50 play. He’ll see it as an 80-20.
That’s where he’s continued to grow as a player, figuring out how to keep the game a little more in front of him, being less risky.
Our goals for him, how does he slow it down a little bit? Which is funny to say because most Europeans are east-west, he’s really north-south. We’re adding more of that east-west dynamic to his game. A little more delay.
Hamilton, on Gushchin wearing No. 66 while wearing Muskegon’s Penguins-like jersey:
(laughs) He came over three years ago now, he got to pick what number he’s going to be wearing at that time. We were just getting new uniforms.
I don’t know what the reference to that one is. It’s something that he chose and now he’s stuck with.
Hamilton, on if Gushchin wearing No. 66 shows his confidence:
Absolutely. Well, Dani is kind of his own. He’s learned from a lot of different guys. He’s got different people who have lended certain aspects to his game.
Hamilton, on if the 18-year-old is aware of Mario Lemieux’s place in hockey history:
Hamilton, on why he selected Gushchin as an alternate captain last year:
He’s the first one to the rink and the last one to leave. If anything, we had to monitor that.
He’s very professional in how he takes care of himself. For our guys, that was infectious. It just built and grew throughout our locker room.
Next thing you know, we went from having three spin bikes — we had guys waiting — so we have to get more. Now we got 10 of them sitting outside of our locker room because of Danil Gushchin.
It wasn’t just his hockey, it was how hard he works off the ice as well.
Kyle and Erik are joined by Sheng Peng from San Jose Hockey Now to chat with Muskegon Lumberjacks head coach Mike Hamilton about San Jose Sharks prospect Danil Gushchin. We dig into Gushchin’s return to Muskegon, why he wears Mario Lemieux’s number (5:30), what he’s missing in his defensive zone play (10:00), and why he uses a shorter stick (15:00). We also discuss the partnership between NHL teams, drafted players, and their Junior teams (17:00). Check out the podcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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