Vince Trocheck Winning Catch for Whalers

Feb 05, 2013 - 08:55 GMT

WHALERS THIS WEEKEND:

Friday - Barrie (33-15-0-2) at Plymouth (26-15-5-4), 7:05 pm, Compuware Arena (6:45 pm, 88.1FM WSDP; 7 pm, Comcast 900).

Saturday - Owen Sound (32-15-1-3) at Plymouth, 7:05 pm, Compuware Arena (6:45 pm, 88.1FM).

Sunday - Plymouth at Brampton, 2 pm, Powerade Centre (1:50 pm, www.plymouthwhalers.com).

At Saginaw, Vince Trocheck was team captain and dubbed “Face of the Franchise.”

With his new team, the Plymouth Whalers, he probably wouldn't mind being lost in the crowd - in one of those typical championship photos you see where players huddle on the ice in a happy mass with index fingers pointing to the rafters signifying they're “number one.”

“Absolutely, I know we're going for it and that's what I wanted to do,” said Trocheck, during a recent interview before practice at Compuware Arena. “This is possibly my last year in the OHL and I wanted to go for it and make a run. It would definitely be a lot of fun.”

The Jan. 10 trade to Plymouth for forward Zach Bratina and draft picks didn't surprise the 19-year-old Trocheck who is among scoring leaders in the OHL with 31 goals and 72 points following Saturday's 4-1 win over Peterborough at Compuware.

“I talked to the GM and coaching staff there for a bit,” Trocheck said. “They knew that there was a possibility they weren't going to be going for it and so they wanted to go for the future.

“So I gave them a list of teams and Plymouth was (included).”

Since Plymouth coach and general manager Mike Vellucci acquired Trocheck, the Florida Panthers prospect has shown that he is ready to do the heavy lifting during a potential championship push.

Trocheck tallied 22 points in his first 10 games with the Whalers, a stretch where the team won seven times. Moreover, he sparks the action with every shift.

That's especially the case when he's teamed up with forward Ryan Hartman, who recently were teammates at the World Juniors with the gold-winning US team.

“Ryan's a great hockey player,” Trocheck said. “I kind of got close to him over there at World Juniors, and since I've been here playing on the same line there's definitely some chemistry.”

Already being a teammate with Hartman enabled Trocheck to make a smooth transition to Plymouth.

“Knowing guys whenever you come over definitely helps you ease into it,” he emphasized.

Worth the wait - Vellucci knew the price tag for Trocheck was expensive. But he wanted to bring a complete player with a zest for intense competition into the fold.

“He's one of the best forwards in the league,” Vellucci said. “We've been trying to get him all this year and I feel very fortunate that we were able to make a trade for him.

“His talent is great, but it's the work ethic, the win-at-all-costs mentality, the desire to play the whole game.”

That includes skating into the corners and digging out pucks, or dropping down during a penalty kill to get in the way of a screaming slapper.

“He's a great face-off guy, he's a good penalty killer, he blocks shots,” Vellucci continued. “The scoring is great, but it's all the other little things that make teams win.”

The 6-0, 190-pounder from Pittsburgh is definitely playing much bigger than his size, too.

“What I like is, if it's a physical game he gets involved also, he's not shy of that either,” Vellucci added. “Whatever kind of game the other team wants to throw at us he can respond.”

Trocheck also exudes confidence on the ice and quiet leadership off it.

“I try to just lead by example really, go out on the ice and play as hard as I can,” Trocheck noted. “Hopefully that transfers to the other guys, (helps) make other guys on the team better.

“Off the ice, I talk in the locker room try to pick guys up and keep a positive attitude at all times.”

Team comes first - Where leadership qualities really emerge are during games such as Plymouth's 6-2 win over Sarnia on Jan. 26.

That night, Trocheck had two goals by the middle of the second period, but he repeatedly bypassed chances for a hat trick.

Instead, he put the puck on a tee for linemates.

“I don't know if he views himself as a playmaker or goal scorer.” Vellucci said. “But so far, from what we've seen he's a very unselfish player. He just wants to fit in, he doesn't have to be the guy.”

According to Trocheck, that's just in his hockey DNA.

“If the opportunity's better for the other guy than I'm going to make the pass,” he said. “If not, then I'll take the shot.”

Although Trocheck is barely 10 games into his Whalers career, the only apparent downside for the team is the likelihood he will move on to the Panthers' AHL affiliate in 2013-14.

That's down the road a little bit. For now, Trocheck is locked in to helping Plymouth win the OHL West Division — hopefully followed by postseason success.

“I think we got a real good chance,” Trocheck stressed. “When we play hard and our game, Plymouth hockey, then we're a team to be reckoned with. We can beat just about any team in the league.”

If that happens and Plymouth captures some serious playoff hardware, the ex-Spirit standout might find himself being called “face of the Whalers,” too.

MILLER GETS THE CALL: Whalers alum JT Miller has been called up by the New York Rangers from the Connecticut Whale of the Amercian Hockey League.