Left-winger Nick Sorkin was ranked 128th amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting Service in its final rankings for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. However, he went undrafted, despite starring for Team Maryland at the midget major ranks and tearing up the Maryland high school circuit with Bullis Prep and despite having committed to the respected University of New Hampshire last February. Even with those accomplishments, the question still remained: how would Sorkin do facing high-end competition night-in and night-out?
That question is being answered in 2009-10, and the initial returns are quite positive. After 15 games with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, Sorkin had a respectable 4 goals and 8 assists and had established himself as a top-six forward. The Maryland native had also earned selection to Team USA for the World Junior A Challenge, where he helped the team take the gold medal in early November. To top it off, Sorkin's done the above despite still needing to add significant mass to his 6-foot-2.5, 166-pound frame. Which begs the question, how good will Sorkin be down the road when he has more experience against top competition and he fills out?
McKeen's correspondent Kevin Wey had the opportunity to talk to with Nick Sorkin after a late-November away game and discussed his playing for Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge, his adjustment to the USHL, his hockey back in Maryland, his commitment with the Wildcats, and his favorite NHLers (think Capitals).
McKeen's: We'll start with a fairly positive note for you, earlier this month you played for Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge, winning a gold medal. Going back to the beginning of that whole thing, tell me about how you learned you were on the team, who told you, and your reaction.
Sorkin: Well, I came to practice one day and my coach, P.K. [O'Handley], called me into his office. It was actually when we were making a lot of trades so, I was kind of a little nervous. But, he said, "You've been invited to play with the national team." And, obviously, that's a great honor, to play for your country, and even better that we won gold.
McKeen's: You had last year's team to live up to.
Sorkin: Yeah, exactly.
McKeen's: What were your initial impressions of the pace and the style of play at the World Junior A Challenge and how it compared to the USHL?
Sorkin: First thing I realized was it was probably a lot more skilled game, not as much hitting, not as much physicality, and it was a little faster-paced. But, the USHL is a great place to play, to get used to that level.
McKeen's: What did coach [Mark] Carlson tell you after the first game, with losing the lead and then the shootout loss?
Sorkin: He just said a lot of good things, so we were going to take that away from it. You don't win or lose the tournament in one game, so just come back the next day and do our best, and that's what we did, and we were pretty successful.
McKeen's: Similar thing happened the previous year, they lost to Germany in the first game, but they turned it around. Maybe if they keep bringing back coach Carlson, it'll keep happening, they'll keep winning. Anyway, what was the one moment from the World Junior A Challenge that you'll remember the most?
Sorkin: Probably our national anthem with the gold medals and our flag being raised. That was a pretty good experience. All the guys, we grew together as a team, so it really meant a lot.
McKeen's: Not a lot of people get to experience that during their lifetime.
McKeen's: What was your role on Team USA at the tournament and who were your linemates?
Sorkin: My linemates were Chris Crane and Connor Brickley, and kind of rotated in a center, John Parker. We were kind of, I guess, an energy line, and just do our best, I guess.
McKeen's: I was kind of wondering when you gave me the first three of you, I was, "Who was the center, precisely?"
Sorkin: Right, right.
McKeen's: There we have it. Who were some of your Team USA teammates that impressed you the most and why?
Sorkin: I would say our captain, David Gerths. He just did everything for the team, block shots, scored, good backchecks. Another guy was Shane Berschbach. A smaller guy, but he still produced, had a lot of points. And then Jeff Costello, one of our assistant captains, who just pretty much did everything. He scored, hit, agitated, stuff like that.
McKeen's: That's Jeff's game and you'll get more of it tomorrow night. With Gerths, it looked like he missed a game going by the stats. What did he miss the one game with?
Sorkin: (Quizzical look on his face) Oh, no.
McKeen's: Oh, was that an error in the stats?
Sorkin: Yeah, I think so. I'm pretty sure he played all of them.
McKeen's: He'd have to be almost dead not to play, knowing how Gerths plays.
Sorkin: Right, right. Yep.
McKeen's: With the USHL, what are your initial impressions of the league?
Sorkin: It's actually a dream come true. You always strive for playing in the best junior league in the nation. It's lived up to my expectations, and a lot more. Great teams, great players, great crowds. It's like playing professional, and it's a lot of fun.
McKeen's: What have been the biggest adjustments for you?
Sorkin: Definitely the speed, physicality, things like that. You don't get the type of speed you get here at my other levels.
McKeen's: We'll be discussing those a bit later. What are the areas of your game that you feel you've improved upon the most so far and what areas are you looking to continue to concentrate on improving?
Sorkin: I believe I've improved my legs, my speed. I feel like I'm one of the faster guys, and also a little bigger, so that's like (pauses) a good duo to have. I've definitely got to just come and compete every night. I can't get knocked off the puck so easily, just because I've got to put some pounds on.
McKeen's: Sure, lower body, lower that center of gravity.
Sorkin: Just having that edge that you see a lot of these players have. I've just got to bring that every night and not take any nights off, really. Because, if you do, you're going to look bad, that's how good the play is.
McKeen's: On the other hand, what would you say, and you've touched on this a little bit, are your existing strengths as a player and, for those who have never seen you play, your style?
Sorkin: I would say my speed, for a big guy, is pretty good. Good hands. I feel like I see the ice well. I'm a pass-first guy, but that's one of the things I need to work on, is actually shooting the puck more. I've talked about that with the coaches. I guess my playmaking, as well, just pretty much do what I can to make the team win.
McKeen's: Similar to a question I had about Team USA, who are some of your Waterloo teammates that impress you the most and why?
Sorkin: I would say Brock Montpetit. He's our captain. He just goes to work every day. And J.T. Brown, who's very fast, he's a great player. My linemates, Jamie Hill, who's a New Hampshire recruit. I like playing with him. And my centerman, Patrik Dijvak, sees the ice well. Then we've got big defense that stick up for us. We made some good adds with Jimmy Siers and some of the other guys. I really like the whole team. We had a little bumpy start, but I think we're going to be fine for the end.
McKeen's: With Hill committing to UNH, you too have committed to the University of New Hampshire, and that was prior to playing the USHL, which isn't real common for a guy from Maryland and DC.
Sorkin: Right, right.
McKeen's: When did college programs start talking to you and what were the decisive factors in choosing UNH?
Sorkin: Honestly, I went through youth hockey not really getting any attention. I've really been scouted by New Hampshire in the last year. I committed last November, I think. No, maybe February. It was kind of between them and Maine. I just took my visit there (UNH) and I really liked their style of play, the coaches, the atmosphere, a nice rink, a big rink, which is good for guys who can skate. I'll probably be regretting that during practice.
McKeen's: Well, then it's good that you're at Waterloo this year (Waterloo has an Olympic ice sheet).
Sorkin: Right. Yeah, exactly. They've got the big one. Yeah. So, I just fell in love with it when I saw it.
McKeen's: You mentioned Maine, were any other programs actively recruiting you?
Sorkin: I took a tour of Northeastern and BU, and that was really it.
McKeen's: Those are good programs, though.
Sorkin: Yeah. Oh yeah. All out East.
McKeen's: Last season you played with Bullis Prep and Team Maryland. So, tell me what your weekly schedule was like last year. Did one team take priority over the other? How did that work?
Sorkin: It was definitely Team Maryland first, because that was a travel team. That was the team that kind of got me the exposure that I got. The other team was (pauses), high school hockey in Maryland probably isn't what you guys think, not like Minnesota. It's kind of kids who can't really skate, so (pauses) I kind of did well for myself in points in that. Really, I would just go from practice to practice almost every day during the Bullis season, but that was only from November to, about, February, and Team Maryland was year-round. But, it was definitely Team Maryland first, Bullis second.
McKeen's: You've also now touched on this, but compare more for me the difference in caliber of play between midgets with Team Maryland, because they're in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League, and then there's the Maryland Scholastic League.
Sorkin: Umm, the two high school leagues around my house, where I live, don't even compare at all to Team Maryland's level. Like I said before, it's kind of the kids who go through high school and want to try hockey. So, they go out for the team and a lot of them make it. Team Maryland, it's a good level, U-18 AAA. It's definitely Bullis prep league, if you call 'em prep league…
McKeen's: Right, it's not quite the same as the NEPSAC.
Sorkin: (Chuckles) Right, exactly, and then Team Maryland, and then, obviously, here.
McKeen's: When did you first start playing hockey and how did you get that start and what attracted you to the game?
Sorkin: Well, I grew up in Washington, so my dad took me to some of the Capitals game. I just fell in love with it. I probably started around six, six or seven. I would just play in the basement all the time, and then my dad was just like, "Why don't we try and skate."
McKeen's: Try the real thing.
Sorkin: Yeah. It was tough at first, but I just fell in love with it, couldn't get me off the ice.
McKeen's: What were the organizations that you skated for coming up through the youth ranks and what age with each team?
Sorkin: I played mites for Montgomery, mites and squirts. Then I went to the Washington Little Capitals, for pretty much bantams until midgets. And then midget U16, I played for Team Maryland two years, and then last year I played for Team Maryland U18, for one year.
McKeen's: I've been aware of the Little Caps for a long time, but where is Team Maryland based out of?
Sorkin: They're based out of, actually, my home, about 10 minutes from my house, in Rockville, Maryland, and Laurel, Maryland, that's the other rink we play on. The Little Caps are based out of Virginia, Kettler, where the Washington Capitals play.
McKeen's: It's a ways away, but the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will come eventually. You were ranked by CSS last year and you're on the list again this year.
McKeen's: What do you think are the things that the NHL teams are hoping to see this year to make them decide to pull the trigger?
Sorkin: I would say competing and playing at this level. I think a lot of people (pauses), I don't know this, but they kind of got a little antsy, "I don't know if he's playing against the right competition." But, this is the best league in the nation, for juniors. So, if I can produce here and play well, I should be okay, hopefully.
McKeen's: Right. I talked with Nick Jensen of Green Bay last year, he played high school in Minnesota, but he played with Rogers/Zimmerman, which was a weaker program and was in a much weaker conference. The colleges that were looking at him wanted to wait and see. It was like, "Okay. He's really good in high school, but how will he do in the USHL?" He did pretty well quickly, and, bam! Question answered. It sounds kind of like you're in a similar boat with the NHL teams.
McKeen's: It's like, "He looks good, but how will he do against top competition?"
Sorkin: I've just got to work hard every day, work out, practice, and hopefully everything comes together and I produce in games.
McKeen's: And to close it out, as I usually do, which you wouldn't be aware of…
Sorkin: Okay (chuckles).
McKeen's: … who were some of your favorite players growing up and why and some players today you'd like to equate to.
Sorkin: Growing up, I would say Peter Bondra, Dale Hunter, some Caps guys. Today, I kind of watch the NHL and try and make my game like some of the stars, like Evgeni Malkin, who's a big left-handed player who's pretty fast, so I try and watch some video of him and emulate what he does. Another guy is Dany Heatley, I really like the way he plays. And then, obviously, the guys with Washington, Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, those guys.
McKeen's: Washington's got a bright future, I think.
Sorkin: Yeah, they've got some big young guns.
McKeen's: Yeah. They've got some prospects that will continue to come in there…
McKeen's: … it's going to be good.