Zach Dean is exactly where he belongs. The proud Newfoundlander has faced his fair share of adversity over the past few years. From battling the uncertainties of playing during the pandemic to serious injuries, Zach Dean has confronted the hard times with the same tenacity, intensity and drive as he does on the ice.
From Mount Pearl, to Gatineau, back to Halifax and Moncton for the World Junior’s, Zach Dean is exactly where he belongs.
I caught up with Zach after Canada’s drubbing of Slovakia on December 21st during pre tournament action at the Avenir Centre.
CE: Players always talk about playing to their identity, how do you see yourself fitting in at this level at this time in your career, and how important is it for your to contribute with the all QMJHL line?
ZD: “Yeah, I knew coming into the tournament, what role I was going to play on the team. Obviously, we have some great guys upfront. The top two lines, you have a couple guys coming back from the NHL.”
“You know it’s the way I play back in junior, with that little bit of that grit, intense and compete.”
“Coming in, I was just trying to play my game, and that’s what I’m doing here.”
CE: How much pressure do you feel right now, and how does the team feel heading into the tournament, is it more exciting and how do balance that pressure?
ZD: “I think right now there’s a lot of excitement, and I think around the room, everyone wants to get the tournament going.”
“I think we are feeling pretty good, and we are just trying to get prepared now with these games and practices and we are excited to get to Halifax.”
“We are taking it day by day, but we are excited to get things started next week.”
CE: Energy line or momentum line, but you guys can score goals as well, how important is that for a team like this with so much depth and to play in every situation, you know like Roy, Gaucher and yourself all leaders with your respective Q teams how important is that aspect?
ZD: “We do it with our club teams, so we can do it here as well, obviously, when you find yourself getting into games and shutting down their top lines, and like you said we can get out there and score goals as well, and make plays.”
“We last with that grit or that forecheck style, get in there and put pucks behind their D, and I think that’s working for us, when we play close, tight, and connected, it’s working presently and I think we just need to keep doing that.”
CE: “What have you learn as a player and person over the last three seasons in the Q, obviously there’s been some ups and downs, what have your learned the most?
ZD: “I think as a player, obviously there was a lot stuff, you know there was a lot of stuff with my first year and then my draft year with the COVID, and when you get a chance to go play with some NHL guys, you kind of realize going in that you can’t play the same way, it’s tough for everyone, I think that’s something big I realized and kind of turned my game around to play a more two-hundred foot game and I think it’s working out great and having success here and back in Gatineau this year and try to bring into wherever I am next year.”
CE: How is this experience at the World Juniors going to help you going back to Gatineau and obviously loading up for what might be a long playoff run towards a President Cup and potentially a Memorial Cup?
ZD: “For me it’s an amazing experience, not a lot of kids get to experience this, so I’m trying to take it in, and try to learn from the guys, there’s a lot of guys like Wrighter, Bedard, and Guenther, they are amazing players with Wrighter and Dylan coming back from the NHL, its really cool because you can learn from them.”
“You know I’ve played with and against them before, you can ask them a lot of questions, I know them on a personal level, we have a lot of great guys and going through the tournament seeing what it takes to win with this group and try to bring that back to our team in Gatineau.”
CE: Did you ever imagine growing up in Newfoundland, that you would ever find yourself in this situation playing at the World Juniors?
ZD: “Yeah, when you’re small, and you’re watching it, obviously you think about it, and at that time it would be so cool to play, but it’s hard to explain, but you don’t actually think you will be there when you’re watching and stuff like that, but being here now is weird, but I was really exciting when I knew I made the team.”
“I’m really excited to start the tournament.”
CE: Is your family going to be able to make the trip over?
ZD: “Yeah, they are going to be there, I’m really excited for that, I think they are going to arrive a couple of days before the event, it’s going to be good to see them, they are super pumped.”
Great article Craig!
Another inspiring story!
Thank you Andre!