Jeff Zatkoff interview

Here another great interview from Don Fulton, with Jeff Zatkoff:

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Jeff Zatkoff, the long and lanky netminder recently signed to a three year entry level contract with the Kings, is thrilled to be part of the team’s goaltending plans for the future. The 20-year old played for Miami (Ohio) University for three seasons and compiled a 55-21-5 record for the Redhawks, including two difficult overtime losses in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Zatkoff, 6-3, 170 pounds, comes from an athletic family, his father Jeff played basketball for Eastern Michigan and was drafted by the Indiana Pacers, and his grandfather Roger played in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions.

The Kings’ third round selection (number 74 overall) in the 2006 draft, was recently named co-MVP for the Redhawks for this season, which saw him go 27-8-1, with a 1.72 goals against and .933 save percentage.

Zatkoff, who is currently with the Manchester Monarchs, took a few minutes to discuss his past, present and future in hockey.

Q&A: Jeff Zatkoff

Question: Congratulations on being named co-MVP for a great season with Miami. That has to be a special honor.

Zatkoff: I actually just saw that yesterday too. Obviously it is great honor since it is voted on by my teammates. It is something I am going to cherish, but at the same time we had a great team this year and I think about the biggest thing about the team in Miami is that someone always stepped up when we needed them to, and it was always someone different because we had so much depth.

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Question: How did things go for you personally during the regular season?

Zatkoff: From a statistical point of view I was very happy. I worked extremely hard at a few camps we had, working on my style and my stance and that helped me a lot in terms of this year just being bigger. We had a good team this year and I think we did a good job of keeping the shots coming from the outside and not giving up too many chances. Any time you give up a lot of outside shots it allows the goalie to get into a bit of a groove.

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Question: The scouting reports talk about the big part of your game being your athleticism. Is that a fair assessment?

Zatkoff: I would say so. I come from a pretty athletic family too, so I’m fortunate. I’m a butterfly goalie, but at the same time I don’t like to stay strictly butterfly. I like to watch the puck and use my athleticism.

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Question: What are the biggest areas of improvement that you see in your game over the last 12 months?

Zatkoff: For me it has really just been my confidence. My stance too, from my freshman year to now if you look at my stance it is completely different. I’m a lot more upright and I’m trying to use my size a lot more to my advantage, and it worked for me and gave me confidence.

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Question: Talk about how you read a rush and if that is something that comes naturally or takes time to develop.

Zatkoff: A little bit of it is natural, but most of it I have had to learn. When I first got to school I was strictly focusing on the puck and it cost me a couple of times. Over the next few years I was able to have much better ice awareness and take the time to see the play evolve, and know what hand the shooter is and use it to my advantage.

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Question: You had two disappointing overtime games in the NCAA tournament.

Zatkoff: The first game was against Air Force and they are a great team. We got off to a fast start, but they just kept battling and we scored a late goal in the third to force overtime. Against BC we actually played well and were up 2-0, but we ended up having some lapses toward the end of the second period which ended up costing us. We were down 3-2 at the send of the second, but I thought our team showed a lot of character and we battled back to make it 3-3 and force overtime again. I thought we really controlled the overtime, but it was one of those things where they come down on a 3-on-2 rush and a guy took a shot and another was able to dive and knock in the rebound.

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Question: How difficult was the decision to forego your last year of eligibility at Miami and go pro?

Zatkoff: It was a choice of lifestyle and deciding if I was ready to compete at the next level. It’s tough leaving all of your friends back home at school, but at the same time if this is what you want to do as a career you are going to have to move on. I thought the opportunity was there for me and I thought that I had proved at the college level everything that I had to prove and I was ready for the next step for my career.

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Question: Did you sit down with family to make that decision?

Zatkoff: I definitely didn’t make the decision on my own. I sat down and I talked with my family and they were completely supportive. I talked to my agent and I talked to my coaches at Miami along with the staff in Los Angeles, so I got information from all sides. But at the end of the day it was my decision.

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Question: How exciting was it for you to ultimately sign the three year deal?

Zatkoff: It is definitely exciting, and it is something, that when you are signing you realize that this is it. It is something I have always dreamed of and this is just the start of the dream coming true. I know there is a lot of work still to do, but I’m one step closer.

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Question: How has it been practicing and being around the guys in Manchester?

Zatkoff: It has been nice. They sent me to Manchester to just kind of get a feel for the game at the next level and kind of adjust to the speed. The first day was a little different just getting used to the faster skaters and the speed of the game, but after a few days I think it has kind of settled in and I think it’s just one of those things where you adapt to the level where you are playing. It’s faster and the players are better, but you start to adapt to it. It has been a tremendous experience thus far and the guys have been great.

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Question: Is the speed the may difference going from the college to the pro game?

Zatkoff: I would say it really is the speed. If you are a goaltender you really have to be able to read the plays and be able to get from Point A to Point B a lot faster and get set. Also, the shots come in a lot quicker. It’s not how hard they are, but rather has fast they release off the sticks.

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Question: Has it been pretty cool hanging around with Bernier and Quick?

Zatkoff: It has. They are both great guys. I had met them both a couple of times at the development camps, but to be here for a few weeks and just get to hang out with them has been a great experience.

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Question: Has the organization given you any indication of what its plan is for you in the foreseeable future?

Zatkoff: It is probably a little premature for that. Just to work hard this summer and when it comes to training camp just see who is going to perform, and that is up to us.

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Question: You have to feel pretty good that you are a part of the Kings’ long term plans.

Zatkoff: Exactly. They have some great goaltenders here which makes for some very healthy competition, and hopefully we can just push one another.

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Question: Are you planning to return to Miami and finish your Business degree?

Zatkoff: Oh definitely. If I have to go back for summers or do some online classes I will definitely get it done because I would be disappointed if I didn’t finish my studies.

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  • Anonymous

    Wow, sounds like a hell of a kid. Bright, honest, excited, a solid person. I always liked his play, but this just makes his selection and signing that much better…

  • PolarBearOne

    Great interview. I can’t wait for the next camp just to see all the goaltenders compete.

  • BallPointHammer

    Thanks again for all these interesting and informative interviews. I think our goaltending issues will soon be a thing of the past.

  • Daniel

    “…keeping the shots coming from the outside and not giving up too many chances. Any time you give up a lot of outside shots it allows the goalie to get into a bit of a groove.”

    Sounds like he should be coaching the Kings.

  • Moondoggie

    Don, thanx again for another excellent interview.

    BallPointHammer – Exactly. It’s early but it looks like our goaltending woes may just be a thing of the past…..Looking forward to the next season and beyond.

  • Reaper

    Hey Rich, can you or Don ask Dean what his thoughts are on Constantin Braun and his switch to defense over in the DEL? His team, Berlin, won the DEL title 2 days ago with Braun scoring 10 points(3g,7a) in 14 playoff games. He needs to be signed soon to have his rights retained and it didn’t seem to likely since he wasn’t cutting it as a forward. But in the veteran heavy DEL, he seems to have found his niche on D. All the more impressive since young players have a hard time getting playing time in the DEL. Obviously the Kings are lacking young NHL ready defenders. Maybe he could be the Kings very own utility player ala Christoph Schubert?

  • Anonymous

    From a fan of Miami, our loss is definitely your gain! Zatkoff is a great kid with a tremendous work ethic. He will be a great addition to the Kings family.

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