Don tracked down prospect Alec Martinez, a defenseman who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings, for an interview. The Kings think highly of Martinez, who was a fourth-round draft pick out of Miami (Ohio) University last year. Martinez’s hockeydb.com profile gives his college stats. Enjoy the interview…
A fourth-round pick for the Kings last year, 20-year-old defenseman Alec Martinez recently signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings and is a likely candidate to play on the blue line for Manchester next season.
Martinez, who was recently recognized by the Central Collegiate Hockey Association as the Best Defensive Defenseman for his 2008 season with Miami (Ohio), took a few minutes to discuss his development as a player.
Q&A: Alec Martinez
Question: Had did your game progress this last season with Miami?
Martinez: I think the extra year of experience helped me to build that confidence, and just more experience like that can help any player’s confidence. I think I was able to fine tune certain aspects of my defensive game and also improve offensively as well. Overall I’d say it was mainly a confidence-building year and it benefited me a lot.
Question: I see you are listed at 6-1, 207. Is that accurate?
Martinez: Yeah, that is correct, and hopefully a few more pounds during the off season.
Question: I have to think the added weight lends extra strength to your game.
Martinez: Right. Obviously strength is a huge part of your game, especially when you get older and start playing against older guys. I worked pretty hard in the weight room and off the ice to get quicker and stronger because obviously that translates, especially in today’s game.
Question: I’m assuming the added weight won’t impede your strong, smooth skating ability. Is that an area of your game that you had to work hard at?
Martinez: Growing up I took lessons with a power skater and I enjoyed going, but it was really one of those things where you say, ‘Ma, do I really have to go?’ But my parents continued to give me the opportunity to have that and I think that is really where my skating style developed and I am thankful every day that I did that, because in today’s game you really need to be a good skater, especially as a defenseman.
Question: Great-skating defensemen are usually looked at as offensive-minded guys, but your game seems to have a lot of balance between defending and pushing it up the ice.
Martinez: Bottom line is that you have to take care of your own end first, at least that’s my take on it. I take care of the defensive zone and if the opportunity presents itself to jump into the offensive play or join the rush, I’ll take it, but ultimately as a defenseman you need to take care of your own zone.
Question: And you were rewarded for that mentality and play as the CCHA’s Defensive Defenseman of the Year. Congratulations.
Martinez: It was really exciting and nice to be recognized for some hard work and it is a nice thing to have from an individual standpoint, but I just care so much more for the team as a whole. Ultimately I was blessed to have great D partners and we had a very strong defensive core. It was also good knowing that if I made a mistake back there that Jeff Zatkoff had my back.
Question: I have to think at the college level you really develop some close relationships which translates to trust on the ice.
Martinez: Yeah, and Jeff and I have known each other for quite a long time. We played together in high school in Michigan and at the time we lived only a half an hour apart, and then when we went to juniors we played against each other. Then we lived together our freshman and sophomore years. We’re really good friends and we talk all the time.
Question: Have you always been a defenseman?
Martinez: I started out as a forward, but I think I moved back to defense when I was a Squirt, like when I was 8 or 9-years-old, I think – all those years just start to run together (laughs). I became a defenseman around that time and I stuck with it.
Question: Is there any aspect of playing defense that you dread, like blocking shots or clearing the crease?
Martinez: I don’t think there is necessarily any one part of the game that I dread. That is kind of a tough question because I love the game of hockey so much. I don’t mind blocking shots because it is something that will help the team and win a game and I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I certainly don’t enjoy conditioning (laughs).
Question: Tell me a little bit about the NCAA Tournament. Both games went to OT.
Martinez: The NCAA tournament is very interesting because it is one and done, so it really puts the pressure on that single game because you lose and go home which is unique. It is definitely different but a valuable learning experience. As a player in your career you are going to encounter times when you have to win or your season is over, so this was a pretty good experience and something that I can look at down the road.
Question: Tell me about your overtime game-winner against Notre Dame in the CCHA tournament.
Martinez: It was a pretty wild game. Notre Dame was a great team. Everyone on that team knew their role and they did it so well. When you have everyone doing what they are supposed to do night in and night out you are going to be pretty successful, and their style of play is like a well-oiled machine. It was a back and forth game, really a goaltending war and then in the third period they were able to put one in and give us a kick in the rear. Then we got a wild one at the end of the game with just three seconds left. It was just a battle. To score that goal in overtime was just a great experience. It was a bit of a broken play off the wall and the puck came out to me at the point. I was just really looking to get the shot through and I knew there was traffic in front of the net. I was just fortunate that it went in. And it was great because I was able to do it in front of a lot of family and friends, and because it was on TV, a lot of my buddies who weren’t able to go were able to watch it.
Question: Have you sat down to watch a replay of the game yet?
Martinez: I’ve seen the goal a couple of times, but I haven’t actually sat down to watch the game. I probably won’t watch the Michigan game that we lost the following night.
Question: The game against Michigan was obviously a tight one. Those 2-1 losses are killer.
Martinez: Michigan was such a good team with a potent offense. It was a tough loss because we had a couple of opportunities to bury some chances and we didn’t. Sometimes things just don’t bounce your way, not to take anything away from Michigan because they took advantage of their chances. It was disappointing, and as much as you want to win you sometimes have to learn from losing.
Question: Obviously the big news for you recently was signing your contract with the Kings.
Martinez: It’s an amazing experience, but it was also a tough decision for me because I am leaving a place I love, where I’ve played for three years. At the same time though, I tried to weigh all of my options and just make the best decision for myself. You always dream about it ever since you are a kid and for it to happen is pretty amazing. It has kind of settled in now, it didn’t for a while. It was a pretty wild process too with me being all the way out in Oxford, Ohio and having to work with all of the logistics. I am very excited to be a part of the organization and it is a dream come true. But I’m not there yet and I know I have a lot of hard work to do.