KOSICE Ė Heís the youngest player at the World Championship, and after playing his first NHL season as the youngest player in the league, Jeff Skinner is a Calder Trophy finalist. Apart from being young, though, heís also very talented.
Skinner took time out during Team Canadaís off day to field questions from fans around the world. Here are the entertaining results.
Fabien Choquel, Lille, France: In one year, you've been drafted by the Hurricanes, participated in the All-Star Game, and been invited to play for Canada in the World Championship. What is the accomplishment that you are the most proud of?
Itís tough to narrow it down. You put them all together. I think Iíll have a chance to reflect on everything this summer, but theyíre each special in their own way. Obviously, the draft was special, and being able to share that with my family. The All-Star Game in Raleigh was unbelievable. Being here [in Slovakia] is a huge honour. I think every Canadian kid dreams of playing for the national team.
Vladimir Gradskov, Russia: When you and the Carolina Hurricanes came over to play SKA St. Petersburg, the Russian fans and media were very impressed with your play. What did you think of your KHL opposition? How would SKA do if they played in the NHL? Would you like to see more NHL teams play KHL teams?
I thought they were a good team. I think they were a fast team. It was an adjustment for us to come over and play on the big ice, which weíre not used to. But they played well. You canít really tell how theyíd do against NHL teams based on one game.
Nicolas Didelot, Tarbes, France: You were in Paris two weeks ago and played in a full arena. What do you think about the development of ice hockey in new countries which are starting to produce good results (i.e., Norway, France, Denmark)?
Itís great to see the growth of the game. You come to these tournaments and every team is competitive. You couldnít necessarily say that when I was growing up watching games. Itís great that every game is close and really exciting to watch.
Christophe Barros, Lorient, France: Do you have any role models? Who did you most admire as a kid?
Outside of my family, I always watched the NHL. For me, growing up in Toronto, I watched Mats Sundin play for a long time. He was pretty cool. Post-lockout I watched all of the young stars come into the league, guys like Crosby, Toews, those guys. My family has had the biggest influence on my life.
Margann Laurissa, Kingston, Ontario, Canada: What do you miss the most about living in Kitchener and playing junior hockey now that you are in Carolina playing in the NHL?
What makes junior hockey so fun is playing with your friends, not to say Iím not friends with the guys in Carolina, but itís just so cool to go to school with guys and then after school you go to the rink together and then you play on a Friday night in a packed building with your friends in high school. Itís different in Carolina where I make a lot of friends but theyíre not in the same age group.
Alexander, St. Petersburg, Russia: Are you looking forward to playing against your Carolina teammate Tuomo Ruutu in a game against Finland at this World Championship?
Well, yes and no. I mean, heís a tough player to play against, so Iím not looking forward in that sense, but heís been doing well over here.
Chelsea Alder, Markham, Ontario: If you got the chance to play on the same team as any current or retired hockey player, who would you chose?
Thatís a good one... There so many good ones. If you think about the retired ones like Steve Yzerman, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux. Mats Sundin would be cool just because I grew up watching him in Toronto. It would be pretty cool to play with him.
Cassandra Hickey, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States: What do you like most about living in Raleigh?
There are a bunch of cool places. My favourite thing is just hanging out with the guys. We all live in the same apartment building, so itís easy to get together with the young guys. The weather is also one of my favourite things, and the people are so friendly. Itís a very laid back community. Itís a fun place to live.
Ashley Holland, Wake Forrest, North Carolina, United States: We all know that North Carolina fans are crazy. What's the funniest thing that a fan has done to get your attention?
There have been a couple of signs, like the ones asking me to the prom. Those are kind of weird for me, coming out of high school and then on draft day last year it was my prom night. Itís kind of weird getting asked to the prom.
Joanna Smith, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada: What made you choose to focus on hockey instead of figure skating?
I like them both. I always followed hockey, and I grew up in Toronto, so you canít help but getting caught up in the Maple Leafs. I enjoyed hockey more, being part of a team, being with the guys.
Donna Smith, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: What level did you get to in figure skating? Where?
I was in juvenile men singles. I came third in the nationals. I was at the York Region Skating Academy in Richmond Hill.
Brenda Herrera, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: How does it feel like being the youngest player at this year's World Championship?
Itís cool. Itís nice that there are other young guys on the team who can take the heat off me a little bit. Itís fun.