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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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Thanks to a strong performance at the IIHF U18 World Championship, Brennan Othmann surged up TSN's draft rankings. The Flint left winger came in 16th on the final list of prospects released this week, which was up nine spots from the mid-season list. 

"His ranking went up considerably after the U18s," noted TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, who compiled the rankings. "Othmann is a guy who can score goals and he goes to the hard areas to do it. He's one of those guys who goes to the front of the net and makes things happen. He's a guy who might, accidentally on purpose, fall on the goalie while he puts the puck in the net." 

That blend of skill and grit was on full display in Texas where Team Canada claimed its first gold medal at the under-18 event since 2013.

In Canada's first game against Sweden, Othmann took a huge hit from Victor Sjoholm at the offensive blueline to set up linemate and good friend Shane Wright for a goal. After the puck went in, the 6-foot, 175-pound Othmann tapped the Swedish defenceman on the head. 

"Shaner made a nice play to cut through the middle and I knew where he was going to be," said the 18-year-old from Pickering, Ont. "I always know where he's going to be. I chipped it there and the next thing I know I'm looking up at the lights and thinking 'What just happened?' I bounced up and, something that’s part of my game is I like to get under the skin of guys, and I just tapped him on the head and said, 'Thanks for the apple. I appreciate it. You're dash-one now.' It was kind of funny." 

It was a tone-setting moment for Othmann, who finished the tournament with three goals and three assists in seven games.

During a conversation with TSN, Othmann reflected on some of his big moments on the road to the gold medal and shared stories from his time playing on loan in Switzerland. The following is an edited transcript of the interview. 

In the rematch against Sweden in the semifinal, Wright set you up for a between-the-legs goal on the power play. What did you see?

"I did it against Belarus [but it was stopped] and Shane and I talked about it after that game. We watched the video and he said, 'If we get that chance again step out and I'm going to give it to you.' We knew exactly that we were going to do that ... We came back to the bench [after the goal] and just kind of looked at each other and started laughing and saying, 'Video helps!'"

What's the degree of difficulty on that play?

"You just have to have the confidence to do it. It's a hard job to play in front of the net with guys on the half wall who are told to shoot it. So, you have to have confidence and be there in front of the net to screen the goalie and if you get the puck down there you can't be afraid to take it to the net."

You also scored a big goal in the gold-medal game from a really tough angle. How did you know to shoot?

"Our goalie coach [Matt Weninger] put up some video before the game about the Russian goalies and we saw they were short guys. He told us, 'If you get the chance, if you're down low and coming off the wall, shoot high because he's going to drop.' I had that in the back of my mind. I got the puck from Ethan Del Mastro and I just wanted to try and drive wide and see how the play developed. The Russians did a pretty good job clogging up the middle so I said, 'You know what, I'm just going to pick the top left corner, high blocker and bury it,' and lucky enough it worked out."

You and Wright also won an OHL Cup together with the Don Mills Flyers. Why do you guys have such good chemistry? 

"Shane and I just play like each other a little bit. He's, obviously, an exceptional player. He's an unbelievable hockey player, but we think alike. Not many players can play with Shane, in my opinion. You have to read off Shane and he has to read off you and that's exactly what we do great. We know we're going to play with each other every chance we get, whenever we're on the same team, and we're probably going to be the most deadly duo in a tournament. We just seem to click. We just seem to know each other and where we are on the ice at all times."

Do you guys push each other?

"All the time. When we have skates together in the summer, we always have competitions against each other. Whenever I score, he wants to score, and whenever he scores, I want to score. We had a scoring competition and it was 8-8 and we had one more drill left and he had the last shot and he ended up scoring and I'm begging the coach, 'One more! Come on, we need one more!' And he's giving me the gears in the room and I'm like, 'If we had another one we'd be tied 9-9.'"  

Who are your NHL role models? 

"There's two guys. One guy in Winnipeg is Kyle Connor. I watch him a lot because he's very underrated. He's sneaky. He can score you 20 to 30 goals a year. He's got a great IQ for the game. He's got a great shot. He can be trusted. Another guy in Calgary is Matthew Tkachuk. I'm the type of player who likes to do what Kyle Connor does and score and make plays, but I'm also the type of guy who likes to play physical and get under the skin of guys and protect his teammates."

Where did your game grow the most during your time on loan with Olten in the Swiss second division? 

"My physical game grew the most. I knew I had a good shot and could pass and could skate, but I really wanted to be able to hit and play more physical. I thought it was cool that a 17-year-old kid was knocking over a 30-year-old guy. So, that was pretty cool and the guys on the team loved it as well so that's where my game grew. It gave me a little bit more confidence to go out and hit guys bigger than me."

You picked up seven goals and 16 points in 34 games, but also racked up 64 penalty minutes. Were you a goon in Switzerland?

"Haha, I don't know. I didn't get the Swiss rules down pat right away. In my [OHL] rookie year I only had about 30 or 32 penalty minutes and then I went to Switzerland and had 64 so I was a bit shocked. Maybe I didn't get the rules right away." 

Were they calling more stuff than the OHL referees? 

"A little bit. One penalty I got a few times was hitting late. I really didn't understand that rule and I got a penalty like that at U18s as well. That probably cost me about 10 penalty minutes. I like to hit and do it every chance I get." 

I know you have family connections to Switzerland with your dad Gery and uncle Robert playing there, but that was your first time in the country. What did you pick up? 

"They just love their cheese. As a kid, we'd always have cheese at our table and I'd always ask my dad, 'What's the deal with all this cheese?' And he said, 'Buddy, when you go to Switzerland they got cheese, they have meat, crackers on the table and you have to eat it or else it's disrespectful.' So, whenever my mom or sister or I didn’t eat the cheese, my dad would just be snacking on the cheese all night until it’s finished."

Why do you wear No. 78? 

"A couple reasons. My favourite player growing up was Sidney Crosby [who wears 87] so I reversed Crosby. Another reason is my birthday is January 5 and I didn't like 15, but seven plus eight is 15." 

What's your focus this summer? 

"I'm still working on my skating and my shot. I have a very good shot with a quick release and very accurate, but at the next level and in the NHL guys can all shoot the same and guys can skate the same and you got to get that much better."