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Catton uses smarts (and woodworking skill) to shoot up NHL draft lists


Among the top prospects available in the NHL draft, no one produced as many points as Berkly Catton. The Spokane Chiefs centre scored 54 goals and added 62 assists during a breakout season in the Western Hockey League. 

"My ability to shoot the puck definitely got better this year," the 18-year-old from Saskatoon, Sask. explained. "Last year I had 20-something goals [23] and I more than doubled that. I kind of lived in my backyard shooting pucks and wanted to grow that part of my game. I did that and it also helped the point total a lot because I was getting pucks on net and then someone bangs it in. I did a better job of directing pucks towards the net."
As he set about improving his shot last summer, Catton found the shooter tutor that teams often use in practice in lieu of a goalie to be insufficient.

"There's so much of the net covered," he said. "I feel like in a real game it's not like that. There's little holes in goalies like under their armpits."

So, Catton actually went to work constructing his own goalie. 

"That was a three-day process," Catton recalled. "My grandpa was hating on me and didn't think I could do it, but I put it together. I see what I kind of see coming down on a goalie. I tried to replicate that with my woodworking skills and it turned out pretty good. He might not be as tall as he was, but he's still sticking together and works well."

It wasn't easy, though. The biggest challenge? 

"Making it stand up," Catton said with a chuckle. "It will stand up against a wall or whatever, but once you shoot a puck at it it falls over so I built a contraption off the crossbar with a pole that keeps it in tact. It's been working ever since."

No one can argue with the results, not even grandpa. 

Catton joined Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Connor Bedard as the only draft-eligible Canadian Hockey League players to record 50-plus goals and 115-plus points this century. 

"It's pretty cool," the 5-foot-10, 175-pound pivot said. "Those are some pretty good hockey players so for my name to be thrown into that category, it's pretty surreal."

The next surreal moment will come on Friday in Las Vegas where Catton should hear his name called early in the draft. He is No. 11 on TSN Hockey insider Bob McKenzie's latest list of top prospects, which is based on a poll of scouts. McKenzie's final rankings will be revealed on Monday. 

During a conversation with TSN, Catton explained why his hockey sense is his best asset and shared why New Jersey Devils centre Jack Hughes is the current NHL player he enjoys watching most. The following is an edited transcript of the interview. 

TSN: I understand you're a big movie guy. How many did you watch this season? 

Catton: With bus rides and nights off, I'd say 30. It's nothing crazy. I enjoy movies a lot, but I'll watch half one night and half the next night. I split them in half so I don't get as many done, but I do really enjoy watching movies. 

TSN: If there was a movie made about your draft season, what would it be called? 

Catton: Hmm, 'The Step in the Right Direction,' is what I would call it. There you go. It was a pretty good year and I grew a lot as a player. 

TSN: Who would play you? 

Catton: You know Karate Kid, in the older movie, I can't remember his name, but he's the antagonist guy and he has blonde hair. He wears the bandana. I can't remember his name, but he's who would play me. [Editor's note: He's referring to William Zabka.]

TSN: Who would be the villain? 

Catton: In my story? 

TSN: Yeah, who's your nemesis? 

Catton: Maybe a battle against myself. I'm trying to be too hard on myself or something. 

TSN: How hard are you on yourself? 

Catton: I almost sometimes see myself as a perfectionist, I guess. I always want to succeed and do well. Being hard on myself comes from that. I would say it's something that does happen, but it's nothing too crazy where I can't handle it. But I would definitely say I'm hard on myself. 

TSN: Where is your favourite spot to shoot?

Catton: This year I scored a lot on five-hole shots, even off one-timers because the goalies are sliding over and it's a pretty vulnerable spot. They're trying to reach and get spread out. And then under armpits and over pads, you know, just awkward spots. I talk to goalies all the time and goalie coaches and there are spots that goalies don't want to get shot at where they have to kind of crunch in and it's hard to hold that position. I shoot to areas like that. 

TSN: Who was the toughest real life goalie you faced this season? 

Catton: The WHL goalie of the year, [Vancouver Giant] Brett Mirwald. He's actually from Saskatoon too so I get to shoot on him a lot in the summer. He gave me a hard time a lot of the time. He's pretty compact, I would say, with keeping stuff in tight. I have to shoot on him a couple times this summer to light him up and get my confidence back (smile). 

TSN: You led the WHL in shorthanded goals with seven. What led to that success? 

Catton: Last year, as a 16-year-old, I didn't get out on the penalty kill that much, if at all. So going into this season that's something I wanted to do. In practice I asked for reps and I treated that like a game. Eventually I earned the trust of the coaches enough that they put me out in a game. Lucky enough, the first penalty kill I got put out for I scored so that always helps the process a little bit. I'm an offensive player so I'm able to flip my mind sometimes and just read the seams and where a guy's going to go if he's on the flank. I have a pretty good understanding of that and can pick pucks off. And then when I had a chance to bury it, I buried it. So, that's what happened. 

TSN: What's the best part of your game? 

Catton: My brain allows me to have the most success. Offensively, I'm able to see plays develop and then my skill-set allows me to make those plays. I would say my brain is the strongest thing. 

TSN: How did that develop? Did you watch a lot of hockey or is it just natural? 

Catton: Probably both those things. I remember when I was really young there was this kid on my team that would always pick pucks out of those little battles and he would always come out with it. I couldn't figure out how he did it so just starting from then I wanted to learn. I wanted to see how he got the puck every time and then from there it was guys in the WHL and now in the NHL, I'm just learning from people and their tendencies that seem to work. Watching lots of hockey allowed me to grow that part of my game. 

TSN: You're not the biggest guy, but you tend to win a lot of puck battles. What's the key to that? 

Catton: I have a really good skating ability and edge work, so going into a stick battle I know that's a really strong part of my game, which will allow me to maybe have an extra step on a guy to get to the puck. And then my timing when I pickpocket guys with the puck is very strong. I can maybe get on his hip one way and he leans the other and then pickpocket him there. That's just my brain and my ability. I'm trying to use everything I have to come out with the puck. I think lots of the time I do. 

TSN: Who do you like watching the most now? 

Catton: There's so many guys. I think probably the one that would stick out the most to me is Jack Hughes. He's just so ultra skilled and has such a high motor and his brain is just so good. It's really fun to watch him play.  

TSN: Have you met him? 

Catton: Actually, I went down there to the Hughes house in Michigan and hung out with Quinn, Luke and Jack for a little bit. Being down there and meeting those guys was pretty cool. That was right before my 16-year-old year in the Western League. CAA, my agency, also represents the Hughes boys so I got invited down there. Jimmy Hughes, their dad, and [mom] Ellen welcomed me. [Boston University Terriers forward] Macklin Celebrini, and [Prince Albert Raiders forward] Ryder Ritchie and [Medicine Hat Tigers forward] Gavin McKenna, we all stayed there. We trained in the morning. Jimmy ran us through drills, and then we did some off ice stuff in the gym, and then we would come back and hang out with all the boys and go in the pool and have a good time and talk hockey. That was a really cool experience for me. 

TSN: What was the most memorable moment? 

Catton: I remember me and Quinn were inside the garage. They have a shooting area there and he had this new truck. I was like, 'I don't want to sauce towards your new truck. I'm not risking that.' He's like, 'OK.' And he went into the garage and he sauced one, it hit the front of the pad, jumped over and hit his new truck. He just kind of looked at it and wiped it off. So, that was pretty funny. Just being able to be there and with, ultimately, one of the best players in the world, and with all those guys, it was really cool.  

TSN: You started the season with a bang by captaining Team Canada to a gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. You led the tournament in scoring with eight goals and two assists. What did that do for you?  

Catton: My shot had improved and that was the first tournament where I scored more goals than I assisted on so that gave me confidence going into the season. Playing with the best players my age in all of Canada and building that team and being with them, I was really able to showcase myself well in that tournament. It gave me lots of confidence going into the season.

TSN: You wear a letter already in Spokane as an alternate captain. TSN director of scouting Craig Button says you will probably be a captain one day in the NHL. What makes you a good leader? 

Catton: Leadership by example, I would say. I look at those short-term events with Hockey Canada, at the under-17 level and the Hlinka I was named the captain, and that shows when I'm there I mean business. I go on the ice and drive the practice and have a professional approach. 

TSN: You actually dropped the gloves with good friend and fellow top prospect Tij Iginla of the Kelowna Rockets this season. What happened? 

Catton: We're just two really competitive guys. We had played in Kelowna a couple games before that and there was a similar scrum at the end of the game and a fight didn't end up happening. We both played pretty well that game with the fight. The lights were going crazy because of the empty-net goal and we won and then, all the sudden, in almost like a flash, we both just knew it was going to happen. I guess maybe it was from the last game or something, I don't know, but we just dropped 'em. I got a couple good ones off and he ultimately capped it off with one off my right eye and took me down. But that was pretty fun. 

TSN: You ended up with a black eye and couldn't see well the next day when you played another game. How did you manage that?

Catton: Yeah, my winger on the right side probably wasn't getting too many passes (smile). I couldn't really see him too well. That was maybe a little dumb, but that's kind of the way I am. I want to play through things. That was tough definitely but it got better quick. It wasn't too bad. 

TSN: With the draft a few days away now, what excites you the most about going to Vegas?  

Catton: Well obviously the Sphere is going to be pretty surreal just from what I've heard about it. The biggest thing for me will just be all the family and friends there. It will be so cool to see everyone and enjoy it with them. Back in Spokane they're having a little watch party there. Obviously here there will be people supporting me all throughout Saskatoon. I'm just really excited to show all the people that have helped me along the way that it is was worth it and then, after that, move forward with that team and kind of restart in a sense. 

TSN: When do you think you'll be picked? 

Catton: Like, I've heard everything, honestly. I'm one of those guys that could go pretty much anywhere. I'm thinking in that five-to-13 range, if I had to put a guess on it.  

TSN: What song did you pick to play when you get drafted?

Catton: It's called 'The Last Saskatchewan Pirate.' I don't know if you've ever heard it before, it's kind of big here. It's not jazz, but it's pretty upbeat. It's a pretty fun song. It will be cool because it mentions Saskatoon and that's why I picked it. 

TSN: What's it mean to represent Saskatchewan? 

Catton: It's so awesome. Like, I just absolutely love it here. These past couple years there's been so many guys come through and having success. I skated with Flames' Connor Zary about an hour ago. Just being around these guys all the time and having such a good environment here, it's very cool. We all workout together, train together and hang out together. I absolutely love it here, and in the years to come there's going to be way more guys.