JJ Piccinich has had a good year to say the least. After a disappointing post-draft season with Boston University where he struggled to get ice time on a deep BU team, he made the jump to the OHL to join the London Knights and be part of arguably one of the best junior teams on the continent.
"It's been a really fun year. We're winning a bunch which is awesome. You know, there's a lot of individual success in the locker room, but now we're having team success, which is awesome too."
Asked whether or not he's been happy with the progress he's made this season, Piccinich is emphatic: "Absolutely."
So what has he been working on?
"My skating is one of the things I do love to work on, and probably one of the things I've been told to work on the most," he said after London's third straight win over the Erie Otters.
"At development camps [Barb Underhill] she has a lot of advice that we work on throughout the year, and [the Leafs] come down here and help us out, so it's been really good."
He says that Leafs staff come down to London periodically to lend a hand in skills development. "They kind of give us our space in the playoffs, because, you know, it's the playoffs, but it's awesome to see that they come down here and they really do care about each and every one of their draft picks."
Piccinich, according to Hockey's Future, has "the skill set and demeanor of a prototypical two-way forward." And this was on full display last night in all three zones, but particularly in the offensive zone, where his line found success playing a cycle game.
"We just love to work," he said. "I mean, we love making the little plays along the boards that enable us to make those plays down low and you know, make smart plays with the puck. It's playoff hockey and we're all just playing together."
Defensively, Piccinich contributed well in last night's game, breaking up several passes while remaining active as the weak-side winger.
"[Staying in lanes] is also a part of our system, what they tell us to do ... I love having a good stick, it's something I work on in practice, and along with [coaches] helping me be in the right spot, it all comes together."
Asked if there is one thing he always tries to keep in mind while playing without the puck in the defensive zone, he answered quickly.
"Always look behind you. You've got to have eyes on the back of your head."