By Kirk Luedeke
In the NFL Draft, the last player picked is known as “Mr. Irrelevant” and that selection comes with a small amount of fanfare.
There is no such attention paid to the equivalent last choice of the NHL Entry Draft, but if Boston Bruins prospect Zach Trotman has anything to say about it, he’ll buck the long odds to make an impact on the big club one day.
In 2010, the B’s traded their 2011 last-round pick (Swedish G Johan Mattsson) to the Stanley Cup Chicago Blackhawks for the 210th and final selection in Los Angeles, using it to grab Trotman, then a 19-year-old defender with the CCHA’s Lake Superior State Lakers. If being the last pick in the hockey draft comes with any kind of stigma, Trotman isn’t buying it.
“It’s nice not to have to be in the spotlight,” the junior and Lakers’ assistant captain told New England Hockey Journal this week while off for the holiday break. “It might be a worry for some, but I have the luxury to just play hockey and focus on helping my team win and keep developing as a player. I was never thinking about being drafted, but it was an amazing feeling when I found out the Bruins picked me.”
At 6-foot-3 and tipping the scales at 216 pounds, Trotman has ideal size for the position and could add more mass/strength to his athletic frame over the next few years as he reaches his physical maturity.
He skates well for being such a big man, and since Boston drafted him, has progressed by leaps and bounds. The B’s took him after a two goal, eight point freshman season (36 games). Last year, Trotman led all Lakers defenders in scoring with six goals and 20 points in 38 games (good for fourth overall on the team). This year, he’s on pace to up his totals even more, already having equaled his six-goal output in 20 games, with 14 points.
“It’s been going really well,” Trotman said when asked about his team’s promising start. “I had a pretty big sophomore year and I didn’t want to back up– I wanted to make sure (my success) wasn’t a one-year thing– so with the added responsibility of being a captain, I knew it was an important year. I wasn’t nervous about it, but I was thinking about it. I got a goal right away, we got some wins and things have just gone well from there.”
Born in Novi (pronounced No-vigh), Michigan, Trotman was raised in Indiana until his father Greg’s work took the family back to the Upper Peninsula when Zach was 13. The younger Trotman developed into a standout local player and spent a junior season in the NAHL with the Wichita Falls Wildcats before matriculating at Lake Superior State in 2009. Although his parents have again relocated back to the Hoosier State (Noblesville), Trotman loves playing in Michigan and relishes the chance to return the Lakers to their NCAA glory years when the team won three national titles between 1988-94.
“Right off the bat we played some good teams,” Trotman said of the 11-7-2 Lakers. “We know we can do some damage even if we’re down. We don’t get worried, and we set that standard for ourselves every time we go out on the ice. We feel like the CCHA championship this year is within our reach and our bigger goal is to make the national (NCAA) tournament.”
Trotman is the classic late-bloomer: a big kid who was pretty gangly and still growing into his large frame in his draft year. Since then, the coordination has caught up and he’s worked hard on his skating to become a confident two-way rearguard who can jump up into the play and boost the Lakers’ attack. He also uses his mobility and footwork to keep attackers to the outside and prevent quality scoring chances on his goaltenders.
“I just try to be a sponge when I go to (development) camp,” Trotman said, crediting the weeklong events he’s spent in July in each of the past two years with the Bruins. “All the staff there have been great; it’s an unbelievable program. There’s such a wide variety of skill, I just try to pick up whatever I can from the other guys and try to apply those practices and techniques to my own game. It’s been huge for me to be exposed to the coaches and other players since the Bruins drafted me.”
Trotman has also developed a close friendship with fellow Bruins prospect and “Yooper” (Upper Penninsula or U.P. native) Justin Florek, who was also selected in the 2010 draft as an overager. The captain of the Northern Michigan University Wildcats is a CCHA rival during the season, but Florek and Trotman are bound together by their brotherhood in the Black and Gold.
“We’ve exchanged words on the ice when we play each other,” Trotman said. “We’re both competitors who want our teams to win, so we go all out whenever we play each other, but Justin’s also a good friend and it’s great to hang out with him when we’re at camp.”
As far as the progression goes, the Bruins are pleased with their blossoming defenseman. One member of the front office recently praised Trotman’s effort and potential, so his work is paying dividends, even if his pro future is yet to be determined.
For now, Trotman is focused on doing his part to get Lake Superior State back in the headlines the way they once were when players like Jim Dowd, Mark Vermette, Brian Rolston, Sandy Moger, Blaine Lacher and Clayton Beddoes were wearing the golden anchor in the late 80′s/early 90′s.
“If they need me to be a shutdown D, I can do that,” Trotman said of his versatility. “If they want me to be more active on the blue line or just need me to be there to get pucks to the net, I’m fine with that, too. I’m just going to let the points come and not worry too much about it.
“As long as we’re winning, I’m happy.”
As the final pick in the 2010 NHL draft, Trotman is proving himself to be anything but irrelevant.