I had the chance to jump on a Zoom call with Drew Commesso, the goaltender from the U.S. National Team Development Program. We chatted about his season, the goaltending position in general and we took a look at some of his game tape from this past season. Commesso is one of the top North American netminders for the 2020 NHL Draft and could wind up being the second goaltender selected after Yaroslav Askarov.
Tony Ferrari: With the season coming to an early end, what is the feeling you’re left with when you think back on it?
Drew Commesso: Yeah, it was obviously such an abrupt ending. We were in Omaha and we got off the bus to start practice before we got to the rink. As of then the World tournament was still on and the USHL season was still on so we were kind of getting ready for practice and coach came in and you kind of just tell by the tone, he never comes in like that. Obviously checking with all the news and stuff, everyone was up to date and we kind of all knew it was coming. For it to get canceled it was really a bummer. Since then we’ve been home, it’s been nice seeing the family because obviously, we don’t live at home during the season its been good to just be around them and hangout. Yeah, it’s boring but it could be a lot worse.
TF: The U.S. National Team Development Program is a unique opportunity for young players. There are often players on the roster from all over the United States including non-traditional markets such as Alaska, Texas, and California. What’s it like being on a team with players from so many different backgrounds?
DC: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I think growing up playing prep hockey and stuff, you’re really only around kids from your town and your area and then you play against kids from across the country and around North America. It’s pretty cool to see kids from other states and other parts of the country, just their lifestyle and how they live. I’ve had some kids from North Dakota who grew up on farms which is the opposite of me so it’s pretty cool meeting different kinds of people and kind of see what different regions of the country are like.
TF: So do you think having kids from all over the country and playing for the NTDP is a big advantage for you?
DC: Yeah, I think it helps the off-ice part of it, everyone really bonds together and everyone is really unique too. Coming from different backgrounds, kids are from Alaska like you said and up to Massachusetts like myself, and you know that’s a pretty big range gap. It’s pretty cool to see all the different types of things and I think everyone bonded well because of it.
TF: Whether that be position, athleticism, mental fortitude, or any other trait, I love asking goalies is what they think the most important aspect of the position and why?
DC: For me, it’s definitely the mental aspect. I feel like when you look at all the NHL goalies, they’re all big, they’re all skinny and they’re all pretty mobile. I think what separates the best, all the starters from everyone else is their mentality because goaltending is 90% mental, that’s what I believe. It’s such a mental game and I think the goalies that are the best have an edge with their mentality. That was one thing I tried to work on a lot this summer and I think it helped me out a lot this year.
TF: So would you say that you’re mindset and mental fortitude are your biggest strengths?
DC: Yeah for sure, I would say my mentality is really good and it’s definitely the strength of my game.
TF: On the flip side, what do you think needs the most work as you continue your development next year when you attend Boston University?
DC: I would say skating. I feel like I’m a pretty good skater but as you get older the play gets faster and obviously going to BU, it’s a really fast game. As I get older too, it’s only going to get faster. Goalies have to be the best skaters. I think once you have your feet under you and your beating plays with your feet and not sliding around everywhere and you become a great skater, the game slows down for you and you can make more saves.
TF: Alright, now let’s break down some video from your season. Here’s a play from this season against your future team in BU. You can breakdown what’s happening and what your mindset is against an opposing team’s powerplay.
DC: Kind of when they brought it in the corner there, you can tell that kid wasn’t really ready to shoot so I was just scanning the ice to see how they were setting up and stuff. Especially a play like this where it’s not a threat, its good to scan.
TF: So you have lateral movement on a play like this. How important is it for you to have the power in your lower body to push from side to side and use your posts effectively?
DC: It’s huge. Especially having a strong core and lower body like you said, it’s so important. I think the key play here was just having awareness because if you’re not scanning the ice, on a powerplay especially when you’re down a man, things develop quickly and if I didn’t scan the ice before and see that guy coming backdoor, I probably would have slid over and he probably would have beat me but just having the good awareness to know that there was a guy coming and he’s probably going to catch that puck and try to wrap it around me, it allowed me to make the save.
TF: This next clip is you dealing with a weird situation. The shot comes at you fairly innocently but it hits something in front and starts bouncing around all over the place. What are you thinking in a moment like that?
DC: In a moment with weird bounces and stuff like that, I try to just stay calm and hold my feet the best that I can because you can’t really control those crazy bounces. So when the puck is bobbling everywhere, I kind of like to just hold my feet and let the puck come to me in a sense instead of attacking just because hockey is a sport where anything can change in a second. You know, a puck could hit a skate or the puck could hit someone’s stick, and the quicker you can react, the better chance you have to save it.
TF: And here is the last clip, its kind of a breakdown in coverage and there’s a partial breakaway that comes in on you real quick. What’s your mindset going into a situation like that?
DC: I think a big thing for goaltending is that you have to be prepared to be unprepared and on a play like that our D was being pressured pretty hard, so when I saw that guy breaking towards the middle and our D didn’t really have another option, I kind of stepped out a bit. I think I read the play pretty well on that one. I think plays like that happen a lot, hockey’s unpredictable and you have to be ready all the time.
TF: So that’s one thing that plays into the goaltending position, the luck and the bounces and the fact that your playing with a rubber disk on ice. How important is it for you to mitigate the unexpected and keep play calm for your team in front of you?
DC: I think a lot of it is that you can control that too. Obviously, you can’t control the puck bounces but you can control how you react to it and how you treat a situation. I think I’m a goalie that’s super calm. I think that helps all my teammates to eliminate those crazy bounces and crazy and hectic plays so that when they look down and I am pretty calm, they see that I have everything under control. I think it helps everyone on the ice too.
TF: So I have to ask because I like getting a goalie’s opinion on this, are you for or against the shootout?
DC: I like shootouts, I think they’re pretty fun. Obviously, whenever you getting into a shootout, it’s a pretty stressful moment where it’s at the end of the game and it pretty much comes down to one shot but I like them. If you can’t end a game in overtime, shootouts are a lot of fun. I like being in those situations. We had one in Sweden, that was pretty fun early in the year.
TF: Let’s finish off with this. What was the best memory from your year?
DC: I would say definitely early in Sweden when we won the 5 Nations, going undefeated. It was just such a cool moments for all the guys. Our first year we finished last at the U17 World Challenge. I think, honestly, in the long run, that helped us because we had a chip on our shoulder. That just drove us to work hard, we kept that in the back of our minds. All summer and during our spring training, that’s kind of all everyone was thinking about was that first tournament.
Just getting over to Sweden and showing how much better we had gotten because we knew we had gotten so much better. We just had to prove it at the international stage. We went undefeated in that tournament and we only lost one international game this year, I think it’s a testament to the great coaching and the great staff and how hard the team worked. It was definitely pretty cool to be apart of.
TF: Thanks for coming on here with me Drew, I appreciate the time. Good luck on draft day!
DC: No problem, thanks for having me.
Thanks again to Drew Commesso from the U.S. NTDP squad for joining me. It was a pleasure talking with him and I look forward to draft day and hope your land in a great spot for you and your development. Good luck at Boston University in the fall.
I hope you enjoyed this interview, I have another interview coming out on Wednesday with U.S. NTDP center Dylan Peterson. We had a great conversation and he had a fun story about the shootout as well. Keep an eye out for that one! You can reach me at @theTonyFerrari on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you and find out what you want to see from the team here at Dobber Prospects and myself. Whether it be NHL Draft related or you just want some information on your team’s prospects, we are here to help!
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