Ever wonder how a goldfish feels, stuck in that glass bowl with everyone watching you?
If you're a highly-touted draft pick, you get a taste of that very lifestyle. The closer to draft day we get, the more people that gather around the bowl to watch you swim - or in this case skate.
Vancouver Giants center Gilbert Brule is drawing more and more attention with his play on the ice, which has made him the highest-ranked WHL prospect heading into the next NHL draft - whenever that may be.
Brule spoke with McKeensHockey.com on the team's Alberta road swing and talked about dealing with the growing attention he's received, especially in light of his recent outstanding performance (3G, 1A) in the CHL Top Prospects game.
"I don't think I get distracted by the media hype and things like that," said Brule. "I just try to stay away from things like that. It's kind of nice once in a while to see yourself on TV, because when I was younger I was watching all of the other guys. I just think it's kind of nice to have the attention once in a while, but I think I stay focused and keep a level head."
Keeping his focus has helped propel Brule to the number three slot on McKeen's latest prospect ranking, behind consensus number one pick Sidney Crosby and American defenseman Jack Johnson.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
The talented Giants forward also has a stake in the tight WHL scoring race with the likes of Eric Fehr, who appears headed toward another 50-goal season. But while Brule's scoring has certainly drawn the attention of scouts, his take-no-prisoners attitude on the ice is what may make an NHL GM happy on draft day.
His 5'11", 180 pound frame may leave him short of the yard stick for the average NHL player, but the 18-year old more than makes up for it with a combination of his skill, blazing speed and overall feistiness on the ice. That feistiness has earned him a reputation around the league as someone who won't get bullied around - something in which Brule takes great pride.
"I think everyone has to have some respect for themselves," noted Brule. "Play hard and do whatever it takes to win. If I get pushed around, I'm going to push back."
He says that while some of the bigger players may be able to get by on their size, he knows and accepts that he needs to employ a different strategy to make his mark on the ice.
"I work as hard as I can to do the best I can and work on my scoring and just try to be a competitive player."
Competitive is an understatement. You could strap a piano to this kid's back and he'd still find a way to drive to the net and score.
OLD TIME HOCKEY
And then there's that feistiness.
Brule has already racked up more PIM's than three of the top scorers in the league combined, but he says most of those are from playing good, hard-nosed hockey.
"I think guys try to go at me once in a while to get penalties, but I don't retaliate too much," he notes. "I think the penalties I do take are from being competitive and hitting hard and things like that - checking hard. Once in a while I get in the penalty box, but I try to stay out of there as much as possible."
Despite his penalty totals though, make no mistake: the team concept is very important to him. Even when asked about dealing with the pressure of being the top-rated WHL prospect for the Class of '05, Brule didn't lose sight of the Giants and their needs.
"There's a lot of pressure to do well," he said. "When I look at it I just look at how I played and if we win and I'm doing well, then that's the best thing right there."
If the NHL season is miraculously salvaged, NHL General Managers will be fighting over the chance to draft Brule this summer. The position he gets drafted in will depend on how the top players finish out the season and what each individual team decides it wants when its name is called on that day, but Brule has a very clear message about what a team will get if it selects him.
"I'd say they're going to get a guy that's willing to do whatever is asked of him, compete as hard as he can, work as hard as he can, provide some offense and have a disruptive style of game."
Name one NHL team that wouldn't love to have that kind of player on its roster.
You can see the entire Q&A with Brule as part of McKeen's latest draft rankings release, taking place this week at McKeensHockey.com.
Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org