Newport Beachâ€™s Comrie a top prospect
NOV 22, 2012 10:34a ET
There, more than two months into the NHL lockout, was Montreal Canadiens All-Star and Americans alum Carey Price maintaining his conditioning and facing shots during the doldrums of the confounding extended work stoppage.
For Comrie, a Newport Beach, Calif. resident who has split his 17 years and four months almost evenly between his native Edmonton and Orange County, it was the first time he had worked together with the Tri-City alum who was selected fifth overall in the 2005 NHL Draft.
"I remember the first time I watched him when he was playing for Team Canada in the World Juniors, just wanting to grow up and be like him," Comrie said. "[I'm] just really excited to follow in his footsteps in Tri-City."
He's also likely following in the footsteps of Jonathan Blum, Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem as the next player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft after coming up through Southern California minor hockey programs.
Comrie, the half-brother of retired NHL forwards Mike – a 10-year veteran – and Paul Comrie, has parlayed his dominance as a member of the LA Selects Hockey Club into success at the junior hockey level, where he was been recognized as the WHL's top-rated goaltender eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry draft in Central Scouting's preliminary rankings, which were released earlier this week.
"It's really encouraging and exciting to be at the top of the list, but it's really early this year right now," he said. "I mean, everything can change throughout the whole year. It's about staying consistent and just focusing on the process and just really building each and every game."
As much as Comrie has embraced his Southern Californian lifestyle – "I'm becoming more of a Californian each and every day," he said from Kennewick, Wash. on Wednesday – he is part of a deeply-entrenched Edmonton hockey family. His father, Bill Comrie, a former junior hockey star, is the founder of The Brick, Canada's largest furniture and appliance retailer, a company that began modestly 41 years ago and sold for $700 million last week.
"We've had the luxury of having a really tight family. All my four siblings and my two parents, we're all really tight. We talk a lot. Just being able to talk to them – their understanding of how they made it, and just showing me the ropes of how I can make it, it's really a huge encouragement process," said Eric, who was influenced by his parents in his decision to donate 50 cents for every save he makes in a home game this season to Second Harvest Tri-Cities as part of the Comrie Saves Hunger campaign. With 336 saves through 12 home games, he has donated $168 for the cause. The Americans are matching him dollar for dollar. Mike Comrie was also recently part of a charity game at Toyota Sports Center earlier this month that benefited the Twin Peaks Cancer Foundation and funded the L.A. Junior Kings' Pee-Wee AAA team's trip to Quebec City.
Eric also spoke of the natural cohesiveness that followed the family's growth as Mike married actress and singer Hilary Duff two years ago in a private Santa Barbara ceremony.
"She's awesome," Eric said. "She's just a great addition to the family. We're really fortunate, once again, to have such a great family, whether it's Paul's wife, or my sister, Cathy's husband, now with Hilary – everyone is so great, and we just come together."
On the ice, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound goaltender has enjoyed a breakthrough in his first year as Tri-City's starting goaltender. With a 14-7-2 record, two shutouts, 2.38 GAA and .920 SV%, he's entrenched amongst the WHL's top netminders and is producing the caliber of play in net expected when the Americans traded up to select him 13th overall in the 2010 bantam draft. He also took part in Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence goaltending camp over the summer and recently turned aside 17 of 18 shots in his Subway Super Series appearance against a Russian Selects team in his bid for recognition and an eventual spot on Canada's World Junior Championship team.
"I try and stay athletic and really use my reflexes as much as I can. Just trying to stay square and stay in position, really and just try and stay aggressive on the top of my crease, and just give the shooters as little to shoot at as they can," Eric said.
"I like to take [my] game from three different goaltenders in the NHL. I like to think that I'm a cross between – like I have different strengths from each one – of [ Jonathan] Quick, [ Henrik] Lundqvist and [Carey] Price. Those are the guys that I analyze and try and take as much stuff as I can from them. I mean, still, I'm my own goalie, and just trying to build each and every day."
He also drew inspiration from the Kings' Stanley Cup run and spoke eagerly on what he was able to gain from the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner in Quick.
"That was absolutely spectacular, what he did," Comrie said. "I remember watching him, and he really became a huge role model for me, growing up in LA there. Just getting able to watch him and how athletic and quick and everything he is. Quick is quick is the best way of putting it."
It's that Southern Californian reliance that has aided him in his first two years in the Tri-City program, an organization that several years ago based its roster so heavily on Manitoba-based talent that when it came time for practice scrimmages, the team was often divided into two teams comprised of players from Winnipeg, and players based elsewhere.
Now there are four actual Americans – counting Comrie – on the Americans, a team that has often seen goaltenders don a Captain America spray-brushed goalie mask. In the prospect depth, there's also Eric's brother, Ty, a 15-year-old currently playing for the L.A. Junior Kings' top U-16 midget team whom Tri-City selected in the third round of the bantam draft earlier this year.
One of his current teammates is 17-year old Brian Williams, a Claremont, Calif. native and former LA Selects teammate who has provided scoring, tenacity and strong puck pursuit thus far in his young WHL career.
"It was a big deal, because I had someone to lean on. We grew up together, kind of," Williams said about his camaraderie with Comrie, which has transferred 1,000 miles north of Los Angeles.
"He came from Edmonton, so he was the new guy for a little bit. We just kind of clicked."
With American and Canadian backgrounds, to which country does Eric gravitate his sentiments toward?
"I like to consider myself half and half, I guess," said the goaltender as cooly and confidently as the poise he displays in the crease.
+ SHOW COMMENTS +