(Photo Credit: Ashley Huss / WMU Photographer)
With St. Louis’ 138th pick, in the 5th round of the 2018 NHL Draft, the Blues selected speedy forward, Hugh McGing. Among the draft class, Hugh was 1 of 3 forwards selected. He certainly showcased great talent at prospect camp and gave Blues fans reasons to get hyped for his development. I was fortunate enough to connect with Hugh and ask some questions.
Hugh McGing Interview
- Ray: “Hugh, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you join me. First of all, congratulations on being a 2018 NHL Draft Selection for the St. Louis Blues. The task of reaching the NHL level is far from easy. You’re one step closer to living out that dream. Let me ask you, how did it feel when they called out your name in Dallas, Texas? If you don’t mind, take us back to that weekend, and put us in your shoes.”
Hugh: “Well, I was at home that weekend in Chicago with a teammate when I received a call from Keith Tkachuk. He welcomed my family and I to the Blues organization and told me that he had watched me multiple times throughout the year, and enjoyed how I played. My parents and brother (Liam) were home and we were all so excited, and we celebrated.
My phone blew up with texts and calls from everyone and so did my parents’ phones. My dad called his friend who owns a local restaurant and bar in my neighborhood, Edison Park, to host people there. They had a sign about me being drafted to the Blues and we had so many friends and family stop by. It was a great time.
It was really a dream come true to be drafted by the St. Louis Blues. I had spoken with their scouting staff and I knew they had come to watch me play a number of times. Growing up in Chicago, I had always watched the Blackhawks vs Blues rivalry, I’m glad to officially be a part of that rivalry and the Blues organization as a whole.”
- Ray: “You’ve spent your last two seasons playing for Western Michigan University. As a Bronco, you were nominated for the Hobey Baker Award this past season (2018). Also, You’ve been named to the NCHC All-Academic Team, and are labeled a Distinguished Scholar-Athlete. Can you give us an insight into how challenging this can be to balance pucks with books?”
Hugh: “It can be really challenging. I am a Bio-medical Science major, so I have a number of difficult science and math classes. We miss a lot of classes due to travel. I have to be disciplined about my time management and make sure that I’m getting my schoolwork done, eating right, and going to bed on time so that I can play my best come Friday/Saturday.
Since my 2 years of Junior Hockey in Cedar Rapids, IA were played when I was still in high school, I was able to figure out what worked best for me when I was studying or doing homework on the road. I wasn’t out of school for a year or so, so it was much easier to acclimate to the college schedule.”
- Ray: “We’ve seen that you’re a fast skater, and you’re quite persistent on the puck. I personally witnessed this at prospect camp where you obviously had an extra gear on many of the other youngsters. Speed is obviously a huge part of your game and it definitely sets you apart. Let me ask you this; What NHL player(s) do you model your game after? Who in particular would you say has influenced your style of play the most?”
Hugh: “I try to model my game after Tyler Johnson because like me, he’s only 5’9 but he’s a very hard worker. I watch highlights and videos of him all the time and try to find things that he does that I can model in my games. He’s a very skilled forward who is not afraid to go into the corners with anyone. Tyler Johnson is definitely the top player who has influenced my style of play and I will continue to try and do the things that he does.”
- Ray: “Let’s talk about the very beginning of your journey. Why hockey? I understand that you have two brothers that currently play in college. Have the McGing’s always been a hockey family or is this just a passion that came about in your generation? Also, what was it like for the three of you growing up?”
Hugh: “Well, my two older brothers James and Liam were playing when I came along. My parents said when I was two years old I started wearing their inline skates and skating around the house. I began playing hockey when I was 4 years old and I had great coaches along the way who helped me get better. My grandfathers were both huge hockey fans and my dad served on the Park Ridge Northern Express Board, and for the past few years on the Central States Development Hockey League Board. My mom used to speed skate when she was a young girl so she was the one who got us to try it.
My brothers and I played shinny (mini hockey) pretty much every day in our basement, and in winter my dad would make a rink in our yard and we would play for hours at night. Being the youngest brother, I learned a lot from them and they definitely made me a tougher person.
Both my brothers played AAA and in juniors. They played at Culver Academy. My brother Liam was drafted in the OHL but decided to play in the USHL and now in college at ASU. My brother James played at the University of Illinois and led that team in points and they made it to the ACHA National Championship this year.
I also played travel baseball and also football while I was growing up. I followed my brothers to AA hockey at Park Ridge, and then to AAA playing in Chicago for Team Illinois, the Chicago Young Americans, and then Chicago Mission before I tendered to the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. I played there for two years and developed a lot there under Coach Carlson. I was also able to play with Mitch Reinke and Erik Foley who both recently signed with the Blues so it’s nice to already have some friends in the system.”
- Ray: “Would you mind telling us what’s on your phone’s playlist right now? What song or type of music motivates you for a game? Also, many hockey players have superstitions. Is there anything that you absolutely must do before hitting the ice?”
Hugh: “I have almost every kind of song on my phone that you can think of. Before games, I usually like to listen to hip/hop or rap. I’m not a very superstitious person so there’s not one thing that I MUST do before games. I like to stay loose and play sewer ball or toss around a football with the guys before we get on the ice for warmups.”
- Ray: “I can imagine you enjoyed Prospect Camp. It must have been fun, not only showcasing your talents but also building rapport with fellow prospects in the Blues organization. Who are some forwards that you feel you can really gel with on the ice, and why? Also, what’s the most memorable moment you have with the guys outside of the rink?”
Hugh: “I had a great time at prospect camp. I learned a lot from the coaches and other players. Since we played 3v3 and 4v4 the lines were always switching up so I couldn’t really get a feel on who I would gel with on the ice for 5v5. I know Mitch and I made some great plays to each other so I guess you could say we’ve built up some chemistry between us over the years. The most memorable moment with the guys outside of the rink was probably the game of paintball we played. We all wore camo and had dog tags so it was really intense between the 2 teams and helped create bonds since we had to work together. My team was undefeated so it was something that stuck out to me.”
- Ray: “You roomed with fellow 2018 Draft Selection, Matthias LaFerriere here at camp. Let me ask you, what’s one thing that you learned about him that surprised you? What’s one thing he learned about you that surprised him?”
Hugh: “One thing that surprised me was that he was only 18 years old. He actually turned 18 a couple days into camp, and after seeing him play, I thought he was definitely older. He’s such a skilled player with a great shot and I’m excited to see how much better he gets after this season. I also think he was surprised that I was 19 (turning 20 in a month) because usually guys my age don’t get drafted so it was fun to talk about how that worked out. I think we both enjoyed telling stories of our teams since he went the Major Junior route and I went the college route.”
- Ray: “In your opinion, who was most difficult to play against at prospect camp this year? Why? Just for fun, who is one person from prospect camp that can get past you? Who is somebody that might have a hard time trying?”
Hugh: “The most difficult for me was Klim Kostin. He’s so big and fast that he was always on my tail. He’s very hardworking and tough to go against in the corners. I’d say Mitch Reinke could maybe get past me, but there is no way that Erik Foley would get by me!”
- Ray: “You’ve succeeded at transitioning from league to league thus far. What are some adjustments you have had to make in the past, and what is your primary focus in adjustments to your game for the future?”
Hugh: An adjustment I’ve made/am continuing is to become stronger and faster. Each level, guys I’m playing against are bigger and faster so I must become bigger and faster. For the future, I need to work on my play in both the offensive and defensive corners/walls. I need to continue to work on holding the puck down low for longer in the O-zone and not let the opposing team hold the puck for as long in the D-zone.
- Ray: “As you stated earlier, fellow Blues prospects, Erik Foley, and Mitch Reinke were your teammates in your 1st season (2014-15) with Cedar Rapids of the USHL. What kind of relationship did you guys have there and have you stayed in touch since then? What will it be like to possibly lace up your skates together for the Blues someday?”
Hugh: “Playing with them was great. Erik led our team in points and was a leader as was Mitch. I was the youngest player on our team and looked up to them and others. They set great examples of training, practicing, and working hard every shift. I have stayed in touch with them but definitely more now that we are back into the same organization. One of Mitch Reinke’s best friends from home, Neal Goff, played with me at Western Michigan so we would always talk to Mitch together. I was able to catch up with both Mitch and Erik in person the first day we arrived at camp, and they introduced me to some other guys before we all went to have dinner.
If I am able to lace up my skates for the Blues, it will be a tremendous honor. The team has put their faith in me and I want to deliver for them and for the Blues’ fans. It would be a dream come true. I’ve been to St. Louis many times with my family and for games when I played AAA. My parents have been there for Cardinals’ games and we even have a brick at the stadium for our family. My grandmother came to St. Louis from Ireland and worked at the famous Miss Hulling’s for a few years before she moved to Chicago, and she is very excited too.”
Again, it was my pleasure to interview Hugh McGing. I greatly appreciate his participation. I look forward to following his development and wish him the best of luck in his future. You can follow Hugh on Twitter at @McGingHugh.
If you’re intrigued to learn more about him, be sure to read “Speedy McGing Takes Wing“.
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