Medicine Hat, AB – For Tigers forward Max Gerlach last season could undoubtedly be classified an incredible start to his WHL career. 72 games. Check. 30 goals. Check. 40+ points. Check. But for the Texas born star there is still lots of room for improvement heading into the 2016-17 season.
Before coming to Medicine Hat prior to the 2015-16 season Gerlach was touted as a highly skilled forward, being recruited by many NCAA schools, ultimately deciding on North Dakota. However, the prospect of playing in one of the best leagues in Canada for one of the longest standing franchises led Max and his family to choose the Tigers and the Western Hockey League.
Gerlach’s campaign started with a bang, a historic one for that matter, as Max would score the first ever goal at the Canalta Centre in the Home Opener. He followed that with a 19 goal first half and 30 overall, the highest by an American born rookie in a Tiger uniform since Emerson Etem in 2010-11.
“My rookie season was great. Scoring the first goal in the new building was something I never thought would happen to me, especially after pre-season. I battled hard and learn lots about my game, which I plan on improving in my second year. Playing in every game taught me that you can’t take any nights off. Having even a little success doesn’t mean you can just sneak up on the other teams, they are prepared.”
Fast forward to the offseason.
Fresh off an invite to his hometown Dallas Stars development camp, Gerlach believes the experiences taken from the camp and some extra hard work in the offseason can help translate to his play with the Tigers this year,
“The camp was amazing. When I got the phone call from Dallas’ Assistant General Manager it was a dream come true. The camp did show me what I was good at and what I needed to work on. This season I just want to focus on my game defensively, if I can do that, then I will be in a position to contribute on both sides of the puck.”
Gerlach knows that scoring 30 goals in a season is a great feat, but also is aware of the attention he might bring. Opponents will be forced to put their best defensive pairings out against him. There also is added pressure when you are considered one of the top goal scorers in the league (Gerlach ranked 35th in the WHL, and 2nd among rookies),
“I have never felt pressure to score goals. It is just something I have always been able to do to help my team succeed. The pressure this season is to play an all-round 200 foot game, no matter who I am up against. I don’t feel pressure to score, I feel more pressure to win and succeed as a team.”
Adding pressure onto the 18 year old is nothing new. At the young age of 9 Max was front and centre on Sports Centre dazzling hockey fans all over the world with his shootout moves in Boston. Since that moment Gerlach has been on scout’s radar. Many thought with a breakout campaign in the WHL that Gerlach would have heard his name at this past June’s NHL Draft, however went passed over in his first year of eligibility.
“The draft is over for this year. My focus is on my team and helping us makes the playoffs however I am needed. It is obviously a great honor to be drafted but it’s not a requirement to play in the NHL. I play in the best Junior Hockey league in the world and for a great organization with a huge tradition for helping players achieve their highest goals.”
Moving into the new season Gerlach has primed himself to be a better, stronger player in order to be a dominant player for the Tabbies,
“This summer has been better for me physically. I skated with a former World Champion figure skater to work on my edges and agility. I did a 5 day a week, 2 hour a day weight lifting and speed program. I knew heading into the off-season I needed to get stronger if I wanted to improve my game.”
With training camp right around the corner Gerlach and the rest of his teammates know the stakes are high heading into the new season as they attempt to restart the playoff streak and give Tigers fans their first taste of post season action in their new home.
Training Camp kicks off later this month.
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