I had the chance to chat with Erie goaltender Chris Festarini. He's an open and honest kid and really speaks from the heart.
Blog : You were selected 90th overall in the OHL Priority Draft. Sherry Bassin thought it would be best for you to spend another season with Port Colborne. Were you dissappointed or did you think that that was the best thing for you?
Chris: going to port colborne was a bit dissapointing at first, since Erie is where i wanted to be, but after i had to time to think it through, I knew it would be best for me to get a lot of playing time and work on my game on and off the ice, and get the proper development neccessary to prepare me to play in Erie this year.
Blog: Did you have any other options other than the OHL, such as the NCAA route, or was there no doubt in your mind that the OHL was the only route you would take?
Chris: i did have some interest from ncaa schools, but after talking it over with my family and advisors, the OHL cleary became my preference, and the most obvious choice to prepare me to hopefully reach the next level one day, while still maintaining an excellent education during the process.
Blog: You faced a lot of rubber playing for Port Colborne in the GOJHL. What’s the biggest difference playing there and in the OHL for you?
Chris: I would say the biggest difference is the caliber of player, the speed, and the attention to details at the OHL level.
Blog: You were selected for the Ontario Under 17 squad. What was that experience like for you?
Chris: I worked extremely hard, and was really excited to make the U17 squad. I was one of two players who made the team that werent currently playing in the OHL. It was a tremendous learning experience, a great group of guys to play with, and my only regret is that we couldnt bring home the Gold.
Blog: I understand that each invitee had to answer some questions in essay form. We’ve all heard some of the crazy questions NHL teams ask during interviews. Was there any off the wall question that took you by surprise?
Chris: Nothing overwhelming or strange, the questions werent along the lines of those NHL draft interviews i've heard about, thats for sure. One question of note that i found interesting was "how would your enemy describe you?"
Blog: You’ve been with goalie coach Ron Mays for several years now. How much of an influence has he been on your career so far?
Chris: I've been with Ron from such a young age, and in all honesty, he's taught me alot. He not only teaches technical, but the tactical/mental side of the game as well. I owe him alot in terms of what i know about the game, and my position. I've been fortunate to lean on him during my short hockey career so far. His past experience as a goalie coach in OHL has been a big help in knowing what to expect.
Blog: Have you set any goals and do you have any expectations for yourself this season?
Chris: The ultimate goal is to catch the eye of an NHL team, and potentially get drafted this year. I want to continue developing a winning mentality, be resilient, and constantly improve on my consistency. I want to be a go to guy, a workhorse type goalie, that my team and coaches can rely on to bring success to the Erie Otters.
Blog: I was at Your second OHL game came against the Kitchener Rangers. ( i believe you played in part of one game last season). Although it wasn’t the result you wanted, there were some very positive things I saw in your game. What will you take from that game?
Chris: I take the experience from the game, and i try to learn from it. It's a position that comes with scrutiny, so you have to have a thick skin, be resilient, keep working on the fundamentals, and constantly improve on the little things. I'm confident in my abilities, and i believe i belong at this level, but i understand this is a process that doesnt all come at once.
Blog: Your mom seems to be your biggest fan, naturally. How influential has she been throughout your career?
Chris: Both of my parents have been there when I needed them most. Whether it was a 6am practice or a tough game, I always had their support. I wouldnt be where i am today, without all the sacrifices they have made along the way.
Blog: I understand that you started playing hockey as a defenseman but you wanted to be a goaltender but she didn’t want you to be. Is there any truth to that and how did the switch to goaltending happen?
Chris: She did not want to have the stress of being a goalie mom. But I would not let it go until i got between the pipes. Not to mention becoming a goalie was a natural transition, considering my older brother was constantly shooting on the net and needed a target.
Blog: OHL goaltenders don’t seem to get the respect that goalies from the WHL or the QMJHL seem to get. What are your thoughts on that?
Chris: I dont put too much effort into worrying about that kind of stuff. I've always been told, if you have talent, the scouts, GM's, whoever, will find you no matter what team, or what league you play in.
Blog: With this being your NHL draft year, do you think about it at all?
Chris: I'd be lying if i said it doesnt cross my mind from time to time. I mean, thats our dream. However, thats something out of my control, and in all honesty that kind of energy could effect my focus. I need to be concentrating on improving, and winning games at this level. What happens after that, will
Blog: At 6’1” you have some good size for a goaltender and you look big in net. But at 170 pounds, is adding some bulk a priority for you and if so, how have you worked on that?
Chris: Adding the right kind of weight is important, and year to year i've done just that. I still have room to fill out more, and of course it will help certain aspects of my game. My brother is 6'2 200 lbs, so i think the genetics are there if need be.
Blog: Sometimes for a rookie goaltender in the OHL, NHL scouts don’t get a good enough look at you. I’ll use the London Knights Michael Houser as an example. He did get 30 starts behind Michael Hutchinson last year but he wasn’t given a good look. Is it important for you to be drafted in 2011 or is waiting another year just another step in the process?
Chris: I would love to be taken in my draft year, but again, that stuff is out of my control. I can only control how i develop, how hard i work in practice, and simply take advantage of the opportunities i get in games. Bottom line is, if i play well, it only takes one team in the NHL to like me, and draft me. If it doesnt happen in my draft year, i just continue to work that much harder and show teams i'm a legitimate prospect with alot of upside the following year. I wont stop working to attain my goals.
Blog: What would you say are your strengths in your game and what things would you like to improve on the most?
Chris: I am an athletic goaltender with a strong technical game. I have very good recovery skills and have improved my ability to read plays and make better decisions. My patience has improved greatly. My game is built on strong positioning, and some strengths would include my lateral movement, skating, foot speed and puck vision. Off ice i work extremely hard in gym, i pride myself on my work ethic, and being in better condition then my opponents. I'm coachable, a team player, and someone who hates to lose.
I think almost every goalie, if they are being honest, would say there mental game needs to improve, and i'm no different. I need to learn to control my thoughts and emotions better to produce more consistent performances. I am working hard with Peter Sidorkiewicz in Erie to improve my mental approach, along with making small adjustments which i believe will have a positive impact on my game.
Blog: There are some great goalscorers in the OHL this season. As a goaltender, is there one player that you get more satisfaction out of stopping than anyone else, and who would that be?
Chris: I'll keep this answer short, because i face probably the best goal scorer in the league everyday...McKegg!
Blog: Which NHL goalie do you look up to and who do you emulate?
Chris: Marc Andre Fleury i would say is a goalie i really enjoy watching, and we have alot of same attributes and characteristcis in our style of play.
Blog: What kind of interview would it be if we didn’t ask you what every prospect gets asked in their draft year. What was your favorite NHL team growing up and what would it mean to you to be drafted by them?
Chris: I grew up a RedWings fan, and i think it was more becasue my brother was a Colorado Avalanche fan. The atmosphere at Joe Louis Arena was wild during that rivalry, and it would be an unbelievable feeling to play on the same ice.