Robby Dee via Peter Buehner, Univeristy of Maine
Robby Dee is yet another Oilers draft pick that fits the recent trend of bringing as many intelligent players into the organization as possible. Dee is a Finance major at the University of Maine and in each of the last two years has been a Maine Scholar-Athlete Award winner and has been named to the Hockey East Academic Honor Roll. Dee was a thinking man's player coming out of high school where he scored 87 points in back-to-back seasons and was named a Mr. Hockey Minnesota finalist. He went on to the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, but was only able to play half of his 18-year-old season because of a shoulder injury. He stayed in the USHL for a second year, but his season ended prematurely after yet another shoulder injury, this one completely unrelated to the first.
Dee moved on to Maine and was primarily a role player for the Black Bears in his first two seasons. This year as a junior, Dee was enjoying a breakout season with 16 points in 18 games when he was again felled with an injury, causing him to miss three weeks. Oiler fans are acutely aware of the impact of injuries on the development of prospects and Dee's injury history is beginning to read like Marc Pouliot's minus the mono, which is cause for concern.
Dee is a 6'2" 195 pound center that plays a cerebral game. He's got size but isn't known as a particularly physical player. His scouting report reads very similarly to that of Riley Nash. I had the chance to speak with Robby about Maine, his season and his injury last week prior to his first couple of games back, a huge series against conference rival New Hampshire, ranked #13 in the country, a series that could solidify Maine's post-season chances.
C&B: Talk a little bit about how your game has progressed. You're hiding out in the northeast corner of the States and Oiler fans don't get much exposure to the University of Maine. I noticed that you're popping in a few more goals this year.
Robby Dee: Yeah, I came out here and I started off a little slow and our team struggled for the first two years that I was here. We've been playing really well this year and we've gotten ourselves ranked 16th in the country. Hopefully we can keep progressing, but right now our overall team strength is unbelievable. We've got a good goalie, strong defense and good forwards and I've personally just been able to get more opportunities. It started at the end of last year as well when I started playing more on the power play and I got to play more minutes each night. I've been working really hard each game.
C&B: Last year you had five power play goals, and this year four of your eight goals have come on the power play. What is your role with a man advantage?
Dee: Our power play is really strong this year, I think it's actually number one in the country. We run a side overload and I'm usually set up just below the circle. One of my linemates, Gustav Nyquist, is just a great player and we just work the puck around, work it down low, switch and get it up to the defense and just get to the net and crash it and seem to find a way to put the puck in the net. Our power play has been very successful and it's really helped the team.
C&B: What kind of role are you playing at even strength? Are you on a scoring line or are you playing in more of a checking role?
Dee: I'm our second line center, so it's been one of our scoring lines. Our 5-on-5 started off kind of slow this year, especially my line, but lately we've been playing really well. I broke my foot, so I've been out three weeks, but I'll be back this weekend. But before that happened, I thought that at 5-on-5 our line was playing some great hockey. The last game that I played prior to breaking my foot, we chipped in for two goals in a 3-1 win. So, we started off slowly, but I think it's coming along great with my linemates Spencer Abbott, who I've been playing with all year, and David de Kastrozza.
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C&B: Regarding the broken foot, how are you progressing?
Dee: It's good. I tried to come back last week, but I think it was just a little bit too early. I blocked a shot, it was just a fluke thing and fractured my foot. I should be back this weekend, it's feeling better. I just have to get my legs back in practice this week and it should be fine for this weekend.
C&B: The Black Bears have a huge series this weekend with New Hampshire, right?
Dee: Yeah, it's probably the biggest game of the season so far. They are number one in our league and they're ranked pretty highly in the nation.
C&B: They're a top ten team.
Dee: Yeah, so if we could get two big wins, that would be huge for us. That would just keep our team rolling and give us more confidence coming down the stretch.
C&B: This is your third year in the program, have you become one of the leaders on the team?
Dee: For sure. Now that I'm an upper classmen, I try to lead on and off of the ice. I try to set an example for the younger guys. We have two great captains in Tanner House and Jeff Dimmen and the rest of the juniors and seniors just try to emulate them and try to help out our team in leading by example and any other way that we can. Overall, it's been great. Our team chemistry is unreal and we haven't had any problems. We just try to lead by example and hopefully the young guys follow us.
C&B: Like Jeff Petry and Chris VandeVelde, you went to the USHL and the NCAA. There is an undercurrent of criticism of that path in the Canadian hockey media and from Canadian fans alike. They tend to believe that the USHL and NCAA doesn't properly prepare kids for high-level hockey. How do you feel that you've been prepared in taking that path?
Dee: It's helped me out so much. I played high school hockey in Minnesota and it was a big jump to juniors. But the USHL got me prepared for college hockey by playing a ton of games, and I played against better players, more skilled players, stronger players and that helped me out with the transition to college hockey. I was more prepared mentally, physically, and overall, the USHL helped me out a ton by gaining more experience. It would be more difficult coming to Maine right out of high school because you don't have the expierence playing against guys that are so much older than you. Those extra years really helped me out.
C&B: Are you planning on coming back for your senior year?
Dee: Yeah, for sure. I haven't really spoken with Edmonton at all, but that's the plan for right now. One day, I want to play in the NHL, so I do whatever I can to prepare myself each and every day to eventually meet my ultimate goal of getting there.
C&B: Does Edmonton stay in touch with you?
Dee: A little bit, not so much as of late, but I try not to worry about that so much. I just try to play my game. If they call me, I'll talk to them, which they did a little bit last year. I'm sure they're watching so I don't worry about it.
C&B: Thanks for the time Robby, I hope to see you guys in the post-season tournament and maybe we can catch up after that.
Dee: Thanks a lot, that would be great. Have a good day.
As for the series against New Hampshire, in Dee's first game back, he netted the game-winner in the third period as Maine won 3-2. In the second game, Dee notched the tying goal in a comeback 6-3 win. Dee went 16-9 in the faceoff circle for the series. Maine has a pair of big series upcoming versus Boston University and Kyle Bigos' Merrimack team, but they seem headed for the post-season tournament.
Thanks to Laura Reed, Assistant Athletic Director for Public Relations at the University of Maine for arranging this conversation and providing the photo of Robby Dee. Thanks to Peter Buehner and the University of Maine Athletics for the photo.