Making the grade
Making the grade
Japanese NHL hopeful in camp with Islanders
The first Chinese-born hockey player to be chosen in the NHL Entry Draft is not the only prospect coming out of the Far East in the prospect camps last summer. Japanese forward Yuri Terao joined Song at the Islanders' 2015 minicamp in July.
Terao is one of the top young forwards in Japanese hockey. In his first IIHF tournament he was selected as Directorate Best Forward at the 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship Division I Group B after putting up 11 points and a +6 rating. In his first year with the Asia League’s Nikko Ice Bucks Terao notched 17 points last season, including ten goals in 29 games, and followed that up with a seven-point performance in three games at the IIHF U20 Challenge Cup of Asia.
He was invited to the Islanders’ minicamp in 2014 and is back once more this summer. IIHF.com caught up with the 20-year-old to get his take on the experience.
At which age did you start to play hockey, where and why?
I was three-years-old and started in my hometown of Tochigi, Japan. My father and brother played ice hockey and they are the ones that got me into it.
How would you compare hockey in Japan to other countries like in the U.S.?
It’s pretty different, especially in terms of the level of hockey, the environment, the sport’s popularity and the media attention that the players receive.
How was the adjustment for you when you joined the Asia League in this past season?
Right away I had to work on increasing my weight by lifting and working out. This was the first step for me if so that I could play well in Asia League, the level is of course much higher than in high school hockey.
What is your day-to-day life playing with the Nikko Ice Bucks? Aside from practice what do you like to do in yours free time.
We have on-ice practice from 9:30-11:30 am, off ice practice from 3:00-4:00 pm and my own individual practice in my backyard from 6:00-7:00 pm. In my spare time I like to go fishing.
Is there anything from Japan you miss in the U.S.?
Probably speaking Japanese since my English is not so good yet.
What’s your favourite food in Japan?
In 2013 you were the best player of the U18 World Championship Division I Group B in Poland. How was it for you to play in such a tournament?
Playing against countries with so many talented players made me realize that I would have to play much harder so that my team could win. I was able to step up my game, and though we didn’t win the tournament we played well and I managed to be selected as top forward.
How did you feel when you were invited to the Islanders’ camp?
Last year, I was excited for the opportunity to show myself to the Islanders. This year, I was a bit more relaxed because I thought I had a good camp last year and thought I would be invited again.
How is it for you at camp this year?
Since this is my second one, I knew what was coming and what to do. No cultural shock but the language barrier is something I still find hard.
What are the differences in practice styles and hockey skills between this camp and what you was used to back in Japan?
Making passes and receiving passes are much more accurate than Japan. I also think players at the camp have more passion about hockey than Japanese players.
Where do you feel you need to improve to be a top prospect?
I have to learn more systems, and know what to do when I don't have the puck. Also learning more English.
There are several Asian players at NHL camps this summer. What do you think about this?
I think it is good and that more Asian players should take the challenge to come to North America and Europe to gain more experience.
Which players are your idols? Do you follow top-level hockey?
I like Lionel Messi (soccer). I don’t follow NHL players because I believe I will become a NHL player one day. I do follow the NHL though.
What are your goals for the next season and for the next few years?
I want to avoid injury this season because I had a few this past season. I’m not seeing a few years from now, I just want to play hard every day and I believe that this will take me to where I want to be eventually.
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