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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Mississauga power forward works hard in draft year

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Andrew Goldberg

If you check the stats sheet of the Mississauga Steelheads, you’ve got to scroll down, way down, to find Andrew Goldberg’s name.

With three goals and three assists in 29 games, he’s not going to challenge for the team lead in points. But in hockey, you don’t have to have a scoring touch or be a set up man to be valuable to your team.

Goldberg, 18, understands his role on the Steelheads, and it’s providing the characteristically Canadian lunch bucket approach to the game. He’s a grinder, the guy who goes to the dirty areas, blocks shots and generally makes life miserable for the other teams’ forwards.

It’s a role he enjoys playing, and it’s one much valued by hockey coaches across the country, whether they be junior or pro.

“I’m a hard-working forward, getting on the puck, driving to the net, making it harder for your opponents,” he said in evaluating his own game.

At 5-11, 199 pounds, Goldberg is entering into power forward territory, which suits him just fine. “I like the rough going,” he said.

Goldberg is a hard-worker on a team that prides itself on its work ethic. And like lots of elite players of his generation, he’s has made hockey a 12-month endeavour. He’s on the ice almost every day, and this past summer he attended Gary Roberts High Performance Centre, itself an eye-opening experience. It put him in pretty auspicious company, sharing workouts with a boatload of NHLers, among them Steven Stamkos, Cody Hodgson and Jeff Skinner.

“Seeing their work ethic” was very impressive, he said.

It motivated him to continue working hard, particularly on one part of his game that could stand some improvement, his “explosiveness” – the first few steps he takes from a stationary position.

Born in November 1994, Goldberg is now in his draft year, and like other guys who play major junior hockey, he hopes to be selected by an NHL team.

He’s received feedback from scouts that he could be penciled in as a third- or fourth-line winger, “guys who chip the puck out, do all the dirty work that nobody else wants to do.”

“To go in any round would be huge,” Goldberg said, but he’s keeping his options open. That could mean returning to junior, signing an AHL entry-level contract or even playing in Europe.

The online OHL Prospects website had this to say about him prior to the start of the season: “With a bit of a rebuild at the forward position, he’s got a chance to secure his spot after a strong year in Aurora. He’s displayed his solid offensive skill set thus far in the preseason and seems to be someone to keep an eye on (he’s a late birthday and thus first time eligible for the entry draft this year).”

Right now, he’s taking a couple of courses in the University of Toronto’s business program and commuting daily from his home in the Bathurst Street and St. Clair Avenue area to the Steelheads’ rink.

Whichever direction his career goes, Goldberg is confident he’ll have the backing of his family, who’ve supported him through all the ups and downs of a young hockey career.

“Our house is definitely a hockey house,” he said.

He credits his parents, Barry and Janice, for making sacrifices to ensure he could get to games and practices and booking their vacations around his hockey schedule.

When they weren’t available to take him to games, he could rely on his older brothers, Sean and Richard. “They’ve all impacted my competitive hockey over the last few years,” he said.

“They always give me constructive criticism, even if I had a good game,” he said.

Goldberg, who attended Bialik Hebrew Day School for a few years as a youngster, said he occasionally hears on-ice taunting about being Jewish, but he thinks the other players are only “trying to get me off my game. In hockey, it’s chirping.”

He’s even been asked if he thinks his religious heritage would have an impact on where he’s drafted.

“I think, if you can play, you play,” he says.

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