Max Vallis, Omaha Lancers

USHL forward Max Vallis, from Santa Clara, California, is next in our weekly Future Huskies series. Vallis played Midget AAA hockey for P.F. Chang’s in Arizona before heading to Merritt where he spent a season in the BCHL with the Centennials. Vallis finished his only BCHL season as the leading goal scorer for the Centennials; he also finished third on the team in points. His success there as a 5’9″ forward helped him get drafted by the Omaha Lancers (USHL) and the New Mexico Mustangs (NAHL). Bill Muckalt was the head coach of the Mustangs during that draft and although Vallis chose to play for Omaha, Muckalt kept his eye on him. Vallis was recognized as the CCM Offensive Player of the Week by the USHL shortly before his commitment to Michigan Tech, and he will join the Huskies as a 21-year-old freshman next season. THG was unable to get quotes from the Huskies coaching staff because Vallis has yet to sign a National Letter of Intent, but we did chat with Lancers interim head coach Mike Aikens.

Here’s what Coach Aikens had to say about the future Husky:[quote]He was in the BCHL last year and we had a scout identify him to us, so we brought him in and he skated with us last spring and then I went out to Boston to scout a hockey tournament and saw him play. We actually ended up getting several players from his team in that tournament. He brought in a veteran presence and came in as a proven junior player. He had 20 or 30 goals last year for a team the really struggled so we figured if we surrounded him with good players that he would have success in this league and he’s done that. I think he’s a player that does a lot of things real well but I don’t know that he  is exceptional at any one thing. He’s probably a “7” across the board. He’s not going to be the fastest or biggest player. He’s not going to have the hardest shot, but he does a lot of things real well and competes hard. He’s a great team player, great guy to have in the locker room. Our players love him. I think he’ll be the kind of player that will go out every night and play hard, lay it on the line and play with energy.[/quote]

THG also asked what Coach Aikens thought Vallis would have to work to become a better college player:[quote]I think he’s going to have to be a little more dynamic with the puck. He’ll need more tempo and speed. There are things at this level that he can get away with that won’t work in the WCHA. He’s a guy that seems willing to pay the price. I think he’ll train hard and come in there ready to compete. He’ll be a great fit, there will be no off ice issues with him and he’ll do whatever they ask of him.[/quote]

Now for the interview with Max Vallis. Enjoy.

THG: You’ve made your decision to play college hockey at Michigan Tech. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to become a Husky?[quote]My decision was mostly based off the coaching staff. I knew coach Bill Muckalt from earlier this summer. I talked with him quite a bit and I looked into Michigan Tech because of Coach Muckalt. It was in my top choices of schools and when they offered me an opportunity it was a no-brainer. I accepted within a week.[/quote]

THG: Who else was recruiting you? Did you have any other offers? When did teams start to show interest in you? [quote]There were some CCHA schools and some other top-end programs but I knew Tech was the right choice for me. Teams started to show interest the second half of the season, actually, right after Christmas break. I had been talking to schools a little before break but after I started to play really well and putting up a lot of points. It really started to pick up at that point. A couple weeks after break, Coach Whitten was at one of our games and I spoke with him after. I was hoping I was going to get an offer; it came a little later.[/quote]

THG:  Did the academics played a role in your decision? Do you know what you want to study at Michigan Tech? [quote]A little bit, I wanted to go to a good school, and I know Tech is an awesome school. I don’t know what I want to do for my degree yet but there are a lot of options at Tech so that made it easy.[/quote]

THG: Have you visited Houghton? If so who showed you around and what were your impressions of Houghton and Michigan Tech? [quote]I haven’t yet. I’m still waiting for some of my school paperwork to go through yet, before I can actually come out and officially visit the school. [/quote]

THG: The Huskies made a change to bring in Mel Pearson with his 23 years of experience next to Red Berenson at Michigan. How much did he play a role in your decision? [quote]A lot, looking at the change the team has made so far this year under Coach Pearson. I just think what’s going to happen in two or three years where we’re going to be as a team.[/quote]

THG: How did the recruiting process go for you?[quote]After I saw that Coach Muckalt had gotten the job at Tech, I decided to play for Omaha and gave Bill a call. I told him that I knew he had gotten the job, that I had looked into Tech, and told him I was interested if he was still interested in me playing him and if Tech had any opening. At first, they didn’t really have any openings coming into this season so I didn’t really think I was going to have the opportunity to become a Husky. I hadn’t really talked to Bill or anyone with Tech until after the break when Coach Whitten came to a game here in Omaha. After the game, he told me they might have room for one more forward and asked if I was at all interested in the spot. I told him I was and that was about it until the following Monday. They called me and said they wanted to offer me that last forward spot for next season. I talked to my parents, and the following Thursday we were on a road trip and I had been thinking about it all week. I didn’t want to wait any longer on it. I just wanted to call and let them know that’s where I wanted to play, and I did. I called on the road trip from the hotel in Fargo, North Dakota.[/quote]

THG: How does a kid from Santa Clara, California, end up earning a spot on a Division I hockey team? [quote]My dad is from Saint John, New Brunswick, in eastern Canada.  Growing up, he always played so he loves hockey and when I was born he put on me on skates. I played at the local rink. I kind of played recreational hockey for most of my life up until bantams and then I took a break going into my freshman year of high school. Actually, I didn’t play at all and didn’t know if hockey was what I wanted to do. Then after that year off, I missed it a lot and I got back into it. Within two years I had made it on a Midget AAA team in Arizona – P.F. Chang’s – so I moved away for my senior year of high school. I played there two years and then got picked up by the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL.[/quote]

THG: How did you end up in Merritt with the Centennials? [quote]My coach with P.F. Chang’s played with Penticton in the BCHL so he had quite a few connections up in British Columbia and helped me find a team in the BCHL. I had a great season there and loved it but I knew if I wanted to have a chance to play Division I hockey, I’d have to try and make the move to the USHL. I contacted a couple teams, and after the season I came down and skated with Omaha. Afterwards, they told me that they were going to draft me, and they did so I ended up with the Lancers. I’ve developed a lot so far this season in the USHL. I think that’s really helped me make that transition and will help me compete at the college level next year.[/quote]

THG: What has been your favorite hockey moment so far in your career? [quote]I’d have to say signing the scholarship with Michigan Tech. I can’t wait to get to school next year, it hasn’t left my mind yet. [/quote]

THG: Have you been talking to any future teammates and what have you guys been talking about? [quote]I have not, but I’m hoping when I come up for a visit later in the year, I’ll get to meet a couple. I have played against Alex Petan and I have a couple teammates here in Omaha that know some of the guys on the team.[/quote]

THG: I spoke to your head coach in Omaha a little bit today. He describe you as a very well-rounded player, someone who does everything well but said you really aren’t exceptional in any skill. What do you think of that? [quote]Yeah, I think that when I did start to play competitive, finding the back of the net wasn’t really a problem for me. I think I needed to work on things defensively to round out my game. Last year, in the BCHL, I focused on playing well in the defensive zone and in Omaha we play a very structured game. Defense is our best offense, so we’re doing great right now in the standings and I think that’s because we play so well defensively. I’m glad to be known as a two-way player now and that I can kind of play any role on the ice.[/quote]

THG: What do you think is your biggest weakness? Something you’ll need to work on to become a better player at the college level? [quote]I think for me, it’s quickness. I’m fast once I get going but if I can get my first couple steps quicker, I think that would make me ten times better as a hockey player. [/quote]

THG: Anything you want Michigan Tech fans to know? [quote]I’m excited to come to school. I’m excited do good things for the Huskies and help that program win a national championship! I can’t wait to get to Houghton.[/quote]

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read any of the “Future Huskies” series. This is likely the last edition for a while unless someone else officially signs for the 2012–13 (Jamie Phillips) or THG might interview Kent McPherson since he will be joining the Huskies next season but is not eligible to play until 2013–14. I really enjoyed chatting with all of these recruits and hope you enjoyed reading what they had to say as much I as did. ~ Tim Braun

Look for a new feature that we’ll likely kick off after the Huskies’ season is over, in which we’ll interview Michigan Tech alumni working in hockey including Cam Ellsworth, Pat Mikesch, John Grisdale and others.

Tim is a 2004 graduate of Michigan Tech. He is a co-founder of both Mitch’s Misfits and Tech Hockey Guide. With recent additions to the staff, Tim is again able to focus on his passion, recruiting. He currently works as an environmental engineer and resides in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area.