Tanner Sorenson may have just inked his first AHL deal, but the 26-year-old signee is no stranger to the hockey world and hopes to further his career with the Comets. We sat down with the Anchorage, Alaska native and asked him some questions so fans could get to know him better.
Utica Comets: What are your initial reactions to getting your first AHL deal in your fifth season of pro hockey?
Tanner Sorenson: “It’s obviously a little unusual, but when I first got out of college I was coming off of two years with nothing. So, I called (Nick) Bootland in Kalamazoo and just said I would love an opportunity and I think I can make your team. They ended up getting me a try-out but told me there were no guarantees, so I knew I had to make a statement at camp. Ever since then, Booter developed me, trained me, and helped me grow. Then I left for Kazakhstan to play in the VHL, which is the league under the KHL, and I spent 8 months living there and playing in Russia and China. That experience made me grow up and develop a different side of my game because hockey over there is so different, especially with the bigger rink. Then last year, I started in Switzerland, got injured eight games in and was out about two to two-and-a-half months. We made a switch and I came home to Kalamazoo to get healthy and relax. That allowed me to step in to a good situation there, and play with some pretty solid linemates and teammates. After the year we had seemed to have everything worked out right. I got the opportunity with Utica to sign a two-way contract, and ever since it’s just been progress. It’s cool to see it work out every year and see the results in the end, so hopefully this isn’t the end.”
UC: What kind of game do you bring to the table?
TS: “I’d say I’m a skilled offensive-forward, and I play with an edge for sure. I think that edge is more frustrating for other people though, where I don’t really get too phased and I keep the same mentality. The biggest improvement over the last few years would have to be my defensive game. My board-play as a winger has also improved, which is where I always struggled. Other than that, I’d say I bring a lot of offense to the table but want to be relied on as a two-way player as well.”
UC: So, you are obviously not afraid of winter. You’re from Anchorage, you went to Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota, then you went to Michigan State & Kalamazoo, then Kazakhstan & Switzerland. Winters in Utica are notoriously brutal, that doesn’t phase you, does it?
TS: “I don’t think so, the average day in Kazakhstan was 40 below zero and it was about 65 below zero at the coldest I ever saw it, so I think Utica winters might be a breeze.”
UC: Did Kazakhstan make Anchorage seem like Florida?
TS: “You know it’s funny, Kalamazoo makes Anchorage look mild. It was colder in Kalamazoo this winter than where I live in Anchorage. But actually, this summer, they’re having their warmest summer ever. It was hitting temps of around 80.”
UC: We’ve heard you’re a big personality and you always have been, and one of the things you’ve always liked doing is working with kids, so tell us a little bit about that.
TS: “With kids, they’re just so genuine, whatever they say is their honest truth most of the time, so I think that’s pretty cool. It’s also just cool to see the reactions on their faces, you don’t get that out of adults most times. My first year in Kalamazoo, I worked at a day-care on the side just to get away from the game and also making a little more income helped with my rookie salary. Then in my second year in Kalamazoo I switched to on-ice work with the local youth hockey organization. Kids are just so genuine and what you get from them is usually just joy and happiness.”
UC: Most people know Shattuck St. Mary’s High School (MN.) as the premier hockey school in the country, who are some of the people you brushed shoulders with while you were there?
TS: “My freshman year, the big deal on campus was Derek Stepan, who’s with the Coyotes now. David Carle, who’s currently the head coach at the University of Denver, was there too. Obviously, you had the likes of Sidney Crosby and Jack Johnson there before me, and they seemed to set the groundwork for what we stepped in to. We got to see what they built and keep it going, which was pretty cool.”
UC: What are your goals for the season?
TS: “I’m starting camp in Utica, so the main goal is to start the year there. With the season, you have ups and downs, but I’d love to get a chance in Utica for a handful of games to show what I’ve got. If I’m down in Kalamazoo, then I want to build upon last year, where everything seemed to go well. I think anything you can do to build off previous year is good, so that’s where I like to set my goals.”
UC: Is there anyone on the team you know right now?
TS: “I know (Reid) Boucher, we played against each other when we were younger and maybe even together at Selects. I knew of him, though I’m not sure he knew of me, he was always a stud growing up. We were supposed to go to Michigan State together actually, then he ended up playing in the OHL instead. Then just with him being from East Lansing, I’ll see him occasionally at the gym.”
UC: What have you heard about Utica? What do you know about the area?
TS: “I’ve driven through and past Utica but I do have a buddy there who seems to like it a lot. Other than that, I’ve heard the winters are pretty cold, and that the fans there are really passionate about the team, so that’s definitely something I’m excited for!”