Sunday Q&A with Jayson Megna
by Don LaibleOct 23, 2016
Although he's still setting up his apartment in the Utica area, Jayson Megna is anxious to pack his bags for Vancouver.
Having spent time in the National Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, Megna knows the taste of what lies ahead with the Canucks.
The Comets' centerman's hockey past looms large in motivating his play in Utica.
Q: What made signing with Vancouver over the summer a good fit for you?
A: I had been in discussion with them before. Before I signed with the the Rangers (July of 2015), there was interest by the Canucks with me. I went there (Vancouver), because ultimately you want to go where you feel wanted. They have a young team, and I know the coaching staff can help me improve as a player.
Q: Do you have any friends within the Canucks' organization that helped you transition to the team?
A: Emerson Etem is a good friend. It was great being in camp with him before he was put on waivers. He made it more comfortable for me coming into camp.
Q: When you informed friends and family that you were headed to Utica, had they heard of the city?
A: Oh, yeah. They're familiar with Upstate New York. Same goes for me. I'm in my fifth year of professional hockey. The home crowds are the one thing that stands out. As a player it's going to be good to be on the other side of the fence. Players know the Comets have proud fan support, and the crowds are quite lively.
Q: Your first home game as a Comet during pre-season, what did you think of the fight between PL3 (Pierre-Luc-Letourneau-Leblond) and Yan-Pavel LaPlante? You and PL3 were teammates in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
A: It was one of the best I have ever seen in person. Pierre is by far one of the nicest people I've met in hockey. I have a lot of respect for him. I wouldn't like one with him.
Q: When Pittsburgh signed you after your freshman year in college (University of Nebraka-Omaha), were you ready physically and mentally for the pros?
A: I believe I was. I was what you would call a late bloomer. I didn't go to college until after two years in the USHL. As a freshman, I was 21-years-old. It's (USHL) a great developmental league. In Omaha, I had a good year. My career was trending in the right direction. I did what was best for me, and I jumped right in (signing with Pittsburgh) with no hesitation.
Q: When in Omaha, did having your younger brother Jaycob as a teammate come by design?
A: Funny thing, it almost didn't happen. He's (Jaycob) three years younger than me. Jaycob committed before me while he was playing for Muskegan (USHL). Being teammates turned out to be a cool thing, but wasn't by design at all. That was a pretty special time.
Q: Growing up in Northbrook (IL), near Chicago, you must have experienced some long bus rides during your two USHL seasons?
A: There were a couple (laughs). There is a team in Ohio (Youngstown). That was a miserable trip; 12-13 hours. We had a lot of overnighters. Fargo (North Dakota) was a nine-hour ride. The trips were brutal. All the teams had to do this, it's not fun. But, when you're playing, with the comradery of your teammates, you're numb to all that.
Q: How many times did you watch Slap Shot?
A: Dozens. Maybe 50 times.
Q: What were your most important take-aways from two seasons with Cedar Rapids (USHL)?
A: They were the most important years of my career. Mark Carlson and his coaching staff taught me so much on how to take care of myself off the ice. Diet, weight room, what it will be like playing against guys in D-I programs, and the pros. I learned how to take care of myself in the off-season; staying away from carbs, bread and milk. I learned about proteins, eating vegetables, and sticking to water.
Q: Any regrets on leaving college early?
A: No. I played under some great coaches (Dean Blais-head coach) in Omaha. It was a cool experience to play for the school and I learned a lot. They just built a new rink which set a foundation for a strong future of the program.
Q: You join the AHL for the the 2012-13 season, and played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. At the time, did you wonder who would get to the NHL first - you or your coach John Hynes?
A: I thought Hynzy would move on to the next level first. He's one of my favorite coaches. I improved my two-way game so much because of him. Hynzy helped me get to play my first games in the NHL. When I'd be away (with the Penguins), I could reach out to him with questions. He'd find something to help me, for me to be back up in the NHL.
Q: A longtime leader with the WBS Pens is Tom Kostopoulos. How was he to you as a teammate?
A: Tom is good people; the best captain I've had. He's a great family guy, too. He's another friend that I can always reach out to.
Q: You get your first NHL call up on Oct. 25, 2013 with the Pens - they're playing the Islanders. Who welcomed you in the room, first?
A: Beau Bennett, right away. We were roommates in Wilkes and we're best friends. My first call-up was so cool. When you get that call, it's hard to believe. Here I am on the the same team with the two best players in the world (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin). I had gone up to camp after the lockout season (2012-13). That first call-up was humbling, welcoming, and overwhelming. I think it's like that for a lot of guys.
Q: Did you bring back any mementoes from that call-up?
A: In my second game, I had a goal and an assist (against the Carolina Huricanes). My parents were there. They have the pucks.
Q: How does one begin conversations, when lacing up your skates in the same room as Crosby, Malkin, etc?
A: When you're with a new team you want to feel them out. You don't want to be the loudest guy in the room right away. There's a transition, a process; it takes a little while to get comfortable.
Q: When the Pens won the Stanley Cup last spring, was there any one person who you were initially happiest for?
A: Not any one person - all the guys that I played with at Wilkes. I'm happy for Conor Sheary, who went from the AHL to playing on the first line of a Cup winner. It's been cool watching the guys' journey.
Q: When you signed with the Rangers (July 2015), you began the season in Hartford. You originally had plans to attend Trinity College (Hartford), to play hockey and baseball. What's your position in baseball?
A: Shortstop and pitcher. It would have been tough to balance all three things (hockey,baseball,school work). I love to play both sports. I'm not sure how I long I would have lasted. It's (Trinity) a great little school. I got to live out my dream in the USHL. It's crazy when you think what could have been.
Q: White Sox or Cubs - favorite team?
A: Neither. I'm a Yankees fan. My dad is from the Bronx. It is a tradition being handed down.
Q: When you're called up to the Rangers, any differences from your tours of duty with Pittsburgh?
A: I had four years in professionally when I went to New York. I had gained more confidence since Pittsburgh. I wasn't starstruck (in the room). But, the most famous people were those in the stands.
Q: How did you get around Manhattan?
A: I had my car shipped up from Florida. Jayson lives in Fort Lauderdale in the off-season. I made the two-and-a half hour drive from Hartford to New York, and left my car at a hotel's garage close to MSG, and walked. We practiced 45 minutes away from the City. Sometimes I would hop in one of my teammates car, and go with them.
Q: You went to Glenbrook North High School (Northbrook,IL) - the late filmmaker John Hughes shot several movies in your hometown and school (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, Uncle Buck). Thoughts when watching them?
A: You know the scene when Ferris' girlfriend (Sloane) is outside of the school, waiting to be picked up by her grandfather? That's where I went into school. Remember the house where Ferris and Cameron have the car running in reverse? That house is where I grew up.
Q: Your brother Jaycob is skating with the San Diego Gulls this season. Any competition between you two on who gets called up to the NHL this season first?
A: There's always a little brotherly competition (laughs). Obviously, I hope he gets the chance. He had a great season last year. Right now, Anaheim is deep on the back-end.
Q: If you could have dinner with three people - who would they be?
A: Derek Jeter - he was my baseball idol growing up, Peter Forsberg - my hockey idol, and Drake. I like listening to him.
Q: How do you burn off energy away from hockey?
A: Video games is how how I kill time. I like to play Call of Duty. I put on the mic, and play with my teammates.
Q: What motivates you to keep challenging your body?
A: Every day that I wake up, and I'm not in the NHL and Vancouver. That motivates me during practice, and workouts.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Italian. Chicken parm. That's my pre-game meal. I get this from my dad's side of the family.