Platt making strides out of nowhere

by Ed Gonser

He’s young, feisty, full of grit and determination and he has a bonanza of talent too.

He’s Geoff Platt, and he’s arguably the best rookie to pull on a Syracuse Crunch jersey since Lonny Bohonos.

“He’s one of those players that is having an impact in his rookie season,” Syracuse head coach Gary Agnew said. “Brad Moran also had a very good rookie year although his game didn’t take off until the second half of the year.”

While some despaired over the doom and gloom of last season’s NHL lockout, Platt, albeit in hindsight, could have not have benefited better thanks to all the rule changes that came along with the league’s return.

Before the new rules this season Platt was not a desirable player. He was too small, light, not very physical and wasn’t playing for a winning team. But now, those that passed on Platt find that the speedy Crunch center with the quick shot is just what they were searching for and Platt finds himself in the right place, at the right time.

“The game changed,” said Agnew. “Big defensemen can’t get a stick on these speedy guys and slow them down. That’s why Platt and other quick juniors have found a home this year and are in such a high demand to fill out teams’ rosters.”

All Platt has ever asked for was an opportunity. So he worked a deal. First he signed with the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers over last summer and asked head coach Don MacAdam for an invite to the NHL rookie camp.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

“Being a Canadian boy there is no other option but to play hockey,” Platt said after one of Agnew’s recent spirited practices. “It’s something I love to do and it’s worked out well. It was a great opportunity that coach MacAdam was able to get me. I took the opportunity and ran with it.”

Born in Toronto, the oldest of Jennifer and Norm Platt’s three children, the 20-year-old was not drafted after playing his junior hockey in the OHL.

He still has a year of junior eligibility left and his junior team is begging to have his services back. Platt turned down a very lucrative school package available in case hockey didn’t work out. Instead he turned pro.

“As a player and a person I felt I was ready to take that step to the professional ranks,” Platt said. “I really turned down money to play professional this year with the school package that was offered. I needed to take the step because I felt I wouldn’t develop and progress as a player any further in juniors. I don’t regret one decision I have made this year.”

It all started with MacAdam’s conversation with a Blue Jackets scout in Ottawa. Columbus was skeptical at first because they know you never know what you get until you see the product.

“He was a last minute invite to the NHL rookie camp in Traverse City, Michigan,” Agnew recalled. “He was an unheralded player but led scoring through rookie camp and was a solid instinctive player with a lot of grit and showed good speed. It was enough to get him an invite to the Blue Jackets camp.”

A fan of the “Inspector Gadget” cartoon at an early age, Platt has been able to get his go-go-Gadget scoring machine working flawlessly. Not since Bohonos in 1994-95 has the Crunch faithful had a rookie with as much talent and scoring ability that they could get behind and cheer.

Platt is currently on the same scoring pace as Bohonos was in rookie year. The difference is that Platt has already made the jump to the NHL, playing 15 games for the Blue Jackets earlier this season, recording five assists.

While his first NHL goal still eludes him, Platt lit the lamp in the AHL early and often, scoring in the very first game of the season against Albany.

Platt went on to score at a goal-a-game pace through the first 12 games of the season and really open the eyes of the Syracuse fans.

Although he has curtailed his goal production lately he has begun to round into an all-around player.

“Some guys are a flash-in-the-pan when you call them up from the ECHL,” Agnew said. “They’ll score a few quickly and then taper off. But Platt never did and worked himself into a NHL contract and got his shot there.

“He currently is going through an adjustment period after playing only four or five minutes in Columbus and now 20-plus with the Crunch. I see him returning to the player that started the season in terms of scoring as the season winds down and we gear for the playoffs.”

Comparisons are a way to describe a player and Platt has already been compared to a young Bobby Clarke or Henri Richard.

Platt, he feels more like Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.

“He’s someone I really look up to and really respect,” Platt said, even though he’s never was able to see Richard play, except on tape. “I like the way he commanded respect from his teammates along with desire for the game and his prowess on the ice. He was a great example of an all-around hockey player.”

When it comes to his fantasy line Platt quickly moves ahead to modern day and dreams of centering Peter Forsberg of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames.

“Forsberg was unbelievable to play against this year. He’s the best player in the NHL,” Platt said. “He touches the puck and everyone backs off. He’s unlike any other player I’ve seen. Iginla is just a great all-around player. He doesn’t do anything average… he’s just great.”

So how does Platt’s presence help the Crunch close in on first place in the North Division?

“Whenever you have confidence in your first year guys everyone else picks up their game,” Agnew said. “It forces teams to not only check the (Mark) Hartigans and (Joe) Motzkos of the world but look at a rookie and keep their eye on him. He opens ice for others because of what he does.”

On the personal side Platt is a lover of music, all kinds, from country to classical and from pop to rap.

Given a list of female recording artists, Platt didn’t hesitate on his preference and would love to meet his fellow countryman, female country vocalist Shania Twain.

When not listening to music and working on his game, Platt, like most players, is a couch potato, watching television. His favorites include South Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons.

“I really like the adult humor and really get a kick on one hand and also appreciate on the other when my younger brother and sister don’t get the jokes,” Platt said.

But there’s no joke when he’s on the ice. He’s a bona fide scoring machine with a blue collar work ethic and that’s just pure joy for Syracuse Crunch fans as the playoffs near.

“I came this far in such a short time I hope I never wake up from this dream and stay focused on my goal,” Platt said.