Catching Up With Zack Kassian’s Strength Coach, Dave Orton

Zack Kassian seems to be trying out some new stretching techniques, apparently

Dave Orton is an Ontario-based strength coach who works with elite athletes across a number of sports, including MMA, football, lacrosse, and hockey. This summer is the second straight year that he has trained Zack Kassian. I first caught up with Orton a few months ago to talk about Zack’s first summer at his gym.

Read on for our more recent interview, where we talk about Zack’s thoughts on Tortorella, where his fitness level is at, and a lot more.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Angus: Dave, we talked in great length about Zack a few months ago. And just from some of the clips you have posted on your Vine account this summer, he looks to be in fantastic shape. How different was it with Zack coming in this summer as last year was your first time working together?

(Kassian going to work on a brutal piece of equipment – the Airdyne):

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Last year it took Zack a little bit of time to get some traction. This year he came in right away ready to work. He’s eating really clean, he’s matured a lot. He came back from Vancouver ready to train.

He’s at less body fat now than what he left at last summer, which is a good sign. He looks different, he moves different.

Angus: Has the training changed at all this year?

We have been doing a lot of our power work this summer on one leg. We are getting some really good results. Guys are hitting some pretty good numbers. That energy is going to transfer into the ground, and into the ice for the hockey players.

Me and my assistant coach, Ryan Carlone, figured – if we are doing everything strength-wise on one leg, why don’t we do our power work on one leg as well?

We were a bit worried that the learning curve would be a long considering we have only three months with these guys, but they all picked the movements up really fast [Orton also trains Islanders forward Matt Martin, Senators forward Matt Puempel, and a number guys in the AHL and the European pro leagues.]

Angus: And its another way to get stronger with a lighter weight load.


Angus: Have you and Zack talked about the coaching change in Vancouver at all?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

He told me, "I’m looking forward to it. You never question where you are at with [a coach like Tortorella].”

Angus: From what I have heard, it sounds like Tortorella wants to put Burrows and Kesler back together. There could be a shot for Zack to emerge as the winger for the Sedins. Is that in his thought process at all?

That’s a lot of people’s impression of the situation. And who wouldn’t want to play on that line, right? With Tortorella’s mentality, Zack is going to get a fair chance at the very least. And at the pro level that is all you can really hope for.

After that it’s up to him to decide what he wants to go. He’s a grown man, a good athlete, and a great hockey player. Which Zack Kassian does he want to put on the ice?

Angus: Hopefully the one from the first few weeks of the 2013 season. 

Yeah, he came out flying. And he knows now that he can’t let things rattle him, he understands that it is a job and it isn’t personal. He’ll surprise some people this year as long as he gets that fair shake.

Angus: For the Canucks to get back to where they where a couple of years ago, they need their young guys like Zack to play important roles this year.

They need the young guys to produce. They need a guy to have some presence on the ice, not just some guy you are going to burn out there on five minute majors just to get somebody off the ice. To win in this league you need guys like Zack, who can also hurt you along the boards and around the net, too.

Angus: It was interesting to see last season when he was out on the ice with the Sedins. The post whistle stuff from opposing players really cut down.

Zack’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t have to make a living fighting, but the rest of the league knows if push comes to shove he won’t be afraid to drop the gloves. It is good to have that reputation in the back of everyone’s mind.

The punch on Ben Eager last year probably put a few guys on alert.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

We were just talking about that the other day. I was at lacrosse practice earlier this year and I had a message from Marty [Matt Martin] when I got back to the room. When he wrote, "Sorry about that pal, no hard feelings," I messaged back, “What are you talking about?"

He told me to watch the highlights from the Devils game – I am a Devils fan. He knocked out Kostopolous cold in that game. Marty’s a good guy, he called the trainers out first, I think before anyone else knew what was going on.

Angus: With the new schedule the Canucks and Islanders will be squaring off this season (October 22nd and March 10th).

That’s what I asked [Zack and Matt] – I said, "Are you guys going to go again or what?"

Angus: They have fought before?

When Kass was with Buffalo. Kass got the better of him in that one. He gave him a bit of a pass at the end. It was a good little tilt. 

And they can have some practice fighting each other this summer. [Orton’s guys all do a lot of strike/MMA training, as it’s another great way to build a sound fitness base and to really ramp up the conditioning.]

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I asked them, "Should I keep you guys away from each other to build up the tension?"

Dave (@thecoachorton) also trains Seahawks tight end Luke Willson, who is having a fantastic training camp right now.

You can read more of his thoughts on fitness and nutrition here.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

  • elvis15

    Thanks for the article. It’s really good to here Kassian came into the summer in better shape than he did when he left last year. He problem on the ice seems to be a lack of focus in which he doesn’t pay attention to details, then finds himself in trouble. Hopefully focusing all offseason will prepare him for the season.

  • Mantastic

    Great piece Jeff, thanks. Nice to see some of the processes behind the product. Lots of work. What a season it would be if this kid could turn the corner. At the very least, it seems he is putting in his time to do so.

  • Mantastic

    I thought the most interesting comment was that “he’s at less body fat now than what he left at last summer, which is a good sign.”

    It’s a piece of evidence that suggests that Kassian took training very seriously despite the off-ice issues that earned him a demotion to the Wolves. Or maybe he just got the message that AV and GMMG sent loud and clear, and was able to re-focus.

    Just one piece of evidence, but I’ll take it.