ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- You may be surprised to learn what Jacob Trouba is determined to improve while at the University of Michigan.
"I'm not the best public speaker," says the 18-year-old defenceman, a Winnipeg Jets' first-round draft pick in June. "I'm getting through (speech class). It's presentations, speeches. Do the research, put it together and get in front of the class and do it."
Apparently there's more to being a blue-chip NHL prospect than just skating and hitting and scoring, all things Trouba seems to savour.
The 6-2 blue-liner, chosen ninth overall by the Jets, is also getting plenty of schooling at Yost Ice Arena, home of the CCHA's Michigan Wolverines.
A freshman under the most experienced of college coaches, Red Berenson, Trouba has already been an impact player though his NCAA career is only nine games old.
"Right now he's finding his way and as I said, he has made an impact on our team," Berenson says. "He has played a lot of good games but when you're a defenceman and you make a mistake, it often ends up in the net.
"I like the kid and we're working with him. We sit down and watch video with him, watch the shifts and watch the things he's doing and we talk about them. He's learning the game with his experiences."
Trouba, a native of nearby Rochester, Mich., is among six freshman in the Wolverines' lineup this week as the team is off to a mediocre 4-5-1 start.
Among those ups and downs of the early season have been several reality checks.
"Everything can really change with hard work," says Trouba, when asked what he hears from Berenson on the not-so-good days. "That's probably, when we get in trouble, where we're lacking. It's winning battles, that kind of stuff, and that's always something you can control. That's something we always need to have."
In the action he's seen so far, Trouba has not changed a style that earned him much recognition and obviously high regard in the draft -- that he was an aggressive, determined, take-no-prisoners kind of defenceman with the U.S. National Development Team Program.
He hits hard --sometimes you'd swear it's to hurt -- and he's already run afoul of CCHA officials, who suspended him for a game a couple of weeks ago after a high, hard check felled a Northern Michigan opponent.
That kind of approach, when (not if) it continues, is sure to lead to a variety of on-ice consequences. Among them surely is dropping the gloves, which will come after college hockey.
The issue, however, is not one of any interest to Trouba.
"No, I'm not going to worry about that this year or tomorrow," he says. "It's some time before I worry about any of that. I'm focused on where I am right now and the things I can worry about right now."
He gave the same sort of answer, asked how much he's looking forward to playing in his second world junior championship for the U.S.
"We've got to start winning some games here first before I can look forward to any of that," he says. "This is my priority, where I want to be, so this is the No. 1 thing on my mind right now. The world juniors will come when it comes and when it does, I'll switch over to that. But right now I'm worried about Michigan."
One item oustide of CCHA standings and Yost Ice Arena that Trouba does admit to watching is the NHL lockout. The resolution to the current labour dispute will clearly affect his future.
"I do follow it but you have to trust the guys who are there now, who are going through it and looking out for the younger guys," says Trouba. "I know they were young guys once and they know what they would have wanted so they've got everyone's best interest on their minds. You kind of have to trust they'll do the right thing."