Photo: Kyle Mace
Twenty-two year old prospect Michael Latta was a throw-in during last year’s blockbuster Filip Forsberg/Martin Erat trade, but in his brief time with the Washington Capitals he has shown a lot of promise. He may yet prove to be the gem of that deal on the Caps’ end.
While playing on the fourth line with Tom Wilson earlier this season, Latta exhibited a sandpaper-like quality to his game. His talent for irritation drew six power plays for the Caps (getting whistled only three times himself) and put opposing players off their games night after night.
Latta is an accomplished fighter as well , dropping his gloves 85 times since beginning his career in juniors in 2007-08. He’s also contributed a big goal to the scoresheet, recording his first NHL goal against the Detroit Red Wings and giving the world the glorious #LattaFace in the process.
Recently, I spoke to Latta, now in Hershey, about his season to date.
Do you remember that game a month ago, when you got called up to the Capitals at 10 am for an afternoon game? What was it like trying to hurry and get to Washington on time? I know you told Al Koken you were running on adrenaline.
Yeah yeah, I was just tired, it was my fourth game in five nights. I was like, this isn’t supposed to happen in the [AHL], let alone here. It was a day off in Hershey too so I was just kind of waking up at 10 am to a phone call. “Hey can you be here tonight?” I was like “Okay, yeah.” “Okay, the game’s at three o’clock”, and I was like, “Oh!”. So it was tough.
Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Caps prospect have to do that.
Yeah I was just like, get me out of here, just get this game over with. And then I was just hoping I just didn’t get sent back down right after the game. That would be such a tiring day.
What have you thought of your year so far? It’s been a lot of driving to and fro from Hershey, but you’ve done a lot of great things with the Capitals in your short time here.
Yeah, I feel very happy with my year. I’m happy for the chance I’ve gotten so far. I mean, every time I got sent down they were really good about getting me back up. They decided to whenever there’s a chance. So I’m honestly really happy with my year and just to get the chance to play in the NHL. It’s been really nice.
Who, growing up, did you emulate your game after?
I always liked those hard, gritty players, you know? Like Peter Forsberg played like a hard, gritty game, and then getting up I loved like Mike Richards, how he played. He played in Kitchener, my home town growing up in junior. I watched him and loved how he played. He had some skill and was also hard on the puck.
I know everybody asks about you chirping other players. Why do you do it so much? Is it something that always came naturally to you?
Two older brothers, yeah. I’m the youngest of three brothers. It helps a lot.
You are what I would say is an accomplished fighter. Do you take boxing lessons?
Eh, a little bit. I think a lot of it is just your smarts, just how you practice. First times in the OHL and then first times in the A, and it’s just about getting comfortable I think. And most important is picking who you’re fighting. You’ll get beat up if you don’t pick matches you can handle.
What are you focusing on in your game to continue to develop?
Oatesy stresses me to keep my feet moving. He likes the way I play, just says he doesn’t want to see my feet holding me back. So I just really wanna work on that and keep doing what I’m doing for the rest of year.
You and Tom Wilson have a great rapport, especially when you’ve been playing together this season. What has it meant to come into the league at the same time as Tom? Though I know he didn’t have to stay in juniors as long as you did.
[Laughs.] It’s been awesome. I mean just having him just to lean on and do stuff as rookies. It’s fun. It’s always fun to know OHL guys and in the AHL I had a bunch of guys I knew there too. It’s nice to have a guy around the same same age as me going through the same thing just to bounce stuff off each other and hang out with basically.
Transcription by Jake Ware.