JF: I’m sure it’s a type of question you’re asked all the time early in the season, 5-1 start so far, so it’s a great start. I guess the simple way of asking is, do you think the Monarchs can contend for a Calder Cup Championship?
RH: I think it’s a little early to say whether they can contend or not. We’ve seen a lot of real good things thus far, we’ve got a lot of young kids, first year kids and second year kids that are moving up to a higher line and can they handle the load as the season wears on—as you get more into the season, as you know the start of a season is almost like the honeymoon and once you get into the grind—the 20-game mark, the 30-game mark—all of a sudden it’s not quite fresh anymore and it gets harder. So how much guys can handle and can they elevate their play as the year goes on—when you look at the age of our team, guys should get better, the depth of our team is really, really good. I feel real good about the depth so I think I would say at this point right now we got one of the better young teams in the league for sure.
JF: With everyone healthy, you would have four players who were with the Kings in the Stanley Cup run, who are now starting the season in Manchester. Because of their Cup experience, do you expect anything different from them as they start the AHL season this year?
RH: Well, yeah absolutely I think there’s two sides to it—in the leadership department—absolutely, you know Kinger and Nollie and Slava even to some degree, even though he’s Russian, but his language is now good enough where he can help lead and lead us as a guy whose won the Cup and really played a pretty big role for us. Lok—he was there through the whole Cup run and the leadership part absolutely. I think the part you got to be really careful of is, we don’t want Jordan Nolan to start thinking that he’s a superstar and he’s going to score a hundred points and start playing a different game. His game should be the same, obviously he’s improved as a player but we want him to play within the structure of the game and be a big power forward and get in on the forecheck and you know, yes make some plays and yes score some goals absolutely, because the level of play is obviously not quite the NHL so his game is going to elevate in that fact alone, but again we don’t want them to change. We don’t want Kinger to start thinking he’s a skilled guy whose just going to stand in front of the net and score goals. They got to continue their game and really grow their game, it’s a really nice opportunity for them to take a step back in a pretty darn good league right now, but they’re going to play bigger roles then they played here so there is that part where they can improve their game, add the leadership, but again they can’t change the type of player they are.
JF: Leaving out the guys who have more than a cup of coffee in the NHL, probably the four guys we just talked about. Who do you see as being the veteran group down in Manchester this year, the guys which you look to, you know these are our leadership, this is our leadership group and we need to count on you and again, not talking into consideration the four guys we just talked about.
RH: Well, Marc-Andre Cliche is our captain, so he’s clearly the leader there, but I think you got a lot of other guys, guys that are in their second or third year. You know, Linden Vey’s in his second year, we expect more from him, production-wise as well as being more consistent throughout the year and adding to our leadership group. Andy Andreoff was there at the end of the year he’s a leader, Robbie Czarnik has been there a year, Richard Clune’s been there a few years, but I think you look at our defense that’s probably the spot where our change of leadership will be, the Andrew Campbell’s and the Thomas Hickey’s, Nick Deslauriers’ and Jake Muzzin’s—those guys are all of that age where they’ve got to grab the ball in terms of leadership and take it to another level.
Scouting Report: Linden Vey.
Hextall: Linden Vey. Linden is an extremely skilled player, he’s got a lot of gifts, his hands and his vision and he’s got the “turn up play” to the late guy. He really understands how to play the game. I think what we’ve talked to Linden about in the last year and the bit we’ve had him in the pros, is developing his full-sheet game, you know, the checking part of the game, the support part of the game, the going to the net part of the game and some of the things—he’s such a gifted player that he’s been able to play however he’s wanted to, to this point. Now he’s got to make a bit of an adjustment because now you’re playing against good players every night and so he’s just got to round his game a little bit and again go to the net and getting to the forecheck, the little things like that, but in terms of the physical gifts, he’s probably as talented a prospect as we have.
Scouting Report: Jordan Weal.
Hextall: Jordan started—he played the preseason games in Manchester, he played extremely well, scored as nice a goal as you’re going to see a player score, he scored on a rush, he pulled it back and absolutely roofed it. Extremely gifted, he’s like Linden Vey a little bit, he’s got real good vision, he can score—his hockey sense is elite—again, played real well in preseason, the regular season started, he played opening night and didn’t play a lot maybe 10 or 12 minutes and the level of play lifted up a little bit and here’s a 20-year-old coming out of juniors, he’s been a top player his whole life and the game caught up to him a little bit, but again, kind of like Linden, a little bit more of a full-sheet game, he needs to develop, but in terms of the skill level and the hockey sense, he’s a very good prospect for us.