Ron Hextall’s Thoughts on Manchester-Final
In our last segment, Ron breaks down the team position by position and is asked about the strengths, expectations and things to work on…he also gives his scouting report on Tyler Toffoli…
JF: Right now, we’ll kind of take it position by position—strong points, expectations and maybe things to work on and I’ll just throw specific names and also maybe as a group, but in goal, Martin Jones—strengths, expectations, things to work on?
RH: Well, Jones is at a point now where I think his consistency is where he’s got to improve. I think last year he had some very good points of the year and he had some points that weren’t very good. Just everybody is going to have a down period here or there but I think there was a lot of up and downs with Jones last year. He needs to—one thing I told him when I went there during training camp was you need to take the ball this year and I don’t want you to let it go, you have to take it, it’s your third year and it’s time for you to step up and say I’m the guy and I’m going to be consistent and you guys can count on me every night. Thus far, he’s had a good start, he’s a big guy, he’s poised, technically he’s very solid, he is very consistent in that area. I think it’s the mental part, where he’s got to grow again and take the ball this year and our expectations for him are to be a top goalie in the league. He’s at that point now and he needs to again, take the ball and keep it the whole year.
JF: Defensive core as a group. You just spoke about that segment of the team that’s going to have to provide leadership as a group. Again strong points, the expectations and then like everyone or like every position, things you think they have to work on as a group?
RH: The guys that I didn’t mention obviously, we were talking about Voynov earlier but Bodnarchuk is a veteran, he’s a 24-year-old, he’s been around for a few years, he’s a veteran, he’s a good add for us. Nick Deslauriers, David Kolomatis are off to a good start, if I look at that group, we don’t have a young, inexperienced guy like we’ve had in the past with some of the guys that I just mentioned. That’s now a veteran group back there, we’ve got two, three, four, five-year players there—we expect a lot from our back end. It’s a very well-balanced group, we’ve got some skill there, we’ve got some real solid defensive guys—I think the thing that I‘ve seen thus far albeit they’ve done a pretty good job– our system is much more aggressive and it is a transition for those guys to go from a little more passive system to all of a sudden your closing on guys in the corner, it’s like go and get there. I think that’s the biggest thing that as a group they got to work on is getting the people and closing on people quicker in the defensive zone.
Andrew Bodnarchuk Nick Deslauriers
JF: Forward position, same type of thing. The breakdown, the strengths, expectations, the things to work on.
RH: I think the strength is our depth, you know we’ve got a lot of depth. I really like our middle with you now Loktionov and Vey are skilled guys and we got Andreoff and Czarnik and Cliche, whoever is in the middle. We’ve got Jordan Weal, kind of been on the outside a little bit so far, but Jordan had a really good preseason his play has risen and there’s guys ahead of him that play a similar style, but again we got the depth in the middle, we’re good on the wings, we’ve got enough scoring and we’ve got enough size especially with King and Nolan right now they kind of do what they did with the Kings. I was down there early and our size upfront was kind like oh it’s a little off or it’s a little bit small at points and all of a sudden these two guys come in and all of a sudden now our forward group is a pretty big group, but I really like our youthfulness upfront and I like our upside and again you look at Loktionov and Vey, those two guys this year should be top producers in the league. I’m not saying win the scoring race but I’m saying they should be in the top few scorers in the league. You got young kids come in like Toffoli, who is a real good scorer Andy Andreoff is kind of like the prototypical hard third line centermen that’s tough and physical and goes in the net hard. I really like our mix and again we’ve got enough grit and enough skill, a little bit youthful I guess if there is a criticism, I think some of the preseason, the first couple of games maybe a few turnovers that shouldn’t have been there and the typical youthful mistakes that you know that are there and over the course of time, they’ve got to correct, but we got to be patient too because we also want those guys creating offense. There’s kind of a fine line for that, where you’re holding guys accountable for the turnovers but you also want to continue to encourage that we want to make plays and we want to get pucks to the net and we want to make that nice pass across the crease for a goal.
Scouting Report: Tyler Toffoli
Hextall: Tyler has been very good so far. It’s funny, the opening preseason game, he was a step behind everything he did—he was just a step behind. I think Tyler’s got the type of game where, his biggest strength is finding holes and then putting the puck in the net and that’s a gift that it’s very hard to teach. Tyler’s got it. He’s a smart player, so after the first preseason game where he was a step behind—he picked it up from then, realized he had to move his feet more and get to open spots instead of waiting for them. The game is faster than it was in junior last year and again, his adjustment from game one to game two was phenomenal and again, since then he’s just continued to get better and better. He’s just a natural scorer. He’s got a great release and he’s got a great touch and again he can find those soft spots and deliver.