How has the adjustment been going from the NHL to the AHL? It has been a little different. It took me a few games to get used to the style of play down here. The play is more choppy and more turnovers than I am used to. All in all I think the speed and the strength is the same as it is in the NHL. I don’t think the decision making is as quick as I am used to, but I have started to adapt a lot better now.
I always thought the play in the AHL was much more of a scramble then the NHL. Do you think the play there is closer to junior hockey or NHL hockey? I got called up from the Western League when I was nineteen. I found the jump from junior to the AHL easier to make then the jump from the AHL to the NHL. The top level talent in the NHL is incredible and as a player you need to pick up your game to their high level.
How has living in OKC been? We are getting used to it. We are now into a nice little routine. We have bought bikes to get around everywhere. We ride our bikes to practice and to the games. It is warm enough here so we can do that which makes it very nice. Although we have been busy we have been getting a few golf games in which is very nice!
How has Taylor Fedun played for you guys? I was at the game last year when he got injured and broke his leg. It is something you never want to see. Everyone is aware of how quickly Defencemen can get hurt going back for pucks. We are now doing the hybrid icing in the AHL. I saw him in Edmonton all last year working and rehabbing. The trainers did an amazing job of getting him back on to the ice. He has fit in nicely here. I don’t think he is right back to where he wants to be yet but he will continue to get better and better.
How different is it to be playing in the AHL where everyone is the same age? In the NHL the guys are older with families so they have less time to hang out with team mates. It is different than the NHL for sure. We have a young group of guys down here. I actually feel like an old guy down here and I am only twenty two. There are a multitude of guys around the same age. We have a lot of things in common. We all talk about the same things and hang out together away from the rink. It is great to have that chemistry away from the ice.
Are you surprised at the success Justin Schultz has had so far this year? No! He is a very smart player. We skated together the last couple of weeks in the summer before they were sent to OKC. You could tell he was going to jump in and do really well right away. He reminds me a lot of Nuge the way he can transition and he thinks the game at a very high level. The game is a lot easier when you can do that.
Taylor Hall recently joined your team in OKC. He mentioned that one thing he would do for sure for the team was to make it better looking. He felt it was a group of pretty ugly guys. Is that accurate? He actually singled out both you and Nuge. He felt you would both go up at least one full point on the looks scale. Yes that is accurate. When he stands beside us we both look so much better because he is so ugly. So that is definitely a positive for us!
How is the travel with the Barons? Are you mainly flying or is there some bus travel as well? We fly for the most part. We only bus to the Texas teams, San Antonio and Texas. It is a little different than the NHL but we have a sleeper bus. You get a chance to lie down. There are TV’s which come in very handy.
The AHL schedule is very heavy during the weekend and lighter during the week. This gives players a chance to really work on their games or fitness. With that schedule is there anything you are spending extra time working on? Oh yeah, I am still a young player so there are areas I am working on. My defensive play is one of those areas. Even our line, Hall and Nuge, we can improve as a group. But a bigger thing is to get a winning feeling here so we can bring it to Edmonton. I don’t think we have it yet but we want that. We want to go into games knowing we will win. With the team we have right now in OKC, other teams are seeing our roster and bringing their best every night. We have to go out and win games. Once we start winning, we will get that feeling around the group, where we can beat anybody. If we can do that here, there are enough of us that will be back up in Edmonton at some point so it should carry over to Edmonton.
Who is a player that has surprised and impressed you so far on your team in OKC? Teemu Hartikainen has been that guy. He is a big body and played some last year in Edmonton. I actually got to play with him last year. He is so strong on the puck and controls the puck well down low. It is only a matter of time before he is in an Oilers jersey full time.
Tell me about the assistant coaches in OKC. How are they helping the group? Gerry Fleming and Rocky Thompson must make up the toughest duo of coaches in the league! They are both great coaches, helping us out a lot. Head coach Todd Nelson has been great as well. He is a very informal guy, which contributes to a great player coach relationship. I think you need that. His way of handling the players makes us want to come to the rink every day. It has been very good. They are also very good teachers.
You guys played the Toronto Marlies a couple weeks back and you picked up four assists. I read the postgame clips and you said that if Hallsy had scored on one of the great passes you made it could have easily been five assists! Ha! Ha! I think it was the exact opposite! If I had scored when he set me up I would have gotten some goals!