Ok, so he played regularly in the NHL last season and is in no way a prospect, but he is only a little over one year removed from being the number one overall draft pick. Although he didn’t put up big numbers, mostly because he was handled very carefully by the team and he didnt exactly have a lot around him, he did show signs of why he is one of, if not the, most talented players drafted in the last several years. He has added another 15 pounds of solid muscle, taking him up to between 205 and 210. I will address that in the interview. After seeing him in the first two days of workouts, I’d have to say that the extra size has definitely helped him, without slowing him down a bit. Look for him to have a very good season. Well, enough of my blabber, let’s hear what Vinny has to say.
RH – What is your overall impression of the NHL after your first season?
VL – The speed and the size of the players. It’s a much tighter game up here. There’s not as much room so you have to learn how to get to where you want to be on the ice.
RH – Do you think you learned that?
VL – Yes. By the end of the season I was pretty comfortable with things. I got a lot of help from some teamates with that type of stuff.
RH – Who helped you learn the ropes so to speak?
VL – Stephane Richer helped a lot with teaching me how to do what I wanted to do. He is a great player and a veteran who knows all the tricks. Also Wendell Clark was great. He helped a lot with the way the league works. You know, like, what to look for from opposing players and how life is up here. He was super. Michael Nylander was a big help too. He is so good with the puck. He showed me some things that helped me.
RH – It was obvious that as the season went along and your ice time grew that you got better and better. After making a series of small steps forward do you now feel that with a year under your belt that you can take a bigger step this year and make an impact?
VL – Make an impact? I don’t know about that. I’m still only 19 and have a lot to learn yet. I think I definately have the talent but it takes so much more than that. I do feel that there won’t be as many surprises since I’ve been around one time. To make an impact and contribute a lot you have to get the ice time. Every player wants more ice time but you have to earn it. I have to earn my time just like anybody else. I just have to keep working hard and do the things I need to do and everything else will come.
RH – Have you had a chance to talk to coach Ludzig yet?
VL – Yes, he called me this summer and spoke for a while
RH – What did have to say?
VL – He just said that he looked forward to coaching me and to make sure I was ready when I got to camp.
RH – His system will be much different than what you had here last year. He employs an attack style of offense with an emphasis on offensive pressure. Will this benefit you?
VL – Well, I consider myself an offensive player, so yes it should be something that I will enjoy. I like an aggressive offensive style. I like to look to breakout at every chance and force the play in the offensive zone. I think it will be fun.
RH – With all the changes that have been made to this organization, how do you see this team next season?
VL – I think we are going to have a very good team, much better than people expect. We have some very good players here. Stephane Richer is healthy and can score a lot. Also Andreas Johansson and Michael Nylander are great. They added Zyuzin and Houlder and they will really help our defense a lot. With Daren Puppa healthy, and the additions of Clouthier and Hodson we are strong at goaltender. I really think we will surprise a lot of people. We are a young team but very talented.
Vincent remains one of the most level headed 19 year olds I’ve ever met. His maturity level is exceeded only by his immense potential. I have heard people say that he didn’t have that great of a rookie year. He had been compared to Gretzky and Lemieux and his numbers weren’t close to their rookie seasons. This is true but he is playing in a totally different league than they were. It’s been 15 years since Mario came into the league and 20 since Gretzky. Things have changed quite a bit. I don’t feel you will ever see a rookie put up the type of numbers that they did. There are more teams which means a lot more players, the addition of European players, and just the general way the game is played now. Even Wayne himself has said that if he were in his prime he couldn’t put up the numbers that he did now. Lecavalier is the real deal. Everyone who watches him says so. Very soon we will all know it.