Forward Greg Jacina was signed to a free agent contract by the Florida Panthers this summer, having played for now assistant coach Steve Ludzik in the OHL. The 21-year-old was assigned to the ECHL affiliate Augusta Lynx to start the season, where he has 16 points in 27 games. In the ups and downs in a season, rookie Jacina is currently experiencing a down – he was scratched for the first time all season on December 31st following several admittedly sub-par games. He spoke to Hockey’s Future the night before, following the team’s 7-2 loss to the Gwinnett Gladiators.
HF: You were recently nominated for the ECHL All-Star game, how do you feel about the selection?
GJ: I’m pretty excited about it, it’s something to look forward to. But what I’m worried about right now is our team, trying to make the playoffs is what I’m concentrating on.
HF: How do you think your season is going so far personally?
GJ: I think it was good up until a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t been very happy with my play so far. I definitely need to change things and get things going.
HF: What do you think happened that changed things for you, are you doing anything differently?
GJ: I’m not doing anything differently, I just think I have to play a little bit simpler out there, get back to basics. Just do the simple things and hopefully things will work out for the best.
HF: How much of an adjustment has it been for you from junior?
GJ: When I first came in I thought I adjusted fairly well. I was in camp for six weeks and that made it a little easier. It’s definitely a different game than junior. The rules are a little bit different and the obviously the players I think are a little smarter so that makes a real difference.
HF: How do you think you’ve changed as a player over your career?
GJ: Well one of the things I’m trying to concentrate on at this level is my defensive play. I was a +6 a couple games ago, but like I said, my play has been lacking and I’m pretty upset about it. I think I’m even right now as far as plus/minus goes. Overall it’s changed, I’m trying to be offensive and creative out there.
HF: Is there anything else to your game that you’re trying to work on or that your coach has suggested for you to work on?
GJ: Yeah, there’s a lot of various things to work on, not turning my back on the play and using my speed, and being smart down low in the defensive end, stuff like that.
HF: The lines were mixed up a lot tonight, but who do you usually play with?
GJ: I think in the game today it was because we couldn’t really get anything going, and coach was trying to mix up the lines to generate some offense, but I haven’t really had any set linemates. I think [Kelman] here has been my most frequent center. Our lines are pretty all over the place.
HF: Do you feel the two of you have some good chemistry?
GJ: Yeah, the times we’ve played together, if we want to play we can play pretty well.
HF: Everyone knows Stan Drulia the player, what is he like as a coach?
GJ: He’s a great coach, he motivates the boys really well and his systems are easy to follow. When we do follow them we can win and be successful. Tonight we kind of got off the gameplan a little bit. I’m glad to play for him, I enjoy it.
HF: Is there any one particular thing that a coach has told you that has made a big difference for you?
GJ: I can’t think of any one thing offhand. I’ve had a lot of good coaches. My last coach in junior, Steve Ludzik, he’s now with Florida as an assistant and he coached Stan. They are more or less similar coaches. They are fun and fun to play for.
HF: Did the Florida Panthers give you any instructions as far as what to work on this season?
GJ: I think they just want me to play good hockey. They want me to play well at this level, and I think I can. Hopefully in the next couple weeks me and the team can get things going and put some wins together because they are very important for us right now.
HF: What would make a good season for you?
GJ: First of all to make the playoffs. It’s the team goal and my goal as well. I haven’t gotten too far in the playoffs with any team so I’m not looking forward to an early exit. I don’t really have any personal goals but I’m sure that will come or I’ll think of one, but I’m just trying to play good hockey and I think everything will fall into place after that. Try to stay focused for every game — that’s a good personal goal. To have my mind in the game before the start.