Night in, night out, the Ed Whalen Media Room, hidden
deep in the bowels of the Pengrowth Saddledome, is chock full of members of the press as well
as scouts. Scouts from across the Western Hockey League keep close tabs on the
Calgary Hitmen and their players, scouting their next
opponent, or quite possibly their next playoff match-up. These Western League
scouts are joined by National Hockey League clubs like the Columbus Blue
Jackets, New York Rangers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks who can be seen tucked away
in a far corner of the stadium, scribbling down notes during every shift.
It has been no secret to the hockey world that
hotbed for producing impact players for the 2004 National Hockey League Entry
Draft. Whether it be the energetic left winger Andrew
Ladd, ranked second among North American skaters by CSS, or the 28th
ranked Brett Carson. Each night offers a different look at potential
draftees. The same holds true for the 34th ranked Andy Rogers,
a member of a Calgary Hitmen defense
corps so large that it makes National Hockey League defense
pairings look small by comparison.
is no exception to this rule. Look up, way up, and you’ll find him. Listed at
6’5”, he seems even taller in person.
Playing in his second season in the Western Hockey
League, and his first full season,
has registered a modest 3 points, with one goal and adding two helpers. Rogers,
who turns 18 on August 25th, is the perfect compliment to his
defensive partner, the 11th ranked Jeff Schultz. Schutlz, who handles the offensive contributions of the
pair, leads Hitmen defenders with 31 points,
including 20 helpers, this season. Each defender has something to offer the
playing a very steady stay-at-home game.
Rogers, a native of
originally selected in the third round of the Bantam Draft in 2001. A product
minor hockey system,
is the 16th highest ranked defenseman among North American skaters,
and is projected to be a third round draft selection. Preliminary rankings had
Andy ranked 16th among Western Hockey League draft eligible players
Following a lengthy post-game meeting called by the
Calgary Hitmen after a difficult 3-2 loss to the Kootenay Ice on home ice, Hockey’s Future spoke to Andy
Rogers, who shared his thoughts on the Western Hockey League playoffs, the
Memorial Cup, and the 2004 National Hockey League Entry
HF: It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Hitmen. The club was swept through their B.C. Division road
trip this passing week, and coming home, unable to
convert the two points here tonight. Can you comment on the 2003-04 Hitmen season as a whole?
AR: Obviously right now we’re in a bit of a slide. We
were playing real well there for a while, up in second place [in the Central
Division], but still, those things aren’t good enough. We want to be in first
place. All in all, the season has been okay up until this point. Myself, I
started off a bit slow, but it’s picking up again. I think it’s just that all
of us out there need to step it up a bit more, so we can get first.
HF: How important was it to come away from this game
tonight against Kootenay with two points?
AR: They were very important. To get a chance to move
and pull away from
been huge, but you know, things happen and sometimes it doesn’t go the way you
HF: The Hitmen have a
home-and-home series beginning on the road against the [
this weekend. You haven’t had much success on the road this season, with a
sub-.500 record. How important is this first game in
get a win on the road, and to right the ship, so to speak?
AR: It’s going to be really important.
really good team and we’re just going to have to go in there, playing our best
hockey. When we do that, we can beat any team in this league, so we’ll just
have to go out and do that.
HF: What adjustments have to be made out on the ice
in order to turn this team around again?
AR: All of us guys have to come prepared a little bit
more, and just work that much harder. We’ve got a talented group of guys here
and if we just work hard we can go just about anywhere.
HF: How important are the playoffs for this squad,
and how deep can this
Hitmen team go?
AR: The playoffs are very important to us. It’s been
our goal since the beginning of the year, and I mean, making it as far as we
can has been our goal. If we can put the right things together, we can go as
far as we can.
HF: Have there been any rumblings in the dressing
room about doing some damage to other teams in the Western League playoffs and
possibly earning a berth in the Memorial Cup in
AR: Oh yes. Definitely. You
look at our team and the talent we have and the group of guys, we’re definitely
a contender. If we just step it up that much more then for sure, we can become
a major contender this season. Our focus is to do our best.
HF: What adjustments have you made in order to
improve this season compared to last year, bringing your game up a step?
AR: Every little bit. I’ve been training hard in the offseason to build up my physical strength and just little
things like moving the puck well and shooting the puck more. Coach [Richard Kromm] has been asking me to do that a bit more, shooting
the puck. I’ve been working on little things, shooting the puck more and
skating with my head up, just the little things.
HF: What would you say your biggest asset is out on the ice?
AR: My physical size. I mean, I use that and my
skating. I think I move pretty well for a big guy, so I try to use those to my
HF: What would you say your biggest weakness is out
on the ice, or an aspect of your game you feel you have to focus on a bit more?
AR: It’s definitely more so my puck-handling skills
and offensive play. I’ve never been considered a super-offensive player, so
things like that definitely could be worked on, and like I said, getting those
HF: Away from the ice, how would your teammates describe you, your personality, your manner, that
sort of thing?
AR: I’m a pretty quiet, kind of shy guy, but I’m
pretty positive as well. Mostly just shy and quiet I guess.
What is the one thing that the average
fan doesn’t know about you? Golf skills like [Jeff] Schultz?
AR: I’ve got some golf skills, not as good as Schultzie, but yeah, I’ve got some golf skills in me.
HF: This club has three draft eligible defensemen,
all ranked 34th or better among North American skaters by CSS.
What’s the secret of this club, that they’re producing such high quality
AR: I don’t know, you’ll
have to talk to some of the guys behind the scenes, the ones that are drafting
us, bringing us together. I mean, the other two guys, Schultzie
they’re great defensemen, and really great guys. They’re going to go high in
the draft, and we’re very fortunate to have three other guys, including Ladder
[Andrew Ladd] there, being ranked so high.
HF: I asked Brett Carson and Jeff Schultz already if
there’s been any sort of running bet or competition to see who can be selected
first in the draft. Is there any sort of friendly wager going on?
AR: Not really. We’re all hoping the best for each
other. I don’t know if there’s any friendly competition between the three of
us. I just hope the best for those two, they’re really great defensemen and
they’re going to go really high.
HF: Is it comforting to know you’ve got two other
players on the blueline going through the exact same
thing you are right now, in terms of preparing for the 2004 Entry Draft?
AR: Most definitely. They are guys you can always go
talk to, and stuff like that. They’re guys you can help cope with through the
kind of pressures night in, night out, because they’re going through the same
stuff I am. It’s really good and it’s good also to have them in the line-up.
HF: Knowing that the draft is only a few more months
away, is there any added pressure on you to perform nightly?
AR: Yeah, there is. Ever since the rankings have come
out, there’s been that pressure. You’ve got to come to the rink even more
prepared. I mean, you get a little nervous here and there, but it’s one more thing you have to battle through.
HF: How difficult is it to juggle the various
pressures you must be feeling right now? Currently, you have the pressures of a
playoff push, the 2004 Entry Draft, and the added pressure of playing nightly
in front of a hometown crowd.
AR: That’s a bunch of pressure. It’s kind of the
stuff that’s in the back of your mind. Right now, winning is our main focus.
The draft and all that stuff is kind of in the back of your head,
and you’ve just got to focus on everything game by game, with the team and
winning being the first priority.