Panthers Training Camp Q&A’s

By Mark Fischel

Panther Training Camp Reflections

With the Panthers training camp getting the opportunity to move to the National Car Rental Center for the next few days, Panthers coaching staff turned up the intensity of the practices with a few new drills for the team. Working on up-tempo drills that emphasized puck movement, reduced space on the ice, and physical play, several of the Panther prospects had a chance to show off their skills. Hockey’s Future had the chance to ask some questions to a few of the players who will be playing tommorow in the intra-squad game.

Niklas Hagman

Hockey’s Future: Niklas, What has been your initial impressions of the training camp so far?

Niklas Hagman:Well last week I was at the rookie camp and that was ok. I got the chance to get used to the smaller rink and the more physical game style. I have been here three times on the ice and it has been nice to get to know the guys, and go to the ice and figure out the playing style. Its going okay.

Hockey’s Future: What do you feel the adjustments are that you will have to make from playing the Euro style to the North American style.

Niklas Hagman: Of course it is so different here than back in Europe. The rink is smaller and everyone is shooting everywhere. In Finland and in Europe, they try to pass it the open guy. I don’t see that there is too much for me to change the game, but you got to be ready because there will be more hits, and you got to shoot the puck more often. But nothing too major.

Hockey’s Future: How do you feel your game is best suited to the NHL Style of play?

Niklas Hagman: Well, I try to bring my energy to the game, skate hard and try to forecheck. Try to hustle as much as I can and try to score goals.

Hockey’s Future: What do you feel you have to do to make the Panthers this year?

Niklas Hagman: Just try hard as I can and give it all I got. That’s the best that I can do, just try to prove that I can make the NHL.

Hockey’s Future: If you make the team, are you looking at forward to potentially playing alongside fellow Finn Olli Jokinen?

Niklas Hagman: I am trying to make it to the team first, so I don’t want to think about things like that. Of course it has been nice to been on the ice together, we played in the Jr. Championships in 98 when we won the gold medal. Well, he played and I sat on the bench (laughs) couple of years ago in IFK in the same team, we get along pretty well and it seems there is some kind of small connection in the games.

Hockey’s Future: Can I ask you about the blond hair? (Best described as spiky with light blond tips and darker roots)

Niklas Hagman: Well, you should have seen it last year! Last year in the playoffs it was Purple. Two years ago I had black and yellow, it was all shaved off and they had it with circles of black and yellow (team colors)

Hockey’s Future: What is it with several of the Finnish players and their hair? Aki Berg used to have a Mohawk. Why is it that several Finns do that?

Niklas Hagman: Just we do it in the playoffs, we like to show the team that we give everything we got. Show the team that you are willing to do everything for the team. Sometimes you make purple hair and the guys laugh at it, so it breaks the ice a little and just shows that you really want it and sometimes we do stupid things like that. Its all part of the game

Hockey’s Future: I was talking to Huselius and Nilson yesterday, and they deftly avoided my questions about who will win the Gold next year. Are you prepared to go on record and say Finland is going to win the gold?

Niklas Hagman: Well it has been kind of hard, Saku Koivu got cancer and that was horrible too. I came to the states and I heard Koivu has cancer, and I feel bad for him. Than a week later the bombings and now we have a hurricane coming. About the Olympics, Ville Peltonen, another good player got injured with his knees. At the Olympics, there is going to be 4 to 6 good teams and any day anybody can win. So it is up to that day and what your condition on that day…..

Hockey’s Future: So no bold predictions from you that Finland will take home the gold?

Niklas Hagman: Well, they had one camp in Finland. They didn’t go onto the ice or anything like that. They just played golf and drive the micro-cars. That was kind of sad because I got cut from the last world championships team, and I didn’t even get the chance for the Olympic games. Here is my chance to make the team, play good here and when the team plays well, of course here comes those players everybody sees. I still got time to prove to the Olympic guys back in Finland that I can play.

Hockey’s Future: If the possibility is that you don’t make the team this year, it was reported that you would go back to Finland to play with your old team?

Niklas Hagman: Yeah if I don’t make the team here, I would go back home. There hasn’t been any talks if I would go to the old team or a new team. It’s wide open and I would like to think that I am going to stay here and play, so I don’t have to think things like that. If it happens, than I am going to think things like that.

Ivan Majesky

Hockey’s Future: Before the draft, did the Panthers give you indication they were interested in drafting you?

Ivan Majesky: No, It was all spoken between them and my agent. My agent told me I was drafted by Florida and I was really happy. My agent was like “It doesn’t matter”.

Hockey’s Future: Were any other NHL teams interested in your service?

Ivan Majesky: I don’t know because I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t make the team for the World Championships, so I didn’t expect someone to draft me.

Hockey’s Future: What was your main reason for moving from Zvolen to Ilves Tampere?

Ivan Majesky: My contract was over, and my agent was able to help me out. It was a good choice for me, and the hockey was good for me. I got to see a lot of different teams.

Hockey’s Future: Did moving to Finland help improve your game? If so, what aspect?

Ivan Majesky: Yeah, of course. The Finnish league I maybe one of the best in Europe. The players there are good skaters so it helped me with alot of things.

Hockey’s Future: What did you learn there and what did you improve on?

Ivan Majesky: I think trying to play faster with the fast forwards helped me?

Hockey’s Future: What aspect do you need to improve to succeed in the NHL?

Ivan Majesky:Lots of things! Working with my legs on the ice, foot-speed.

Hockey’s Future: Was there any particular player that was your hero growing up?

Ivan Majesky: Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.

Kyle Rossiter

Hockey’s Future: This is your fourth camp now with the Panthers, do you feel that your game is improving and are you getting a lot of feedback on your improvements?

Kyle Rossiter: Well there is a lot of positive feedback from the asst. Coaches out there. I feel my game has improved a lot with the year of pro under my belt, and I feel more confident out there with my ability. As of yet, I haven’t received too much feedback yet but that will come in time, maybe at the end of the week. They will pull us aside and talk to us individually.

Hockey’s Future: Over the last few years, have they given you any idea what they want to see more of with you?

Kyle Rossiter: Yeah they are always giving me advice, and things that I can improve on and things that I do well. They tell me to work on my agility and work on making a quick pass out of the zone and stuff. They tell me what kind of player they want me to be and they tell me what I have to work on to be that player in the NHL. I work on that the best I can.

Hockey’s Future: What do you feel are your strongest points of your game?

Kyle Rossiter: I try to be a solid stay-at-home defenseman, I don’t contribute a lot offensively, but I like to think I play good positionally in the zone, and I like to try to make it hard to give the other team good scoring chances. Along with that I try to be a physical player is the best part of my game right now.

Hockey’s Future: If you don’t make the team this year, are their any particular goals that you are looking at?

Kyle Rossiter:Yeah, well if I do get sent down, my goal is to get back as quick as possible. My goal this year is to play some games in the NHL team, the more the better. But for now, try to make the team out of camp, if they don’t feel I am ready than work as hard as I can to get back up to play at least 5 to 10 games.

Hockey’s Future:Do you have any indication on where you could end up?

Kyle Rossiter:They did mention to my agent Salt Lake City, and as far as I am concerned that is where I plan to go if I get sent down. If they change their minds at the last minute, that is no big deal. But for now that is where I plan on moving, and hopefully that it works out there and I get some ice-time and get the chance to come back up.

Hockey’s Future:Being that you might be at ground-zero for the Olympics, do you have any bold predictions for your home country this year?

Kyle Rossiter: I would like to think they definitely medal, and hopefully gold. They definitely are one of the favorite to win gold with the team that they were able to put together. It doesn’t look like Utah’s schedule will let me see some games. It looks like we are in for quite a long road trip.

Hockey’s Future: So it might be similar to your situation in Louisville last year?

Kyle Rossiter: Very similar without any home games in between. Looks like it is something like 30 days, 4 days between home games and hopefully we are not spending all those days on the road. Hopefully there are some breaks where we can come back, just enjoy friends and family and your own bed. It’s tough to pack for 40 days! You don’t bus anywhere from Utah, so its looks like you check one bag and that’s it for the trip. I am excited about playing in Utah of that is where they send me. It is a new city for me, and it is a lot closer to my hometown of Edmonton and it will be easier to get my family to see me for some games, or fly them over to Winnipeg or Manitoba a few times.

Hockey’s Future: What did you do this off-season?

Kyle Rossiter: I came down here for a month to train with the team and that was a lot of fun. We worked hard in the morning and had the afternoons off to play golf or go to the beach. Florida treated us real well with some apartments and a little bit of meal money. After that I mostly worked out in the morning and a lot of lounging about in the afternoon. In Edmonton it was pretty boring so I am glad to be back on the ice and I feel like I really improved my game and I think I am in better shape, trying to make an impression.

Hockey’s Future: Has there been any fellow players that have really impressed you so far?

Kyle Rossiter: Yeah, haven’t seen too much of him, but Kristian Huselius looks like he got some golden hands. Of course Pavel and Kozlov, some of the veteran guys like Lindsay. You learn from these guys and their little tricks, Europeans in particular look very good out there and are very skilled, and (laughs) unfortunately they are all on the same line tommorow and hopefully we can try and stop them in the game.

Hockey’s Future: Are you playing tommorow night?

Kyle Rossiter: Yeah, everyone’s playing and I think they are all being paired up together. Kozlov, Bure and Huselius.

Hockey’s Future: Who are you going to be paired up with?

Kyle Rossiter: I’m playing with Pitlick. Our team is a little bit younger and a little less experienced, but we like to think if we work harder, we can grind them in the ice. Instead of scoring the fancy goals, we score the hard-nosed drive to the net goals

Hockey’s Future: Make them work for it, right?

Kyle Rossiter: Yeah, no kidding!