Sept. 9, 2019
Jason Botterill Media Availability (10:37)
Just to start off with, I’ll give you a couple of injury updates on guys who would’ve been a part of the Prospects Challenge here. Lawrence Pilut is still recovering from shoulder surgery. He won’t be in main camp, but everything seems to be going very smoothly from that standpoint. We hope that he’ll look to be playing games somewhere around the middle of October. (Ukko-Pekka) Luukkonen, coming off of a hip surgery, again, things have been very positive from his rehab. He won’t be in main camp, we’re looking at a time frame of the start of November for him to be playing in games. All other injury updates we’ll give you a little more once main camp starts.
Q: What did you think of the last three days? What was your general impression of what you saw out there on the ice? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
A: I think it was a great tournament. I thought (it was) very balanced among all four teams. I thought, especially, Friday and Saturday, great atmosphere in the building for our players. I just think, young players especially, they work so hard in the offseason, getting ready for main camp, but there’s always an adjustment from summer scrimmages to main camp and I think our guys went out there, got in a game environment, and it’s going to help them a lot when they make the transformation into main camp now.
Q: Your objective has all along has been to build organizational depth. As you watch these three games, how far along do you think you are with that objective? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)
A: I think we continue to improve on it every year. I think just the fact that I was very happy with some of our veteran players, that have been in our system before — (Rasmus) Asplund, (Victor) Olofsson — how they came in, but also very excited about some of our younger defensemen, a guy like (Jacob) Bryson and (Casey) Fitzgerald, coming in for their first camp, I thought they handled themselves well, too. So we’re excited now to move into NHL preseason games, having some of our young players challenge our veteran players for roster spots, but also, too, excited about what’s developing in Rochester and that next wave of players.
Q: (Rasmus) Ristolainen certainly is expected in town with the guys tomorrow, where do you think his head is at this point? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
A: In our conversations with him, it’s been positive and I think [Ristolainen] has always been someone who comes to camp in extremely good shape. I think there is going to be an adjustment for all our players with a new head coach. Trying to bring together exactly what coaches are going to want from a system standpoint, where they fit in with the group and I’m sure those conversations will go well with [Ristolainen] and our entire team.
Q: Do you have any NHL players coming in on tryouts? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
A: Right now, we don’t have any tryout guys. We’ll continue to sort of re-evaluate we’re we are from an injury standpoint; have discussions in the next couple days. But right now, no.
Q: Is part of that decision to bring anybody in at this point so you can give younger guys like (Tage) Thompson, (Victor) Olofsson a lot of time in training camp? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)
A: No, it’s something I think we’ve added to our young guys we have coming in there. I thought some of our signings — J-S Dea, Curtis Lazar — players we want to give an opportunity to. With playing only six preseason games, we set it that way, we want to have a lot of practice time, but it’s always sort of that balance of finding enough games for your veteran players but giving enough for your young guys. We’re excited to see how they’ll materialize here and how they’re going to push some of our veteran players.
Q: Are you still having a dialogue with Jason Pominville and is he a possibility at some point? (Bill Hoppe – Olean Times Herald)
A: Obviously, Jason’s still in town, we’ve obviously continued to communicate with him. We’ll continue to communicate with him in the next couple days here and make a decision on that.
Q: You’ve mentioned the competition a few times. Where in particular are you really looking forward to seeing some competition take place? (John Vogl – The Athletic)
A: I think you certainly see it on the wings and then also at the defense corps. I think those are the two main spots. I say wing, but I also think we have a lot of players that can play both center and wing. That gives Ralph (Krueger) different options with his lineup and one of the big parts of the six preseason games is going to see where players have chemistry with each other and which position fits best for them.
Q: You haven’t ruled Pominville out then, based on your previous answer at some point. Is that correct? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
A: I haven’t ruled it out, but I’ve also, like I said, we’re very excited about where we are from the depth standpoint and the competitions we’re going to have and we want to make sure we give our young players enough of an opportunity.
Q: I know you didn’t want to rush him, but was it big that you were able to get [Dylan] Cozens into this tournament? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
A: I think it helps him out a lot more in preparation for going out on the ice for the first time on Friday, just the speed of the game. He worked extremely hard over the last couple of months, staying in Buffalo, working with our staff. I know he really wanted to play in these games. I thought, just from a conditioning standpoint and time standpoint, getting these games will certainly help him out.
Q: Ralph has done a lot of camps in his career for different events. He’s never done a full NHL camp as a head coach before. What’s it been like last few weeks prepare for this and what do you want see from your coach here in the next week or so? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
A: Well, I think everything’s been extremely well organized and I think you see Ralph’s communication with myself and his assistants. I think it’s great having guys that have been on the staff before. Bringing in guys, like Mike Bales from Carolina, also Don Granato from Chicago, you get the best of all worlds. I think you’ll come to realize with Ralph, some of his connections throughout the league, over the last few years, he’s sort of picking best practices from all these guys. So, what I’m looking for is just, from the entire group, there’s a lot of enthusiasm come Friday. Understanding that, yeah, we’re going to be implementing a new system, there needs to be teaching and learning from that, but also we want to see pace, we want to see work ethic from day one.
Q: Is there a challenge, maybe, not that Ralph is an unknown — he’s just a different entity in the sense that he’s not a retread. Is there a different challenge that he faces, unlike say (Joel) Quenneville going to Florida, where players know him, that he needs to get across to players to earn their respect? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)
A: I think he earns his respect by how he communicates with guys and I think he’s done that already. I think our players are going to realize very quickly his knowledge of the game. Where my communication’s gone really well is look, it’s about winning, but it’s also about our continuing, especially with the young team that we have, about developing every day. I think once players buy in that this guy is going to help them and their careesr and help them win games that’s where respect comes.
Q: Did the injury maybe put Dylan a little it behind schedule to the point where it really hurt his chances of making the team or does he still have a really legit shot here to push for a roster spot in camp? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)
A: Look, Lance, I think it’s always difficult for an 18-year-old to make it in the National Hockey League right off the bat. I think the good thing with this type of injury, yeah, it’s certainly disappointing that he couldn’t work on some of his skills, but from the standpoint of working with our strength staff, improving his leg strength, I think he did a great job with that over the last couple of months. I don’t think that will hurt his ability, I just think it’s a big jump for an 18-year-old to step in to the National Hockey League and really contribute. But we’ll certainly give him an opportunity over the next couple weeks here and see what materializes.
Q: You get nine games if you want to give him a chance. Do you believe in that or is that something you don’t really believe in for a young player? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
A: I think the bigger thing is the accrued season versus the nine games on the contract. We’ll continue to have dialogue with Dylan and see what’s best for not only our team but also for his development over the next week, or, if that continues to go well, the next couple months.
Q: Do you expect that the Werenski thing today with Columbus may be the start of opening the log jam and the for phones to really start heating up around the league this week? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
A: Tough for me to predict that one. I’m just glad that right now, we don’t have restricted free agents that we have to sign. I think I mentioned it to you before, I think salary arbitration is a tough process, but it gets all the guys signed up and there’s no distractions. Our team’s all signed up, they’re all going to be here on Thursday and we’ll get going from that standpoint. It won’t surprise me, these players are going to eventually get signed here, and I think it will start to come. What that time frame, whether it’s this week or the next month, I couldn’t tell you.
Q: Would you categorize your phone as being busy at all in the last few days? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
A: I think it’s always busy, It’s been good with just interacting with our staff here because they’re all here, and I think there’s excitement around the league just because you’re back in arenas, you’re back watching games, so it’s not all these fictitious conversations, you’re actually seeing players and you’re starting to evaluate players again.
Q: From Ralph’s perspective, as he said, it’s open competition, players will decide things. But as you help with that roster building, how much does past experiences, how much do contracts come in to who stays and who goes once this season gets underway? (John Vogl – The Athletic)
A: Well I think we’ve shown in the past, it hasn’t been lip service, it’s been with our actions, that if players knock out veteran players, they’re going to have the opportunity to be here and that’s what we’re going to be looking for. We talked a lot to that about players coming into our organization, giving them an opportunity. We’ve talked a lot about our returning players, challenging them to be ready to go right away, because we want to bring more players in to have more success as an organization. I think the competition is going to be great in the next couple weeks and I think you probably hear it in Ralph’s voice, he’s excited about getting things going. I think a lot of our players, whether you saw in Chicago with Jack and Rasmus, they want to get things going. They’ve worked hard in the offseason, now it’s getting ready to go out there and start performing.
Q: Your vision for this team has been to have it be more speed, better on the attack, better on the pressure. It’s only three games with prospects, but do you get more of an idea that you’re going to see more of that from this team going ahead? (Joe Yerdon – The Athletic)
A: Well I thought a lot of guys competed hard, guys played with pace, and I especially really like it in our back end. I thought our defense did a really good job. Whether it was Jokiharju, Bryson, Fitzgerald, getting up with the play. You can see the development from a year’s time for a player like Will Borgen., I thought he played very physical in his two games and that’s sort of probably what most of the crowd is drawn to. What I really liked was his gap. he was up in the play a lot, didn’t give the opponents very much space at all. That’s just a small sample size, but hopefully that carries over to our group and it’s simple. It’s a speed game. We’re trying to get faster, we’re trying to obviously get players that can skate faster, but also move the puck faster and play a faster game.