Q & A with MJ…

mj practiceAs we are in the middle of the offseason, with just about eight weeks to go before the players start convening on Portland for the Winterhawks training camp, I thought it would be a good time to check in with Winterhawk GM and Head Coach Mike Johnston on a number of topics…

Here we go…

AK — You just finished the prospect camp in Calgary with 1993 and 1994 born players…what was your perception of the camp and the players and were there players that stood out to you from the camp?

MJ — Really there were two purposes for the camp. The first as you know was for our coaching staff to become familiar with the young players in our organization. Prior to this year’s draft I had a chance to watch most of the 1994’s we picked but had not watched the previous years draft which were 1993 born players. Now I know what type of depth we have and specifically at what positions. The second and equally as important part of the camp was for the players and their families to get to know our staff and become educated on what life will be like as a WHL player. After reviewing the camp I feel that we accomplished the objectives. Parents had their questions answered – the players were evaluated and Rich Campbell had time to educate them on summer training and preparing for main camp.

AK — The NHL Draft is coming up quickly, are you planning on being in Montreal?

MJ — Yes our coaching staff will be there to take in the NHLCA Coaching Symposium, promote our potential draft picks and finalize plans for the Euro Draft.

AK — Right after that, the CHL Import Draft occurs, you have the fifth selection…have you narrowed down your list of players that might be available, and, how hard is it to find players that are willing to come to North America and play in the CHL?

MJ — This has been an interesting process because of the uncertainty. We can only speculate on who the teams ahead of us will pick and most people feel there are 5-6 key guys who will come over. The other difficult part is that some countries are easier to deal with than others. I was hoping to get a shot at a couple of Swedes and Fins that I saw at the Under 18 World Championships but most have decided to stay and sign with their local pro teams for another year. The Russian born players are difficult to get a read on because of the confusion as to who is actually representing them? Usually the Ontario and Quebec leagues have more success with these players.

AK — Training camp starts in August, how excited are you to run your first WHL camp?

MJ — The thing I am most excited about is that we are going to have a quality camp. We have young guys who are hungry to come in to make an impression and hopefully get signed. And we have an older group with a lot more depth than in previous years.  I anticipate from the older group to see great competition for spots on our team. Right now we are still working on recruiting a few players presently on our list who will help add depth to the camp.

AK — On paper the 2009-10 Winterhawks still look to be young, but, does the experience that the ’91 and ’92 players gained last year bode well entering into the season?

MJ — I believe it does but I am not sure. This will be my first experience seeing how a year playing in the league and a summer of training can change a young player. Most experienced coaches in the league tell me that I won’t even recognize the players because of how much they have changed and matured. I know our guys are working hard so I am looking forward to seeing the improvements.

AK – One of the major decisions for this season will be with the 1989, or overage, players…what is your plan for addressing that situation?

MJ — First, we will carry 3 overage players. This will help our team immensely because I felt last year we were really missing that core group of experienced guys. Our decision on who stays with the team will largely be determined in training camp. Also, I expect Mucha and Ehrhardt to once again get an opportunity to go to an NHL camp and hope they impress enough to make it …but if not this will make the choices more difficult.

AK – Lastly, you carried three goaltenders for most of last season, would you like to be down to two for the 2009-10 season?

MJ — Yes for sure. Who will get those spots is wide open. If Mucha returns he will definitely have the edge.

Thanks to Mike for taking the time to answer the questions and we’ll find out more about the NHL Draft on June 26-27 and the CHL Import Draft on June 30.

Red Wings Avalanche HockeyLastly, congratulations to former Hawk Cody McLeod for agreeing to a three year deal with the Colorado Avalanche worth $3.1 million.

McLeod should be an inspiration to any player that has the will to make it to the top level.  He just wouldn’t be denied and once he got the opportunity to play in the show, he worked so hard that he made it very difficult to take him out of the lineup.

I was a bit worried when Tony Granato wasn’t retained as the Avalanche Head Coach, but new bench boss Joe Sacco must like what he sees as well in McLeod.

Some brief details can be found here.

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