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Q & A with Portland Pirates Head Coach Ray Edwards

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE -- On Thursday, Portland Pirates Head Coach Ray Edwards spoke with about the start of the American Hockey League team’s 2012-13 training camp on Saturday. What follows is a transcript of the Q & A session:

Ray Edwards

Q: Can you give Coyotes/Pirates fans a state of the union, if you will, on the team on the eve of training camp?

A: “Well, I guess the first thing is that it’s going to be a smaller camp than what we typically have, and I think the biggest reason for that is that most of the guys that are here are our players, our draft picks; They’re signed. I think we only have one free agent that’s coming in and everyone else is drafted or has been signed to a deal. A lot of times in these situations you’ll have 40 guys come in and 10 or 12 are possibly trying to win a job, and that’s not the case this year. That doesn’t mean there won’t be intense competition for opportunity because these guys are smart guys, and they’re going to look around and realize that we can’t keep 30 guys here. So, it should be an intense few days.”

Q: When you look at this year’s training camp roster on paper, what are this group’s strengths going to be for this season?

A: “Obviously it will be defense, anchored by Oliver (Ekman-Larsson) for as long as he’s here. But beyond that, we’ve got Mike Stone, Max Goncharov, Brandon Gormley, David Rundblad and Chris Summers. These guys are experienced, they’ve all been drafted fairly high, and they all have a ton of upside. That’s going to be the biggest strength of our team. Behind them, I like our goaltending. I think this is the first time since I’ve been with the organization that we have a lot of depth at that position, and the depth is our own depth. It’s not depth that we’ve had to trade for or depth that we’ve brought in to try out. It’s depth that we’ve drafted. Behind Chad Johnson we’ve got Mark Visentin, Louis Domingue and Mike Lee. So, we’ve got four formidable goalies down here and we only have room for two. I definitely think that’s also a position of strength for us.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the forwards?

A: “We’ve got a lot of returning players like Andy Miele, Ethan Werek and Jordan Schwarz… Schwarz is a guy that we’re really excited about. He was injured at the start of last year. If you remember we didn’t even get to see him in camp last year, but he came down here and had a heck of a year for us. So, we’re really excited to see Jordan. Werek had a really strong finish to his season last year, so we’re really excited to see his growth. Obviously, Miele will anchor that group, and we feel like Andy could be one of the best players down here. So, he’s going to be a guy that we really lean on. And we’ve added Chris Conner to bring some depth to the organization, and Rob Klinkhammer. Alexandre Bolduc is a guy that’s back with us and he was up in Phoenix for a little bit last year. So, he’ll be looked to, to add leadership, but also to add depth for the big club for when they get going. Brendan Shinnimin and Chris Brown are two young players coming in that we’re excited to see. Brown was a second-round draft pick. Shinnimin was the Player of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League. Obviously there will be a growth period for those guys, but we’re going to push them and hope that they can limit that growth period so that they can get going here quickly and help us have success right away.”

Photo by Norm Hall.

Q: Do you think with the core players that you have on your roster that reaching the playoffs this season is a reality?

A: “Yes. Every year you go into training camp and you have those expectations. I like this group. This is a young group, but it’s a group that we feel could make hay quickly; their learning curve will be shorter. We’ve obviously got young players, but they’re good hockey players… Like the Coyotes, our identity will focus around our strong defense. We’ve always tried to teach our players the same sort of ideas that Dave (Tippett) is teaching up there because when they go up there they have to be ready for that. This is the first year where our team really mirrors the big club, so we’re excited about the opportunity and the expectations will be the same as the Coyotes. We want to get to the playoffs and we want to make some hay.”

Q: Are you expecting the level of play in the AHL to be elevated by the infusion of some NHL talent?

A: “Yes. For example, we’re heading into Adirondack for the first game a few Saturdays from now and they’re going to have Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn in their lineup. So, we’re going to jump right into it. Every team will have one or two guys who would most likely be playing in the NHL but isn’t (because of the work stoppage). We’re lucky that Oliver is going to be spending some time with us and we’re excited to see that. So yes, the talent level is going to be better and the quality of play is going to be higher. But I think our mindset has to stay the same - we have to make players better down here and we have to get them prepared to play in the NHL.”

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