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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Q&A with General Manager Russ Farwell

General Manager Russ Farwell was generous enough to answer some questions for Jon going into the first exhibition games this weekend up in Everett. Here is what he had to say.

Jon Whiting: From your perspective, did training camp go as expected?

General Manager Russ Farwell: Yes, camp went pretty much as expected in a lot of areas.  Returning guys came in good shape and are excited about the year.  We have had very good drafts the last few years and the young players are a very high quality of skill when looked at as a group.

JW: The format of Rookie Camp seemed to work well this year because of the influx of quality 16 year old players. Would you agree with that?

RF: We like the format because it allows the new drafts to compete for those 4 sessions against their own age group which give us a good read on where they sit in their development.  We need the 16s in that group because it pushes the quality of the group and makes everyone play harder.  When there are players like Barzal, Bear, Flodell, Pederson, and Kolesar in the group it really elevates the level of play for sure.

JW: Did any new players sign standard WHL agreements?

RF: We will be playing both Vulcan and Elder in the Everett tournament so they are both signed.  We had very good conversations with a number of other players and hope to be adding them at some point into the new season.

JW: How was the camp process affected by the addition of two new assistant coaches?

RF: Training camp was not altered much by having two coaches (we probably went through more coffee). But we think the benefits will be in allowing a bit more attention to detail in the player development area.  Besides contributing an opinion when they meet as a staff Tyler will have specific focus on individual skills and player development throughout the season.

JW: There appears to be more American players in camp this year than have been in the past. Would you attribute that to Coach Konowalchuk or something else? Perhaps increased scouting presence?

RF: Actually no. We had very few free agents from the US.  We have the guys on our team but hockey starts very early in the US in the fall and a lot of players were not free to attend due to the start time of our camp.  We were disappointed in the numbers of US players that we had this year because Colin had identified a fairly large number of US players we were interested in.

JW: The preseason games are scheduled against more teams then normal (5) with only playing the same team twice.  Was this a conscious decision to see more teams for scouting purposes or just luck of the draw?

RF: Just the luck of the draw really.  We schedule the date as much as the opponent at this time of year.  We like to play 3 on the first weekend then the two in Tri and home and home on the last.  There is no need to travel a greater distance in preseason in our opinion.

JW: Can you shed some light on why you drafted Devon Fordyce in the Bantam Draft as opposed to listing him?

RF: Players that are de-listed as part of the bantam draft process are eligible in the next round to be drafted. We had interest in him and a goalie with experience in the league was attractive to us at that time.  We did not feel he would last to the end of the draft to be added as a free agent.

JW: Is there a date where you would like to be down to two goaltenders (or maybe you are planning on keeping three or four)?

RF: We need to play the games and let the guys sort that out themselves.  We have no date we are working towards and we will get down when we have it figured out.

JW: There seemed to be a larger than normal amount of 20 year olds being traded and or released earlier in the offseason.  Is this just a fluke or are teams in trying to get situated on their three earlier and did that come into play with the trading of Connor Sanvido?

RF: I do not know about other teams but we like to get down if possible.  It creates a negative dynamic in the room when you go too long with more than 3 - 20 year olds because everyone knows only three can stay.  I like to find a place for guys that have been with us for a number of years so when it comes up we like to move on the opportunity.

JW: The general feeling of fans and parents I talked to during camp was extreme excitement.  Are the players feeling that kind of excitement as well?

RF: A number of guys were in a day or so early and all of them are excited to get started.  A number of guys have really worked hard and gained significant strength and that makes all of us excited to see them play.

JW: How active have trade talks been with other clubs? More? Less? Normal? Especially considering the number of quality defensemen the club currently has.

RF: Normal at best.  The quality of our defense might be the best kept secret in the league. I think we need to play some games and let teams see our guys before we make any moves.  We also have to work through the puzzle and see where guys are at.

JW: The club currently has no forwards from the ’95 draft class. Is that a concern going into this season and looking forward towards 2014-15?

RF: No 95’s means a chance for a young player to fill that spot.  We simply need to plan to fill that hole but we are not going to make trading for an 18 year old forward a priority unless he can help our team.  We have some very good 17 and 16 year old players and 8 19 year old forwards. We can have 3 of them back in 14-15 and the other guys will have to fill that gap.  We might be able to directly add in that area in the next Import draft but right now we are focused on this year and this team and next year will be here soon enough.

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