As we embark on the final practice before opening night of AHL play in Oklahoma City, the roster seems to do the impossible — it gets better. Taylor Hall, now skating with a yellow no contact jersey, is quite the impressive skater when viewed live. He’s a phenom; doing hockey things that only a few hockey guys can do. He’s a wonder talent that does make the Barons lineup infinitely more dangerous. Not officially a Baron (considered on a conditioning stint), he’ll need to sign a minor league contract to actually be a part of the team; something that will likely happen in the next two weeks.
And what a day for Taylor to make it to OKC, for the annual media day (which is really for the few television outlets that attend out of duty). Nonetheless, it’s an important day. It means that hockey, real hockey, begins soon in the metro.
Here are the highlights from Coach Nelson, captain Josh Green, The Nuge, and reigning AHL Goaltender of the Year, Yann Danis.
Coach Todd Nelson:
“We are very excited to be home. It was good to get on the road with the guys. Anytime you start on the road it’s a good time for the guys to get to know each other. It’s a great opportunity for us to come here (OKC), in front of our fans, and pick it up where we left off last season.”
On Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – ” He’s a playmaker by trade. He has a way to get guys the puck on the back door. He really likes to move the puck around. But he’s a guy that can score goals. A highly skilled player, who’ll always be a part of our power play that will get going here soon. He’s also a good person. The biggest hint people ask is how are these guys going to fit in, but they all mesh great with the other guys. They’re just good people.”
“Our expectations this season are to take things a step further. When June rolls around we want to be playing for a Calder Cup. We talked about that in our first meeting as a team. Right now, we aren’t good enough, but we are building things in the right direction.”
“A lot of the guys in the offseason agreed with me — we had some unfinished business to take care of. They want to win, they feel like we have the parts to do it, and so do I.”
“The guys are all having fun out there on the ice. They are all the same age (Edmonton Oilers players), so they like the same things. I’m sure they play XBOX together. They get along great. Many people expect them to be high and mighty, but they are not like that. They’re just happy to be here. Working hard and having fun.”
“It’s been a good mix in the locker room so far. Guys are getting along very well. We are all around the same age, so we have a lot in common. Even the guys who’ve played in the NHL a bit have come down here, worked hard, shown no ego. We just want to guard against being overconfident. We are a good team, but we have to stay level headed.”
“I want to bring leadership. Keeping others upbeat and focused. Working hard and creating good habits are so important, especially when you’re the captain.”
“We’re bitterly disappointed after last season. We have to focus on the regular season, then the playoffs, then take it one step further.”
“It’s good to get on the ice, and develop some chemistry with the others. We’ve spent some time together off the ice, but it is nice to get out there, and get to work.”
“After our first game, where we battled hard, we knew we’d have to be really good to win this season. We have a tough road ahead.”
“We all go into every game fully expecting to win. It’s exciting. It’s a great attitude to have. More than anything, I’m just ready to get the season going.”
“It’s a nice city (OKC). Obviously I’ve not seen a lot, but I’ve been through Bricktown. It’s all very nice.”
“Teams will be ready to play us, that’s for sure. So we’ll have to be ready for them.”
“We are definitely excited about the group we have down here. The road is not going to be easy, but we’ll always be ready.”
“I’m not going to focus on last year, but I will say that I’m ready. I feel good. Camp, and the first two games were great. I’m ready to roll.”