Earlier this week, we ran the first part of our most recent Q&A with Brian Ring of the CT Whale who has kindly taken time out to discuss a whole array of things with us such as the Whale, Rangers’ prospects and his candidates for breakout performers in the future. Today we have the second part of the Q&A.
Today’s final part looks at the Whale’s potential season, more prospects, the goaltending carousel and MVP candidates for the 2011/12 season. Happy reading…
- What achievement would be considered a good season for the Whale in 2011-12?
Brian: The benchmark of this franchise has always been to make the playoffs, as the Wolf Pack/Whale have made the playoffs in 13 of 14 seasons in their history. But I think that may be setting the bar low this season, as the upside given the talent and skill on this year’s team should be more than enough to set their sights on making a deep run into the postseason and going for the Calder Cup.
- Chad Kolarik is another relatively young forward that played well for the Whale. What can Rangers fans expect from Kolarik and does he have a chance at cracking the NHL this season?
Brian: Kolarik is a highly-skilled player with a great sniping and playmaking ability. He had a bit of a nagging injury last year which kept him from being completely healthy but he still managed nearly a point a game during his time in a Whale uniform (17-14-31) in 36 games (he also played 13 games for Springfield). I would say he certainly has a chance of spending some time in New York this season, battling it out with guys like Kris Newbury, John Mitchell and Dale Weise, among others, for potential call-ups.
- A relatively unknown name to most fans is that of Kale Kerbashian. Can you provide fans a brief ‘scouting report’ on the young winger and where is he expected to begin the new season?
Brian: Kale really broke out last season with a pretty big junior year for Sarnia, totalling 37-51-88 in 68 games for the Sting. I haven’t seen enough of him to really make a solid judgement, but I did watch him a bit at the Rangers’ development camp and he seemed to be one of the more confident players on the ice and had no problem rushing the puck and making plays. All evidence points to Kale being a rugged guy who is not afraid to get physical on the ice, and the team was impressed enough to lock him up to an AHL deal this year.
- Is it fair to suggest that the Whale’s biggest question marks are in net and how do you see the goaltending position playing out heading in to the year?
Brian: I think it will be one of the more intriguing aspects of the preseason and the Whale training camp to see how Chad Johnson, Cam Talbot and Jason Missiaen will compete and battle each other for spots on the team. Throw Scott Stajcer into the mix and things get even more interesting. Johnson is certainly someone that has had success at the AHL level and has spent time with the Rangers, and Talbot has as well. If I had to venture a guess, I think Johnson and Talbot will be splitting time with the Whale, and I’m willing to bet that goaltending ends up more of a strength than people think, especially considering the team’s corps of defensemen.
- How is the organisation able to balance the almost conflicting priorities of prospect development and competitiveness in the American Hockey League?
Brian: I think the biggest thing is that the Rangers have continued to draft and acquire high-end talent that allows the Whale to both develop players and win hockey games with those player’s abilities at the same time. Even when the Rangers make a trade for a player that is likely to play in Hartford, such as a Kris Newbury or a John Mitchell, those are players that are able to step right into an NHL line up but are also excellent AHL players. That, combined with the solid drafting the Rangers have done for some time now, has led to good organizational depth and this lessens the need to compromise either player development or competitiveness. Development is certainly the first priority for most AHL clubs, however winning is always a nice side effect of generating top-tier talent.
- If you had to say one name today, who will be the CT Whale MVP at the end of the 2011-12 season and why?
Brian: Such a tough question because there are a lot of factors regarding who will be here to start the year, who will miss a lot of times with call-ups or injuries. I’m going to take Kris Newbury, who I’ll project to finish top ten in the AHL in points this year. I think there will be a lot of goals scored this season and he’ll have plenty of guys to dish the puck to.
A final big thanks to both Brian Ring and the CT Whale for participating with the Q&A. It’s always interesting to hear insight from Brian about the Whale and the Rangers prospects. Be sure to follow both Brian and the Whale on twitter at @brianring and @CTWhale. Make sure you check back throughout the season for updates on how the Whale (and the Rangers future) are getting on with their season and be sure to check out the Whale’s own website too.