Mitch Beck has been primarily covering the Hartford Wolf Pack / Connecticut Whale for the past six years. Mr. Beck also has extensive coverage of the Rangers/Whale's ECHL Affiliate, first the Charlotte Checkers and now Neil Smith's Greenville Road Warriors. Somehow he also finds the time to cover the Rangers too. You can read and follow his site at Howlings.net.
Let's get straight to the questions.
BC: Who has impressed you most this season in Connecticut?
MB: Jonathan Audy-Machessault has come completely from out of no-where it seems and leads the team in points and is showing that he has great potential. He's been playing a lot with Mats Zuccarello and been centered by John Mitchell and Kris Newbury. He has a real chance of being a possible NYR if he keeps up the pace that he's going on.
BC: How has Tim Erixon played in his limited time in Connecticut? Do you feel he needs more time with the Whale?
MB: Tim Erixon has only played a couple of games with the team. It's a bit early to be assessing who he is and what he could or couldn't do. But I will tell you this; J.J. Daigneault is about as good of a coach for young defenseman as they come. Add in the help he'll be getting from Wade Redden and Brendan Bell and he could possibly become something very special.
BC: How helpful do you think Michael Del Zotto's time with the Whale helped him mature and prepare for the NHL?
MB: I think he benefitted greatly from the time here. Again, he was given great counseling from the staff and Redden. He also dedicated himself, maybe even obsessed, on improving his game over the summer and the results certainly are showing.
BC: Which goalie has been more impressive: Cam Talbot, or Chad Johnson?
MB: Chad Johnson was just named the Reebok/AHL Goaltender of the Month. Cam Talbot has been exceptionally locked in. They're both good goaltenders in their own right. The keys for both; Johnson needs to control rebounds and Talbot needs to remain healthy.
BC: Jonathan Audy-Marchessault leads the team in all scoring categories. Do the stats lie, or has he been that good?
MB: It's still early to give a definitive answer one way or the other, but he sure has been impressive to this point.
Follow me after the jump for more, including thoughts on the top prospects in ConnecticutBC: Carl Hagelin is a prospect many Rangers fans are interested in. Any thoughts on his play so far?
MB: Hagelin is the fastest skater I can remember. He has a good nose for the puck, a good shot and seems to be sound defensively. He will be a NYR at some point, but he needs more time working on his total game here in the AHL.
BC: Which defenseman has impressed you the most so far?
MB: To this point nobody has really jumped out at me. What I am seeing though is a group of guys that have each other's backs and have been very strong on both sides of the ice. The good thing is that there is a lot of talent and depth there which should keep the team highly competitive and give the Rangers assets to move should they need to.
BC: The Whale are off to a great start, what would you attribute that to?
MB: They are just playing good team defense and scoring timely goals. This team has amazing speed and a great balance of youth and experience as well as a good measure of toughness. They've also has some very solid goaltending between the pipes.
BC: Who do you feel is most deserving of the next promotion?
MB: Depends upon the position and the need. There are three choices in terms of top two line talent would be Zuccarello, Audy-Marchessault and Hagelin. If the need is for grinders, Newbury and Mitchell would be the top two with Thuresson also a possibility. On defense, Erixon, Bell, Bickel and Valentenko are all players with NHL potential.
BC: Do you see Mats Zuccarello as a player that should be in Connecticut, or that truly belongs in the NHL right now?
MB: Zuccarello is definitely an NHL talent. Whether he becomes one for the Rangers is hard to tell. He's not a third or fourth line player. He needs to be on the top two lines and should be.
Interesting to see the comment about Hagelin's speed, as well as that Jonathan Audy-Marchessault has impressed so far. Thoughts?
Thanks again to Mr. Beck for the answers.