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2015-16 Ontario Reign Exit Interviews: Forwards

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From Amadio to Sutter, every Reign exit interview summarized: Why is Auger going to start wearing high heels to rink? Bissonnette reveals who's the "Dad" of Ontario locker room, Dowd on private meeting with Lombardi, Kempe tells why AHL suits his game more than SHL, Mersch notes mental side of multiple NHL call-ups

Joshua Lavallee

2015-16 Reign Exit Interviews: Defensemen

2015-16 Reign Exit Interviews: Budaj, Stothers, Abbott

Mike Amadio

  • Amadio "didn't expect" to take on the role that he took on for the Reign in the playoffs, which included, at times, first-line right wing and second-line center.
  • For Amadio, it's a confidence boost being able to step in from the OHL to the AHL so smoothly. "After the first couple of games, I got my confidence up, being able to make some plays, do some things with the puck. I know that's what they expect from me."
  • Amadio's main goals this summer are to come back "stronger and faster" next season. "Be able to make that next step to be an impact player."
  • Amadio was "pretty comfortable" at wing but admits "I'm more comfortable playing center out there. A little more freedom, I think."

Justin Auger

  • Auger was proud of his progression as a player who took on "a bigger role this year." "You're looked upon more late in games or if you need a goal or something. Defensively, keep the puck out of the net."
  • He's excited about Kings training camp this fall and "hopefully be knocking on the door there." "Started to come on strong at the end of the year there."
  • The towering winger isn't focusing on any one thing in particular this summer as part of his improvement. "I think it's the same thing. You're getting stronger, you're getting faster."
  • Between 6'8" Matt Schmalz and 6'7" Auger, is there room for more than one resident giant in the Reign locker room? "I don't know, now we have [Jack Flinn] too. There's a lot of size roaming around there. Flinner's challenging me for the tallest guy on the team. I'm going to start wearing high heels to the rink."

Sean Backman

  • "I love these guys, playing with them," said UFA Backman. "It's my third year with this organization. It's been nothing short of spectacular."
  • Looking back at the Lake Erie series, the Ontario assistant captain offered, "They were a great team clicking at the right time."
  • "I would like it," said the team's leading scorer of returning to Ontario. "I have friends and family out in California. This organization has treated me very well. I'm happy with the way things are here."`
  • On the pride he takes being looked to as a leader in the locker room: "The Kings might not have plans for me. But I think what I do down here is really important."
  • Speaking of the difference between playing in Ontario as opposed to Manchester, Backman noted, "The bus rides are a little longer out here in California."
  • He was wearing a cap that he "mooched" off his brother-in-law, probably Jonathan Quick.

Paul Bissonnette

  • "I would love to come back," said UFA Bissonnette. "I'd like to know within two or three weeks."
  • On how much longer he'd like to extend his playing career: "I've talked to my girl a little bit about it because family factors come in...I'd like to play at least a few more."
  • "11 years it took me," noted the pugilist, of his first professional playoff goal, which he scored against the Monsters.
  • "Schultzie's kind of like the father [of the locker room]. He doesn't really say much, but he kind of keeps the younger guys on their toes. I would say usually it's me, Vinny, Backman, and probably [Newbury] who kind of just banter and other guys just fill in."
  • Stothers loves to make jokes at Bissonnette's expense, but the jovial winger didn't take the opportunity to return fire. "I'll do it after I sign my deal." "He's a great coach. I think the guys really respect him."

Jonny Brodzinski

  • Brodzinski admitted to getting "frustrated" after his zero goals in 17 games start to the season. "That's just something you can't do in this league."
  • Of his injury, which was revealed to be to his thumb, the winger told us he should be back to 100% in about a month. "I tried to get back in the line-up. I was out there for practices. I taped it up. And...it shifted a little bit. Not good." He suffered the injury in the first period of Game Four against San Jose blocking a shot.

Nic Dowd

  • "I need to get bigger and stronger."
  • Of his time in the NHL: "Once you get there, it's the only place you want to be." He also expanded on how the Reign coaching staff directly prepared him for his first NHL game. "We knew right when it happened what needed to be done, how I need to play [in LA]. Stuttsy already had stuff ready to talk about. It was an easy transition."
  • He also talked about the impact of being so close to the Kings organization now in Ontario. "It’s huge. Not only geographically, but they’re here all the time. Rob Blake’s here all the time. And the development guys are here all the time. It’s good to see those guys around and realize that we are one step away. Because I think sometimes last year in Manchester, it’s hard to realize how close you actually are when you’re that far away. But it was great. You see them all the time and I think the biggest thing is, ‘A’, it’s a constant reminder that they’re always evaluating you, and ‘B’, if you continue to play well, you’re that close, which is great."
  • On being a 25-year-old second-year AHL pro: "Yeah, I mean, the guys don't let me forget about it. It's just one of those things where there is nothing I can really do about it. I was a late bloomer and didn't really develop until now. "
  • Dowd spoke of how proud he was to evolve from a bottom-six center in Manchester to this Ontario's squad top pivot. "What was really challenging this year as compared to last year, we had a lot of high-end talent on our top-two lines [last year]. I wasn't counted on as much offensively." He acknowledged too that his match-ups were a lot tougher this season, as he saw more bottom-six and bottom-pairing types in his rookie year.
  • He will be spending the summer with his girlfriend in their Minnesota home. "Drive back tomorrow, hopefully make it back in one piece." "Arlo will be in the car."
  • At practice before Game Four against the Monsters, just Dowd, Mersch, Kevin Gravel, and Derek Forbort met with Dean Lombardi, Blake, and other Kings and Reign staff privately. Dowd summarized one of the takeaways of Dean's message to that select group,  "You guys have a lot of responsibility, and it falls on everybody on our team. And I think he just wanted us to realize that."

Adrian Kempe

  • Kempe acknowledged that it was a little bit of a rollercoaster year. "I had a good start." "After [World Juniors], I wasn't as good as I was before." "Before the playoffs started, I was playing really well again." He observed that the World Juniors "probably" led "a little bit" to that let-down in his pro game because he returned from a "different game" with less physical peers to the much-tougher AHL. However, the 19-year-old reminded us, very fairly, that it was his "first full season over here."
  • The Swedish winger compared the SHL to the AHL: "Bigger ice there. It's not as physical...It was pretty hard at the beginning to get into this game...my game fits better here than it does in Sweden."
  • On his preference between playing center or wing, "Doesn't matter." He'll play whatever gets him more ice time.
  • Kempe, speaking of playing with more consistency. "I think I learned about that this season."

Joel Lowry

  • Lowry, who started the season hurt, felt that he was "definitely getting there" by playoff time in terms of playing his very best hockey. "I'm still not where I expect myself to be."
  • What's missing? "I think that consistency...I'm still getting pushed off the puck down low. That's something, normally, I'm not used to."
  • "I want to get stronger this summer."
  • Joel's dad Dave and brother Adam have both made the NHL. Did they have anything to say about his play this year? "They were proud of the way I played in the playoffs."

Michael Mersch

  • "Being a leader" was the biggest stride that his game made this year, according to Mersch. "How to do that with all the ups and downs that the season has." He mentioned being more observant in his rookie year then more vocal this season. He also ran down a list of some of the "little things" of sports leadership which he concentrated on: "Try to stay positive." "How you practice." "How you work out."
  • Since his freshman year, he's worked with Jim Snider, the hockey strength and conditioning coach at Wisconsin, on his skating. That'll continue this summer.
  • When asked the one thing he'd take away from this season, Mersch replied without hesitation, "Losing sucks." It was a bit of dark humor, but the Lake Erie sweep was still clearly on his mind.
  • Interestingly, Mersch focused on the mental side of his multiple call-ups to LA this season. "You've got to deal with a lot of people telling you a lot of things. They're all trying to help you. But you have to learn to manage the things that other people say and just play your game."

Brett Sutter

  • Sutter acknowledged that he "kind of tried to rush back" to play Lake Erie. He did not finish the series. The centerman wasn't sure exactly when, but he suffered a fractured pelvis against San Jose in the first round. "Wasn't quite ready...I wasn't able to give enough out there." There's no time frame for his recovery at the moment.
  • Sutter was wearing his Reign jersey when being interviewed. "They're being nice and letting us take one home. I know I won't leave one here if I'm wearing it."
  • The UFA is hoping to return to the Los Angeles organization. "Myself and my family both really liked it here."
  • In response to Darryl's extension, Chris Sutter appears to seeking his own dance cam contract. Brett seems to have taken an active part in negotiations. "I'm still working on it. [Chris] signed me as his agent. He's looking for term."