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2015-16 Ontario Reign Exit Interviews: Defensemen

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From Ebert to Schultz, every Reign exit interview summarized: What will Gravel add to this game? What did LaDue learn from Schultz? Which Ontario star will LoVerde see too much of this summer?

Joshua Lavallee

2015-16 Reign Exit Interviews: Forwards

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

Nick Ebert

  • "I thought it was a good year from me," assessed Ebert. "I think injuries could definitely headline my year. I thought I was really growing there at a certain point and then I kind of had that injury and missed two months roughly."
  • He hopes over the summer to "get that confidence to become an everyday guy."
  • His "mid-range injury" has healed and he'll be all ready to train in two weeks. Ebert trains in Connecticut with Ben Prentiss, who counts Jonathan Quick, Sean Backman, and Brian O'Neill as clients.
  • The defenseman acknowledges that he and Stothers still talk about the lack of consistency in his game. "When I show how good I [can] play, I know Stutts expects that every night. He wants it every night. Sometimes, he gets a little frustrated. And it's fair."
  • In terms of why he's struggled with consistency, Ebert noted, "I haven't really had the best opportunity on the power play...Sometimes, that can give you confidence alone being put out there." "Toward the latter half of the year, I finally got some." "Next year, I could definitely see myself slated in a spot, but if not, that's fine, I just keep working for it." "I think when you get put into situations like that...it's an automatic confidence booster."
  • Ebert was one of the few who still hasn't shaved off his playoff beard (Derek Forbort and Peter Budaj were other notable holdouts). "I'll keep it for a bit and see how itchy it's going to get. It's going to be wild."

Derek Forbort

  • The RFA declared, "I love playing in this organization. If I get the opportunity to keep doing that, I 100% would love to."
  • Over the summer, Forbort will work on "the whole strength thing."
  • The Minnesota native observed of California, "It's actually a pretty cool hockey culture out there. People really like the sport."
  • Of his still-present playoff beard: "I went to shave, my batteries were out." He joked, "I'm about to shave Budaj's too."

Kevin Gravel

  • "First and foremost," the wiry defender's goal this summer is to "add a little bit of muscle to my frame."
  • As he has over the last couple of summers, Gravel will be training with Nic Dowd in Minneapolis.
  • Gravel has "no idea" if the Kings plan on using him more on the left or the right side in the near future. The left-hander played mostly on his off side this season. "I was with Forby for a lot of the year, but he's very capable on the right side too." "I don't think that's going to be a problem, one way or the other."
  • "I think I became harder to play against in my own zone," observed Gravel of his progress this season. "Whether it was with my stick or with finishing guys off in the corners...I think that was kind of an area my game lacked a little bit." "Just in terms of puck moving and things like that too. I played some important minutes this year." The blueliner had been elevated to the Reign's top power play unit by the end of the year.
  • On the importance of experiencing that NHL cup of coffee and how it helps during future call-ups: "I think one of the big things in getting a taste is you're familiar with the guys now. You're comfortable with the guys. That's huge. You're not really walking on eggshells as much as when you are first called up. You're comfortable talking to them and things like that. I think that's undercover a big part of it, you're familiar with the off-ice aspect of it."

Paul LaDue

  • LaDue felt himself "getting more confident" as he played more in the AHL. "It's definitely a little faster. Guys are bigger and they're stronger."
  • He feels "there are a lot of similarities" between LA and North Dakota's systems, "A hard-nosed game, trying to make plays all over the ice."
  • Ontario's more veteran defenders certainly made LaDue feel more comfortable at this level: "Those guys were great. Even watching them on the ice, a guy like Jeff Schultz, how calm he is out on the ice."
  • He was "a little" surprised to make his AHL debut, to be given that kind of responsibility in the playoffs.
  • "Everything," said Ladue, when asked what he needed to work on this offseason to cement his spot in the line-up. "Definitely getting bigger and stronger in the summer."
  • Even though LaDue won the National Championship with North Dakota in early April, it took him nearly a month to arrive in Ontario. Stothers had previously expressed regret that the young blueliner didn't experience AHL play in the regular season before being thrown into the postseason fire. "It took me a little bit to finish out my year in school. That was my focus right away, just getting those credits done, so it's possible for me to come in next year, take some classes online."
  • LaDue is studying Business Management.

Zac Leslie

  • The rookie defender was not hurt this postseason, so it's interesting to note that LaDue drew in over an apparently healthy Ebert and Leslie in Lake Erie.
  • Leslie focused on the positives of the season. "From a developmental standpoint, it was great." "Throughout the year, I still got a lot better in the games." "That extra practice time probably did a lot of good for me."
  • "My strength," noted Leslie, will be an immediate area of improvement this summer for him. "Be a solid defender is what they're going to look for me to do moving forward."
  • Leslie acknowledged that the structure between the Kings and the Guelph Storm is "a lot different." "I came from a team that...it was definitely a bit more loose."
  • "To play in a system like this is probably good for any young player. You have to be in a certain spot at a certain time...once you get the systems down, then your game really just takes off."

Alex Lintuniemi

  • Lintuniemi walked out wearing an Angels cap even though he's a Dodgers fan. He was wearing blue.
  • On not playing in Ontario this year: "Obviously, I'm a little disappointed. I don't know what you want me to say. I'm disappointed, yeah. But obviously, I'm just going to have to work harder to get a spot next year."
  • The Kings' 2014 second-round pick will work on "everything" this summer to cement his spot. "Quick feet, balance, shooting...everything you can work on."
  • On his long-term mid-season arm injury: "It was tough. I was having a tough year already in the beginning."
  • Lintuniemi does think the ECHL Manchester coaches prepared him well for the AHL. "We did the same kind of drills."
  • The Ontario coaching staff has reminded the young Finn every day, "You have to work on the stuff you're not that good at...Every pass has got to be on the tape. Every shot has got to be on net. And quick feet."
  • On his goals next year with the Reign: "My goal is to get a top-four position." "I see myself as a power play-PK guy, both ways."
  • "I played the right side, my off side, the last two or three years. I still think it's easier to play the left side as a leftie. But I'm really comfortable playing both sides."

Vincent LoVerde

  • I've been struck by LoVerde's friendly but usually stoic manner with the media this season. As captain, I figured he was like the father figure of the Reign locker room: "I think there are a few guys who are still a little older than me. Not quite yet, I'm getting there though!" I discovered later that Jeff Schultz might be considered more of the "Dad."
  • He and Michael Mersch work out together over the summer in hometown Chicago. "So I'll be seeing him entirely too much for my liking."
  • LoVerde was wearing a White Sox cap. "I'm a South Sider. Merschy's a North Sider."

Jeff Schultz

  • The UFA is keeping an open mind this summer. "See what opportunities come to me. I haven't made a decision or anything." His first choice may be to go somewhere with better NHL opportunities. "I still believe I can play in the NHL...that's kind of the direction I'm heading." Not that he's opposed to returning to Ontario or filling a similar leadership role in another AHL locker room, but "trying to get back to the NHL is my number-one priority."
  • Paul Bissonnette pointed to Schultz as the father figure of the Reign locker room, and the veteran defender agreed, "I would say so. Being a new Dad too, I guess, it's a double whammy...I can use what I did in the locker room hopefully with my own son now."
  • With some time to reflect on Lake Erie, Schultz concluded, "Not using this as an excuse, but maybe not playing them throughout the year, maybe we didn't know what to expect."