Sorry folks while we hate to interrupt all the rumors and stuff but we were able to get some actual news and wanted to share it with you. The Rangers (at least for right now) have 2 prospects playing for the Prince Edward Island Rocket of the QMJHL in 2008 fifth round pick center Chris Doyle and 2007 second round pick goalie Antoine Lafleur.
Guy Chouinard who is both head coach and director of hockey operations for the Rocket was kind enough to take the time out to give us insight on both prospects. It is refreshing in that Chouinard pulls no punches in what he says.
In case you did not know who Guy Chouinard is then some background is very much in order here. Chouinard played in the NHL most notably for the then Atlanta Flames where he was the first player in Flame's history to score 50 goals in a season.
It is in the coaching ranks where Chouinard has really made his mark as 12 games into next season, Chouinard will coach his 1000th game in the QMJHL.
In addition Chouinard is a member of the QMJHL Hall of Fame as the all-time leader in coaching wins with 515 and most championships as a coach with 4. In other words, this is a person who's opinion has a lot of experience behind it when he speaks.
PP: Can we start by asking about Chris Doyle who the Rangers selected in the 5th round? As his coach what kind of player has he been for you?
GUY: A very good defensive player in getting back to his net, and in this respect very easy to coach
PP: Chris Doyle put up 27-36-63 last season so what does his coach want to see out of him for next season in order to help the Rocket win next season?
GUY: I'm not really concerned for points fromChris next year, I am pretty sure he is going to score between 35 and 40 goals and put up about 80 points. I think I will be looking for leadership from Chris, and his personality to be consistent day in and day out. Those are the things we
will be looking for, and if we get that he should help us to go a little further next year.
PP: One of the areas we measure when talking about a prospect is his work ethic so can you describe Doyle's?
GUY: That is something he has to improve on, (but) he is on the right track right now, he did improve in the second half of last year, and this is something he knows he has to improve on especially if he wants to make it to the NHL, that only comes with hard work and that you have to be willing to do that every day.
PP: Another area we ask about is how coachable a prospect is, when you try to teach Doyle does the lesson sink in.
Guy: Yes he is very coachable allthough he is someone who will ask questions,and is someone who has a very good idea about the game and I never had any problems with Chris in that regard. Very easy to sit down and talk to him, and he listens.
PP: What is your favorite thing about Chris Doyle as his coach?
GUY: He is someone with great character, who has great hands for a big man, obviously he has an NHL shot so all those things we could tell as a coach and it's allways fun to watch Chris shoot the puck. As you know he plays on the power play and from the top of the circle that he has the NHL shot.
PP: Can you finish this sentence for us: To make it to the NHL Chris Doyle needs to............
GUY: As I mentioned earlier he has to work hard every day, at practice, has to spend time in the gym, has to improve his skating, and if he does all that and becomes a better all around player, I think his chances are very good.But the thing is he has to improve his skating.
PP: Switching to the Ranger's other prospect on the Rocket Antoine Lafleur, can we find out what is his status for next season? Will Lafleur be wearing the Rocket uniform when the QMJHL season starts?
Guy: Well right now we just completed a deal to aquire a 20 year old goaltender, who was the best goalie in the league last year, so I doubt that we would start 2 twenty year olds.I think that Antoine probably needs a new start, but nothing has been done so far, so we will just have to
wait until the camp, but I doubt that we will start with 2 twenty year olds in net this year.
PP: So much was made of Lafleur's struggles last season so how best do you
help a young prospect turn his game around?
GUY: I think you have to be positive, it was not a lot of fun last year with whatever he was doing. He was drafted so high by the Rangers, and he has to go back and watch some video of all the things that he was doing when things were going right for him, and the main thing positive thinking (about himself).
PP: When Lafleur is playing well can you tell us what does Lafleur do best in goal?
Guy: Well as we say in hockey a goaltender plays big, he is a big kid of 6'3-6'4 and when he plays big in nets there is not much room for the shooter. The main thing is he has to play big and let the puck hit him.
PP: The one area you have asked Lafleur to work the hardest on improving is what?
GUY: Probably his catching glove, he has a tendency to not be prepared for the shot, and sometimes in the juniors you can get by with it but at the pro level, you find out that that half a second to bring the glove back up might be too late. I think that his glove position would be important for him.
PP: What is it that you like about Antoine Lafleur as a person?
GUY: He is a very good kid. He is very honest and someone who is smart. He did not have a good year last year and is the first one to admit it. As a person he is a great teammate and everybody likes him and hopefully everything will work out for him.
PP: As we did with Chris Doyle: To make it to the NHL Antoine Lafleur needs to ................................
GUY: He has to be in better shape than maybe he was, work a little harder off the ice. A lot of times as a goaltender you have to be the best athlete on your team. He has to improve on conditioning, positioning and his catching glove, those are the things last year that needed to improve and hopefuly they willl and he can make it to the big league.
Our thanks first to Guy Chouinard for a very honest report on both Ranger prospects as there were no punches pulled here.
We also have to really thank Tom Tessier who handles Media Relations for the Prince Edward Island Rocket. In addition to setting up this interview with Coach Chouinard, Tom also asked the questions and transcribed it back so it could be posted here.
Tessier is another experienced hand at hockey with over 35 years of experience in the game from coach to manager to now media relations. This report on Doyle and Lafleur does not happen without Tom so a huge thank you.
(All Pictures Courtesy of the Prince Edward Island Rocket)
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