Familiarity Breeding Confidence @ Panthers Training Camp

Sep 15, 2018

"Voice of the Thunderbirds" Ryan Smith is on location in Coral Springs, FL for Florida Panthers training camp activities. After the club's practice sessions on Saturday at the Florida Panthers IceDen, he had a chance to catch up with a number of players about their excitement level and goals heading into the Panthers' preseason doubleheader against the Nashville Predators on Monday, Sept. 17.


First-year F Patrick Bajkov

On his early takeaways from his first NHL training camp: “Obviously (the first thing you take away is) excitement; I couldn’t be more happy to be in an organization like this; they’ve been great the whole way.”

On trying to build upon a record-setting WHL career in his first pro season, similar to Dryden Hunt in 2016-17: “I was pretty familiar with (Hunt) in the Western League; he was an unbelievable player who had a lot of success. I’ll get to meet more of the guys and hopefully get as much information from them as possible.”

On adjusting to new surroundings, teammates: “I’m here for a hockey camp and that’s obviously the main thing to focus on. The days are hard and short, so you have a lot of time on your hands to go explore.”

On his anticipation of the differences between major junior and pro hockey: “There’s a lot of changes – it’s a faster league, the guys are bigger, faster, stronger. There’s always adjustments to be made; my job is to make sure I can catch on as quick as possible and execute at a high speed like they are.”

On how he describes himself as a hockey player: “I’d say I’m a two-way offensive forward with an offensive skill set. I think a lot of it comes down to thinking the game quickly – that’s another spot where I’m going to have to improve in making this leap into pro hockey.”


Second-year F Blaine Byron

On what he can learn from Florida's veteran leaders: “(Barkov, Trocheck, and others) provide examples of being a true pro, in how they come to the rink and prepare every day. (You see it in) the little things that they do away from just drills. It’s their habits and daily routine that really stand out.”

On his goals in 2018-19 coming off of injury in his rookie season: “My skating and my shot were the biggest things I took away from last season; I'm wanting to improve that - having that extra (quick) step and a good, quick release to create extra opportunities.”

On the synergy between Geordie Kinnear and Bob Boughner's systems: "A lot of the systems are very similar; Geordie and (Boughner) talk a lot and they make similar changes, just so it's easier for players to step up (to Florida). It keeps it easy for the players to remember."


Third-year F Anthony Greco

On his change in mindset in each of his three Panthers training camps: “I think being around (for a third year), you get more comfortable in knowing the guys you’re around. Having that comfortability of being around the guys for a couple of years… (I’ve been able) to let the play take care of itself on the ice. It all kind of transcends itself.”

On the logistical advantages of living in Florida during the summer: “You’re around a lot of the guys; you get a nice comfort of being in a city the whole summer – no flying, no traveling, staying at my house and being here has been nice.”

On observations he has made about first-year players like Bajkov & Jonathan Ang: “It's funny, you try and focus on yourself and focus on your goal in making (the Panthers), but to see some of those guys (Ang/Bajkov) and seeing some of them for a couple of years - they’re really strong players and guys that are going to have a real big impact (in Springfield) and hopefully up here (in Florida) someday.”

On his off-season improvements and goals: “It changes every summer – I worked out with somebody new this summer and was able to go to the next level strength-wise, and hopefully got even a little bit faster. It’s doing everything at a high rate of speed. You need to play the game fast and think the game fast at this top level. I'm just trying to do everything as fast as possible – thinking with and without the puck and getting stronger overall. It all comes back to confidence, believing in yourself and what you can do on the ice. I think I'm in a good place right now mentally, so I'm excited about it.”


Third-year F Dryden Hunt

On how his time with the Panthers last season has added to his confidence in this camp: “It’s definitely nice coming into camp knowing some more faces. Just being around the guys is a huge element of camp… to be back with a month under my belt in the NHL is huge; I feel a lot more comfortable, for sure.”

On his approach to a stiff competition for bottom-six minutes in Florida: “There’s definitely a lot of guys fighting for six or seven spots, and I think we all know that, but (coaches and management) have said the best 7-8 guys are going to play, so it makes for good competition and a good training camp.”

On what lessons he can take from last year's NHL call-up into this camp: “You have to bring it every night. Consistency is huge (at the NHL level); you’re playing every second night as opposed to the American League where you're playing every five or six days. It's definitely different. If you can’t (be consistent), they’re going to get someone else to do it.”

On evolving his game into a more prototypical all-around skill set: “I’m trying to mold my game into a two-way player.  The top six (of the Panthers) is solid, so whatever kind of game you can bring to make that bottom six is what I’m going to do.”

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