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2022 New York Rangers Training Camp

What Gerard Gallant said on Friday about Hajek, Zibanejad and more

Gerard Gallant met with the media on Friday and said the following (NYR):

  • Will you try out some new players on the PK, “exhibition games we’ll probably see a couple of different guys doing it, but, again, Trocheck kills penalties, Carpenter, Kreider, Zibanejad. There are lots of guys. We’re not worried about our PK one bit.”

  • Will Kakko and Lafreniere get a to kill penalties like they did last year in training camp, “yea, you might see that, you’ll probably see that. We’re definitely thinking about that.”
  • Would that be a big step in their development, “We always talk about being 200-ft players and Kaapo is a very good, responsible player. Laffy started playing a lot better the second half of last year. We don’t see any issues with that, with their speed and talent. We’ll see where they go.”
  • Does Libor Hajek have a clean slate this season, “definitely. He came to camp in outstanding shape, he’s a good person. Last year wasn’t a perfect year for him, obviously, with not having injuries and getting much of an opportunity to play. He’s a good personality, he’s coming in with character, he’s getting a chance. He’s got a good opportunity, to play on our hockey team and play a lot of minutes and we like the guy, it’s just that everything went real well for us last year and he didn’t get an opportunity to play much.”
  • What does Hajek do well that you like, “he skates well, looks strong, looks more confident this year. Honestly, if you look at stuff that you didn’t like you’d say that he looked like he lacked a little bit of confidence at times. I don’t see that at this camp. He’s come in and from Day 1 he looks strong, looks good, tested really well, so everything is good and leading to him being a good player on our hockey team. And, again, we’ll see what happens when it all boils down to it because there are some guys battling for that spot, obviously, but he’s looked really good.”
  • How did you see him handle the depth role he had, “It had to be real tough on him. Guy comes in all the time saying, ‘am I going to get a chance, going to get an opportunity and, like I said, we like the kid. There is nothing wrong with the kid’s game, it’s just that everything was rolling pretty good for us last year so he didn’t get much of an opportunity. We’re here to win hockey games, we’ve developed a good, young team and the second half of last year we really took another step, thinking we could win a lot of hockey games, and we did, so we went out and we weren’t developing anymore, we were trying to play hockey and win hockey games and that is what happens. Again, everybody played well ahead of him and it’s nothing to do with the kids game himself. He wants to be a good player, he re-signed with us because he knows there is an opportunity there and he wants to bring his game and play his best game and we are looking forward to that.”
  • What have you seen from Panarin and Trocheck so far, “they’re chatting a lot, having fun out there, I know that, talking a lot to Kravy, they want to put something together there. I love the way they are working hard. Trocheck is a hard worker, he’s been known for that his whole career, always in top, top shape and Panarin out there is having fun. He’s enjoyed it, has good jump in his step and working his tail off.”
  • On Braden Schneider staying in a hotel until he knows he made the team, “he should be, that’s a good attitude to have. We knew that and when they drafted him they knew he was a good character kid, I’ve heard nothing but positive things, even when he wasn’t playing with us, when he was playing in Hartford for the first half of last year, he wasn’t bitching about not being up here, he’s playing good down there and he’s getting good lessons from Steve Smith and the coaching staff down there, it was excellent and that is the type of kid he is. He’s not taking nothing for granted, he wants to play well and play hard.”
  • What do you see Ryan Reaves’ role, “He’s an important player for our hockey team. He’s going to play. Unless he proves to me that he can’t play or doesn’t look good, he’s going to play. He’s an important guy for our group, he’s done a real good job for our group and, again, I’m not going to say he’s playing every night, I don’t know if Panarin is playing every night, who knows? You make your lineup, but when we make our lineup and look at our team in the summertime, he’s an important guy for us.”
  • Reaves didn’t score a lot last year, so what does he bring that you need, “he’s not going to score a lot this year either (laugh). Your not asking me that question? Seriously? (big laughs) We need him to play hard-nose hockey, make people pay attention when he’s on the ice. (laugh)
  • What do you feel the next step is for K’Andre, “same thing, he’s a bigger, stronger kid. He’s the same as we talk about Laffy and Fil and those guys. They are young players and played really well last year and let’s go that next step. They are good, young hockey players, can they be….what do you call the next step? Star? Superstar? But he’s got a chance to be a hell of a hockey player and I think you all saw that last year.”
  • Did you see another step from Zibanejad in the playoffs, “Yea, once he got out of the way of…he played against the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby and he decided that it wasn’t working, we’re down 3-1 and he decided he was going to play his game and not worry about who he is playing against and he started to play real well and from that point on he was awesome. Mika shows too much respect sometimes to people and he forgets about how good he is and I think that is what the biggest step was last year, knowing how good and important he was to our team.”
  • Did anything surprise you about how Zibanejad played, “not really. I knew he was a good player before I got here. Was he a little bit better in everything? Probably a little bit better in everything than I thought he was, but still a real good player and, again, he’s taken another step like our other players. When you’ve got a good team and good players surrounding you it makes you a better player and I think that is what he does. He makes Chris Kreider a better player, he makes his linemates better players and he plays a game the coaches want.”
  • Do you think Zibanejad needs more swagger as the number one center, “there is no doubt. I mean, like I said, you play against the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby and some of those guys and you show respect for them and all that, but I think Mika showed a little bit too much respect early in the series and, of course, Sid gets hurt in Game 5 and that was huge for their team and it definitely helped our team when he’s not playing against us. But Mika just took his game to a different level from that point on and I think it was just a matter of him going out and playing his game and knowing how good he is. Nothing about who he is playing against, but we need him thinking ‘I’m the best center in the league and I’m going to play a 200-ft game and do what I do and that is what he did for our team last year.”