There’s no debate about which player was the surprise of training camp. Wayne Simmonds showed potential 12 months ago, but he seemed to be a raw talent in need of a lot of development. Simmonds came in this summer, starting at the development camp, and impressed team management with his improved strength and puck-handling skills. He earned a spot on the roster and will get third-line minutes when the season opens. Of course, with Patrick O’Sullivan returning, Simmonds will need to immediately show that he should stick in the NHL. Here’s what Simmonds had to say about his memorable training camp…
Question: It must have been quite a thrill to hear you made the team. What was your reaction?
SIMMONDS: “Oh, it’s unbelievable. When I talked to coach Murray, he told me I’d be here for now. It’s a great opportunity and I just have to show myself and prove myself.”
Question: Every young guy who comes into camp talks about making the team. How realistic did you really think it was?
SIMMONDS: “I always set high expectations for myself, but I didn’t know what my chances of making the team were. I just went out and worked as hard as I possibly could and good things happened.”
Question: When you left here a year ago, what did they tell you that you needed to work on?
SIMMONDS: “Pretty much being better with the puck, making better decisions both offensively and defensively, and puck protection. It was huge for me to develop that.”
Question: Did you feel much more confident in those areas this year?
SIMMONDS: “Yeah, and coming in, you just know your surroundings better, so it’s easier to get around. You just feel more comfortable and you’re more confident. That’s the big thing.”
Question: How do you see yourself on this team? What do you think you can contribute?
SIMMONDS: “I think I bring a lot of energy to the team. I’m not shy and I’m not afraid to play physical, but at the same time, I have some skills too, so that will help me as well.”
Question: You weren’t shy about getting in some scraps in the preseason…
SIMMONDS: “No. You’ve got to assert yourself. You want to be the guy who stands out, and that’s what I tried to do.”
Question: Is it about making a statement in preseason, so that when guys see you again, they remember you?
SIMMONDS: “Well, a lot of guys are probably ticked off at me, but I just did what I had to do.”
Question: Have you done some weight training, to put on some strength?
SIMMONDS: “Yeah, I think I left at 174 (pounds) last year. I’m 182 now. So I put on a bit of weight, and it’s all good weight too. It’s all muscle.”