O’Neill, Stothers Discuss Awards, Development

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It has been a banner year for the Manchester Monarchs, their last in the AHL. Having clinched the best record in the league, the team is gearing up for hopefully a deep playoff run.

Leading the way offensively for the team has been Brian O’Neill, who is in his third year as a professional after spending four years at Yale. After leading the league in points for nearly the entire season, O’Neill was recently named the league’s most valuable player, an award he is set to receive before Saturday’s match-up with Worcester.

O’Neill was not the only member of the team to win awards, as his coach Mike Stothers, in his first year behind the Monarchs’ bench, was named coach of the year. The two spoke to us after Friday’s game to discuss the awards and each of their respective developments…

O’Neill, on winning the AHL MVP award:

“It’s nice for the team to have that much success. Obviously, there’s going to be some players and coaches that get some recognition after the season. Playing on this team…the game’s a lot easier offensively.”

On sitting out of Friday’s game:

“I’m 100% healthy. It was nice to take a game in the stands and learn a little bit. If we’re going to play Portland, it’s always nice to better understand their tendencies. You learn a lot more in the stands than you would on the bench. It was a good night for me.”

On his development from being an undrafted collegiate free agent to AHL MVP:

“We have a really good development staff in LA. All of those guys have been great, [paired] with everyone here. If you just soak in as much as you can, you’re bound to develop. Obviously, we’ve had some great coaches here. Stuttsy has taken my game to a new level. Obviously, playing with really good players [helps]. I wasn’t getting an opportunity in my first year pro. When you’re put into a position to succeed, sometimes you’re going to succeed. Fortunately, that was the case for me.”

On critics knocking his height and age:

“Personally, I guess I’ve come a long way, so at least they’re talking about me and that’s one thing. That stuff doesn’t fuel me either. I’m going to do what I can to be successful. The best I can do is help the team. If we do that, someone’s going to maybe take a shot at me down the road, but if the team keeps doing well, I think that will come sooner than later.”

On his development over the past year:

“This year, I was more of a playmaker. I wasn’t playing with Weal as much, and Shoresy had a really hot stick early, so I was trying to get him the puck early. I think playmaking, I was a little bit better. Obviously, did some goal scoring as well. Feeding off Shoresy definitely helped a lot.”

Stothers, on winning the award for Outstanding Coach of the year:

“It’s a great honor. You know what? It’s a tough league. In all sincerity, there’s 30 good coaches. I’m very fortunate to have the help that I have from Chris [Hajt]. (He) does a great job. Our guys have been terrific all season long. They’ve bought in. There’s not one ego in that room. They just play hard, they play to win, they play for each other. They’re a great group of guys, so I’m a very fortunate man.”

On his development as a coach:

“You grow as a coach, just as players do. You know what? You learn from each and every situation you’re in, whether its junior, American League, or NHL. Your job is never done. It’s just a learning curve. It’s a development league for coaches too. The day you think you’ve got it figured all out is the day you’re in trouble.”

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