Carolina Hurricanes prospect Jerome Samson was the most consistent player for the Albany River Rats throughout the entire season last year. He not only led the team in goals, (37) and points, (78) but was one of the league leaders in both categories as well. He also led the team with 6 goals scored in eight playoff games.
Samson had the chance to play in seven games with the Hurricanes as well and chipped in with two assists in limited action.
I spoke with him last week after the Rats were eliminated from the AHL playoffs by the Hershey Bears.
Q: After having such a tremendous individual season, how do you work to followup on that performance next season?
A: Every season I try to improve from what I did the previous season, but obviously, that might be difficult next year. But still, as long as I work hard to improve my overall game and I'm ready to play game in and game out, then next season will take care of itself.
Q: Do you have any specific goals for next season and what are your offseason plans?
A: A lot of people have asked me about setting goals for myself. But I'm the type of player who looks at one season at a time. Sometimes you can go too fast in the process. I'm very happy how I performed this past year and I'm proud of my achievements, but my main goal was to try to get as far as we could in the playoffs.
For now I'm going to go back home and take a few weeks off, and then I will get back to work on my conditioning. For goals next year, first of all I want to evaluate how I can improve and what I need to do to improve my game and look at what things I can do better. Then when we get to training camp I will listen to input from the coaches and follow what they would like so I can fill whatever role they need me for next season.
Q: Did the coaching staff in Carolina give you any indication of their plans for you next year and did they give you any advice on how to improve your game?
A: I had a few talks with Paul Maurice when I was up in Carolina. This past year has been like a dream come true for me, making my NHL debut. I will be working very hard during training camp to make an impression or statement, and if I can break into the lineup after training camp, I think I will be able to stick around.
The thing you hear over and over again is about the speed of the game up there, and that you have to keep moving your feet. You need to play harder when you don't have the puck. We all consider that I can provide help offensively, but I need to get that first step and keep moving, and keep doing well even when I don't have the puck. I also need to add another notch to my game when it comes to speed. The players are a little bigger in the NHL, not too much bigger, but the speed is there. You need to learn how to get to the right spots at the right moment and that's a lot about quickness. That is something I need to improve over the summer and something I will probably keep working on throughout my entire career.