Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A Pre-Camp Look at the Lethbridge Hurricanes

Hope your summer is going well.

The Lethbridge Hurricanes offices are a beehive of activity right now as everyone gets ready for the hockey club's 25th anniversary season in the Western Hockey League. The Hurricanes will open training camp at the end of this month and I took some time Tuesday to sit down with Head Coach and General Manager Rich Preston to talk about camp this year, players, and what type of team will hit the ice in the pre-season.

Pat: Rich, camp open at Adams Ice Centre the last week of August. How many players will be coming this year.

Preston: "Actually, the veterans will be skating there on August 28th, 29th, and 30th and then camp officially starts on the 31st. We'll have approximately 65 players attending."

Pat: There seems to be an awful lot of talent that's coming up in the organization from recent drafts. What type of camp do you expect to have and do you expect there will be some serious battles for positions?

Preston: "Well, there's going to be some serious competition with the 16 and 17 year olds. No question we have some really good players in those age groups that'll be fighting for spots. The 16 year old group includes Jay Merkley, Jamal Watson, Craig Leverton, McCoy Erkamps, and Joel Topping. So there'll be a good battle among those players. As for the 17 years olds, we'll have two captains from other teams coming in. Jaimen Yakubowski and Taylor Balog were captains of their AAA midget teams. We've also got Sam McKechnie, Mitch Guiel, Adam Henry, and goalie Tanner Kovacs."

Pat: Coach, do you foresee the Hurricanes starting the season with a younger team overall that last year's club?

Preston: "Well, we're definitely adding some skill this year. We haven't talked about the Europeans coming over yet. We're got two top Euros who are members of their respective under 18 teams.....Bloomqvist for Sweden and Bezuch for Slovakia. You add those two players into the mix, both 1993's and you add Johnston, Ryckman, and Jackson who are older defencemen as well as Oslanski and Kizuik. Our big line last year was Fyten, Sutter, and Braes . Hopefully we get all three of them back as 20 year olds. So, we have really good core of older veterans and to complement them with the younger players and there is some bigtime skill with those young guys too. So I don't really know if we're getting younger. If you look around the league most teams will start the season with around three 16 years olds, which we will definitely have this year."

Pat: Rich, I understand you released two players last week that will open up a few more spots on the roster as well.

Preston: "Neil Tarnasky and Ryan Moser, so that opens up two more spots up front. I tried to trade both players, but I wasn't able to do so. The good thing is they've been invited to camps by other teams in our league."

Pat: How many players are going to get tryouts with NHL teams this season?

Preston: "Brody Sutter will go to Carolina's camp, Austin Fyten is going to Philadelphia's camp this year, Brandon Anderson heads to Washington's camp, and Reid Jackson has received an invite to Calgary's camp. Hopefully we'll have a few more players get invites too in the next few weeks."


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  1. I wish that I understood this concept better. You have what seem like two pretty good assets in Narnasky and Moser, and before camp begins you say you have shopped them around, but you had to simply CUT them both,... receiving NOTHING in return??

    Tarnasky provided excellent energy for the measly 5 or 6 shifts he was given each game, and you could say the same for Moser also.

    Both players have shown that they can play in this league and both will likely be picked up by other dub teams, leaving the Lethbridge Hurricanes looking like asset-wasting fools again.

  2. How many teams do you call in an attempt to arrange a trade before you decide that you simply release Tarnasky and Moser? Three? All? It is very difficult to believe that NO team in the entire WHL would offer ANY compensation whatsoever for either of these players?

    Is Preston trying to tell us that he called all the teams in the WHL and asked them, "We have two players who are looking for a new start. Best offer by August 28th takes Tarnasky and/or Moser."
    Then NOBODY calls him back? Really? Was there some reason this move HAD to be made before training camp even started?

    More questions than answers with this move by Preston, Pat.

    Have any insight to these seemingly rash moves?

  3. My guess is Preston contacted EVERY team. Why is it a surprise to you that there was no compensation for these two guys? When the best offer is a camp invite, what else can Preston do? What would you have asked for in return for them? They are both great guys but have low WHL value. Not many teams would pick up a 19 yr old forward with little upside. Usually the teams who bring in a 19 yr old forward go for a top NHL prospect and must give up a bunch of their own prospects. There is a waiver wire that EVERY team looks at and signs off on when guys such as these two are available on the market. Out of every forward on the Canes, these two had the lowest value in terms of current age and past production.

    I liked these two guys on the Canes but look at the facts, both were here for two seasons and couldn't progress up off the 4th line, let alone practising hard enough to dress for each game. Look at Machacek and Kuvaev, Preston said he tried to get every guy a spot somewhere in the league, it worked for 1 but not the other 3. Sad but that's how it is unfortunately.

    If you know anything about the Canes 16 and 17 year forwards coming up... you should be damn well excited that there are now two more spots for the rookies! Even both of the two Euros coming over are highly regarded - especially Blomqvist who will likely win Hit of the Night more than any other Cane. It will be an exciting season!

  4. As much as Tarnasky hustled his skill was just not there. Everybody loves Rudy but there was a reason he only got to play one snap. I think having him on the team for so long demonstrated a level of nepotism within the organization. Everybody hates to see a good kid go but he just was not that good. This is not a rash move as neither player is an impact player. They are both of the dime a dozen variety. I wish both the best but if we want to have a good team we have to trim some of the old fat away. Last season we brought back the same team that was one of the worst the season before. No use bring back players who have proven to be ineffective. For once I agree with Rich. Yuck that felt weird typing.


  5. I'm going to agree with those that are saying that Tarnasky and Moser are hard-working, but without a very high skill level and it's better to let them go and give their spots to some younger (16/17-year-olds) players.

    I'm really interested to see a couple of those youngsters and by keeping two 19 year-olds with minimal upside, the younger players wouldn't get their shot. Now, they are.

    Ya, it would've been great to get something for Tarnasky and Moser, but I honestly don't think anybody was offering anything.

    Looking forward to seeing the youngsters and see what they bring. It will be a "growing pains" season for the Canes, but the young guys have to start sometime. Next year is that time!

  6. Good job to Rich to try and shop both and letting them go. Rich is showing all of us that he truly has these kids in mind when he makes a move. Mark traded mid season for a 5 round pick to allow him to hopefully improve as he is not fit for our team. Both Nick and Moser are let go at a time that they may catch on with another team. Our young talent is much better that both and hopefully they will benefit with other teams. Excited for this year and the young talent!!! How about you Pat? Are you excited to see the youth?

  7. Well, there are certainly some highly-touted youngsters in the organization coming up the ranks and pushing for spots. I think a lot of people, including the coaches would like to see what Merkley has to offer. He was the Canes highest pick in 2010 at 3rd overall, but there are also guys like Leverton, Erkamps, and Topping who Rich mentioned to me as well. When it comes those 17 year olds, Rich said some of these kids just missed making the team last year at 16, so they'll be pushing for a spot too. We'll be right back to this conversation next year at this time too when guys like Duke, Pilon, and Olynek try to make the cut. I also think getting Sutter, Fyten ,and Braes all back as 20's will be an important, offensive veteran nucleus for the Hurricanes to build on for these young up and comers.

  8. I am exited for the youth, i think it would be awesome to get the three 20 year olds back, but i dont think its a 100% guarentee we do. I think this team needs one legit top 6 forward that is 19 years old. That way we can split up Fyten, Sutter, and Braes if they are getting stuck against the top D pairing all night (which they usually are). Im excited to see Sutter at camp. I was reading some Carolina blogs and by the sounds of it he surprised everyone there, quite a few people were actually saying he was the best forward at there rookie camp in July. I thought he was our best, and most consistent player down the strech. He had 9 goals in our last 11 games i believe.
    -Tom B

  9. Pat are you doing the games on the radio again this year? If so What do you guys have planned for covering the team? Anything new. Talkshow?

  10. I certainly think it's a good idea to have two or three 16/17 year-old in the lineup this year. Hopefully they impress enough to state that case.

    I'd like to see a defensive prospect make the team as well. The Cane's defence is very weak in my opinion and it shouldn't be a stretch for a young de-man or two to make the team.

  11. When you say 'Both players have proven they can play in this league?' do you have anything other than being nailed to the bench on a 23-win team to back it up?