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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