The attention for the Lethbridge Hurricanes now switches from camp to the exhibition season.
From what I saw throughout the weekend at Adams Ice Centre, talking with other local sports media, and fans alike this was by far a very competitive training camp, loaded with talent and skill. A lot of the young players really impressed the coaches over the last few days. This season, the Hurricanes will no question be showcasing some of this high-talented youth. The question is who will make the cut after pre-season and which ones won't? The hockey ops staff for the Hurricanes no doubt have some tough decisions to make, but talking with Head Coach and General Manager Rich Preston Sunday, that's exactly the way he likes it.
The Canes will carry a 30 player roster heading into the pre-season. Including the following:
Returning Forwards: Cam Braes, Austin Fyten, Brody Sutter, Graham Hood, Brady Ramsay, Michael Soffilas, Phil Tot, Russ Maxwell
New Forwards: Juraj Bezuch, Tayler Balog, Harrison Harper, Mitch Guiel, Sam McKechnie, Jaimen Yakubowski, Craig Leverton, Jay Merkley, Jamal Watson
Returning Defence: Daniel Johnston, Tyler Kizuik, Landon Oslanski, Derek Ryckman, Reid Jackson.
New Defence: Albin Blomqvist, Brandyn Hulit, Adam Henry, Macoy Erkamps, Joel Topping, Ryan Pilon.
Goaltenders: Brandon Anderson & Tanner Kovacs
To see a full recap of the last day of camp, read Ryan Ohashi's write at http://www.lethbridgehurricanes.com/.
Post Camp Chat With Rich Preston
Pat: Let's talk about pre-season Coach. It seems you have some tough decisions to make, but you guys (the coaches) must love what you've seen over the five days at camp.
Preston: "Well, it might be tough Pat, but that's good (laughs). Better for us to have tough decisions than easy ones. There's been some young kids who've had a great camp. One guy that comes to mind is Tyler Wong. He might have led the 15 and 16 year olds the first day when they scrimmaged. He was a 5th round pick in 2011 and has really good hands. But just watching the 95 and 96 born players scrimmage, I mean there's a lot of skill and a lot of real good players that will play in this league."
Pat: So what's the plan now going into exhibition play? What type of mix of players will you have, especially with four players heading to NHL camps?
Preston: "Well, we're going to keep seven 94 born players that weren't here last year and six, 16 years olds. That's not counting the Euros, Bezuch and Blomqvist, so that's 15 new players that'll play in the pre-season. That'll all sort itself out. We have six exhibition games. We're going to play those 16 and 17 year olds a lot, just to see who's ready to play on our team."
Pat: Do you like what you've seen from the two imports, Bezuch and Blomqvist?
Preston: Juraj (Bezuch) is really quick Pat. He doesn't look big on the ice, but he's a great skater. That's maybe his strong suit and he's scored some nice goals at camp, but he's really strong. We did a fitness test on him earlier in the week and he's as strong as any of our veterans. As for Blomqvist, he lead his U-18 team in penalty minutes and you can tell! He's a big defenceman who plays mean and he's really good in his own zone and really takes pride in his defence. He has to work on his offence a bit, but he hits the net every time he shoots. Both these players are really going to help our team."
Pat: How about Michael Soffilas and Phil Tot? Neither took part in training camp. I understand they're both still experiencing concussion symptoms from hits they received six or seven months ago last season.
Preston: "Yeah, these are tough ones. Phil is ahead of Michael. He can do everything, but contact and will probably get cleared for contact in the not-to-distant future. He looks really good though. Tot has put on 10 pounds, but Phil has always been in great shape. He's bigger, but just as quick. Soffilas is further behind. It's been a tough spring and summer for him. He hasn't even been on the ice with us yet, so he's further behind. We might have to put him on the injured list to start the season because he's at least another month away from being ready."
Pat: How about those 17 year olds? Some of them just missed making this team as 16 year olds last year?
Preston: "Yakubowski, Balog, Guiel, McKechnie, Henry, Kovacks....those 94's, they all look real good. It's amazing what a difference a year makes. They looked good in scrimmages and they'll play a lot in exhibition. It's one step at a time. It's one thing to play in scrimmages at camp, but it's another big step to play against another team in pre-season."
Pat: Rich, it seems all the Hurricanes scouts and coaching staff were very excited with what they've seen from some of these players this weekend. A number of people have told me this might be the best camp this team has had skill-wise and talent-wise in several years. You agree?
Preston: "For me it is Pat. Not even close! Just watching the 95 and 96 born players the first day, you could tell right away the speed and the skill, especially the speed. That's really important. The skill level compared to the last couple of camps has gone way up. That really bodes well and obviously, that 96 born group can't play for another year, but there are a couple of those kids that could probably play right now, they're that good."
The Hurricanes play their first pre-season game Thursday night in Taber against the Calgary Hitmen. There be no radio coverage of pre-season games this year. The first Hurricanes This Week radio show is scheduled for September 19th and our first broadcast will be the 24th when the Canes open the regular season on the road in Medicine Hat.
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