Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hurricanes Training Camp: The Forwards

The Lethbridge Hurricanes kicked off their 2012 Training Camp on home ice Tuesday, August 28th at the ENMAX Centre. Camp this year features close to 80 participants and includes half of the 2011-2012 team.

Not returning to this year’s Hurricanes squad are Juraj Bezuch (waived ahead of the Import Draft and picked up by the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers), Phil Tot (traded to Tri City), Landon Oslanski (waived and picked up by Everett) and Liam Liston (traded to Vancouver). Other players who left the team in the off-season were Max Moline (retired to pursue his education at the U of L) and Tyler Kizuik (also heading to the U of L).

With a look at the goalies and defensemen, the last group to take a closer look at is the forwards.

In his final year in the WHL, the Lethbridge Hurricanes will be looking for Graham Hood to be a big body and intimidating force in the front of the net. With 6 overagers on the team, the Canes dealt Nick Buonassisi to the Brandon Wheat Kings and with it his nearly 50 point performance. Hood was 5th in team scoring in 2011 with 37 points (16G, 21A) and he’s a strong voice in the locker room. The Canes and their fans will be looking for big things from the product of Martensville, SK as he showed just how good he can be last season. Along with Hood, Brady Ramsay who finished 4th in team scoring (41 points in 61 games) will also be looked upon for another strong year. The play of Ramsay and Hood are even more important as the Canes top 3 point getters from last season are all now gone from the roster. Along with Buonassisi, Brody Sutter played out his final year last season and Phil Tot was traded to Tri-City.

The 2011 team saw 10 rookies on the roster and the five returning forwards are back a year older and stronger. The rookies accounted for just over half of the teams scoring and if their rookie campaign was any indication, this season should be a breakout year for them. Jaimen Yakubowski, Sam McKechnie, Jamal Watson, Craig Leverton and Jay Merkley were the Hurricanes Bantam picks in 2009 and 2010 and both Yakubowski and McKechnie finished top in team scoring with 30 and 28 points respectively. As a 16-year old Russ Maxwell burst onto the Hurricanes team and impressed in 2010 – earning rookie of the year honors. The 18-year old got off to a bit of a slower start last year, but turned it around in the latter part of the year. Maxwell finished with 31 points (15G, 16A) and he played all 72 games last season as did McKechnie.

One player that is on many people’s radar is Michael Sofillas from Morden, MB. In his first full season with the Canes two years ago, he registered 17 points (3G, 14) and he showed the offense he was capable of bringing to the team each night. Unfortunately, a concussion kept him out of the lineup all of last year, but Sofillas has returned and is out to prove that he is back, healthy and ready to contribute.

Reid Duke (2011 – 1st round, 5th overall), Kolten Olynek, Carter Amson, Tyler Wong and Colby Chartier are all back for their second WHL Camp. Duke and Wong both had a chance to play with the Hurricanes last season and both showed that they were not out of place when getting called up. Each of the draft picks played on their provincial teams, Duke and Defenseman Ryan Pilon were named to the prestigious Youth Olympic team and they all had strong playoff runs in winning their league title on the way to trying to earn a spot at the TELUS Cup. 95-born Forward Remi Laurencelle will also be looking to make a big impact at camp. He was a member of the U16 team and among other accomplishments he competed at the World Junior Hockey Challenge and the World Junior Ball Hockey Championships.

This year’s draft picks to keep an eye out for at camp are 1st overall pick (4th overall) Giorgio Estephan, Cole Plotnikoff (2nd round, 28th overall), Colt Conrad (3rd round, 53rd overall), Zachary Goberis (4th round, 87th overall), Josh Hayward (7th round, 138th overall) and Tyler Rohl (9th round, 182nd overall.) Another player to keep an eye on is the Canes lone pick in this year’s Import Draft. Axel Blomqvist (younger brother of Albin) was taken 17th overall and he’s a towering 6’5 and 194 lbs. He spent this past season with Rogle J18 (both the J18 Elit and J18 Allsvenskan teams) and in 38 games between the two, he registered 46 points (27G, 19A.)

(From Esther Madziya, Hurricanes Media Relations)



  1. I think the team will go as far Yakubowski,McKechnie, Watson, Leverton and Merkley will take them. Hood will be a force upfront but I can't see there being an expectation he is going to put up 70 or 80 points. Ramsey hopefully can repeat his production without the likes of Braes and Sutter. It will be scoring by committee this year and hopefully they can bring in another top 6 forward...Scott

  2. I saw a couple rookie games and a vet practice today. The vets are not overly strong but look to be solid. Wong is slick and it should be him taking Olynick to task for a position. Duke is excellent. I have not been impressed with Pilon or Leschyshyn but they will be very good. Leschyshcn looks out of shape. The youngsters are very good. I can see a real nice core of young players developing among the 16 and 15 year olds. The small Olynick is the best forward in camp in the young group. There is a Dickie who works hard and is very physical, Estaphan was worth the second trip today with at least 5 points and you can see a young kid from California getting better on d. I didn't get his name because he has a purple helmet. It was a good first day. The team's future looks very bright.

  3. From this morning's game, Wong continues to impress, Pilon looked very good. For a late pick Nemeth is a work horse. Johnny Hogue was excellent in the first period of his game.

    Got my first glimpse of Axel Blomquist yesterday, what a huge speciman, who can skate, plays with a chip and will open a lot of space for the smaller forwards. Good luck for opposing teams trying to move him from the front of their nets.


  4. I think Duke, Wong, Nemeth, and Olynek all look capable of being on a WHL roster at 16. Canes couldn't possibly keep all 4 forward though and then Pilon at 16 too. Who goes? Tough call.

  5. Thanks for the updates guys. Unfortunately, work seems to be getting much more time than my recreation.

    Hope to get out there sometime this weekend for a look.