The Lethbridge Hurricanes open their 2012 WHL training camp next Tuesday afternoon (August 28) at the ENMAX Centre.
The overwhelming majority of players who were here at the end of last season will be back again this year and the experience last year's rookie received should bode well for them going into this season.
That said, the Canes biggest issues going into this season are in that 18 and 19 year old age group. Trading Phil Tot to Tri-City opened up another roster spot, but the question is will the hockey management staff be out searching for a player or players to fill that void? There's no doubt the Hurricanes have several assets in terms of draft picks they can use to send to other teams. They've done very well stocking what once was a fairly bare cupboard. With the NHL lockout looming, that may strap some WHL teams when it comes to overage players and pro camps.
The Hurricanes overage situation is much clearer now with Tyler Kizuik moving onto the player University hockey and Landon Oslanski being picked by Everett. That leaves Lethbridge with 4 overagers heading into camp.
I had a chance to speak with Hurricanes Assistant GM and Director of Player Personnel Brad Robson to talk about some of these issues heading into training camp.
Pat: Brad, camp starts August 28th so talk about the crop of players we will see this year. It seems with the trade of Phil Tot, the Hurricanes will head into camp and this new season still a very young, but skilled team.
Robson: "Yeah, we are going to be a young team, but the 10 or 11 rookies we had last season all have 60 to 70 games under their belts and experience, which I think will help them big time. Having a very experienced goalie in Ty Rimmer will certainly help us, but losing Adam Henry to an illness does hurt our back end given we kind of slotted him into our top four defence this year. We have a couple of older defencemen coming into this camp on tryouts so we will see how they do. We have Pilon, Sayers, and Topping all coming in so they're eager and ready to go this year. It's going to be a very competitive camp again. We do know we will not have 10 or 11 rookies this time and I think guys will be fighting for probably only four or five spots within our line-up. I think it's going to be very exciting for all our players and camp invites. We can finally get back into the ENMAX Centre for camp, which is a great recruiting tool. All our players and staff are very excited about what could happen for us this year."
Pat: Brad, the 18 and 19 year old age groups with this team are thin and this team has struggled to score goals the last few seasons. Are you and Rich out looking for any experienced players to fill that void?
Robson: "Well, our younger players we had last year we expect to move up and play bigger roles within the organization. I expect Yakabowski to move up, guys like Graham Hood, Craig Leverton, to step up thier games as well. Michael Sofillas will be coming back to camp and we'll see how he is after missing all last season with concussion problems. McKechnie, Maxwell, Merkley, and Duke we expect to all move up in our line up. With that draft pick we got for Tot, we're looking at possibly using that as leverage to go out and obtain an older player after the first few games of the season. but I think of the players that we do have, they're all eager. Axel Blomqvist, Jamal Watson, Tyler Wong, Remi Laurencelle. Kolten Olynek are all coming into camp fighting for spots. We're only going to have 12 or 13 forwards, 7 maximum 8 defenceman and there's going to be a big battle too for that back-up goalie spot. Chris Tai, Jonny Hogue, Ferguson, and Tanner Kovacs. It's going to be a very competitive camp."
Pat: With NHL lockout looming, do you anticipate this is going to have an impact on the Hurricanes and WHL in general?
Robson: "Well for a lot of the 20 year old who thought they were going to rookie camps or NHL tournament camps, they won't be allowed to go so there are extra 20 year olds on each team, who last year would've probably gone to camps will be sticking around the CHL. All those tournaments have been cancelled this year, so each team will have some serious battles and each team in the Western Hockey League will likely have a 4 or 5 player battles for spots, so it's going to be very interesting. For us, we have four 20 year olds coming to camp, battling for 3 spots."