The Lethbridge Hurricanes wrapped up their 2014 WHL Training Camp Sunday at the ENMAX Centre.
A number of cuts were made after Sunday's final camp game. The Canes will head into the Western Hockey League's pre-season with a total of 30 players (27 healthy and 3 injured). The team must be down to 22 players on its final roster prior to the regular season starting September 19th.
Besides the drama the took place during the first two days of camp with veteran defenceman Macoy Erkamps and surprise hold-out, forward Reid Duke failing to report to camp and both getting suspended by the Lethbridge Hurricanes, there was actually some pretty good talent on the ice during the four days of camp.
First off for me, the two Russians. Both Nikita Milekhin and Pavel Skumatov have signed standard WHL player agreements. Both players impressed the coaches and those fans who came out to watch. Milekhin with his skill and Skumatov with his lightning speed certainly stood out.
Some other players who stole the show were recent draft picks Jordy Bellerive and Zane Franklin. Bellerive comes as advertised. He is as skilled and quick as they come and trust me, if he wasn't underage he would be a lock to make this team now as a 15 year old. Franklin is very good as well, just too bad both these players are still a year away. Franklin has a signed a contract, but as of now Bellerive has not.
The Canes veterans look better as well coming into this season and they should be. In goal, it appears Stuart Skinner and recently acquired Zac Robidoux will most likely be the pair to start the season between the pipes for this club. Skinner looked extremely good during this training camp. Of course it'll be up to the coaches to decide who the goalie will be, but from what I saw at camp I think those two will be the go-to netminders this year.
Two other players that were stand outs I think were Connor Rokosh and Andrew Neilson. Both are big guys and certainly beef up the Hurricanes back end. If anything, the Hurricanes appear to be addressing the "size" issue of the last few seasons. Drake Berehowsky told me before last season that he had concerns about the Canes size. It was evident last year looking at teams like Kelowna, Portland, Edmonton and Victoria that you need size as well as skill to compete in this league, especially the Central Division which has been one of the most difficult in the WHL the last few years.
The Hurricanes now open their first of six exhibition games. They will play Prince Albert in Regina August 29th and then they will face the Pats August 30th. Those are the earliest pre-season games the Hurricanes have ever played. After that the Canes return back to southern Alberta to finish off their final four exhibition games, playing once in Coaldale, once at the ENMAX Centre, and back-to-back games in Coleman in the Crowsnest Pass.