A fresh hockey season is right around the corner and a fresh-look Kootenay Ice club will make its way to the playing surface at Western Financial Place beginning Monday, Aug. 31 at 10 a.m.
“Some years at training camp, there really aren’t many jobs,” said Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice. “Last year’s team — we were a veteran-laden squad. This year, it’s a whole different outlook, not only with the graduation of players, but the new coaching staff.
“You’ve got to come in and make an impression right off the bat. What I mean by make an impression — do what you do best. Whether that’s scoring goals, taking the body, making saves. If you’re a puck-moving defenceman, move the puck. If you’re a stay-at-home defenceman, be physical, make a good first pass.
“Whatever you do, do it well.”
Monday morning, the Ice announced the schedule for its annual training camp which includes three days of on-ice sessions and scrimmages before culminating with the annual United Way Intrasquad Game on Thursday, Sept. 3.
A total of 66 players (six goaltenders, 25 defencemen, 35 forwards), including 16 WHL veterans, will look to impress new head coach Luke Pierce and assistant coach Gordon Burnett.
The new coaching duo takes over from Ryan McGill and Jay Henderson, who left Cranbrook following the 2014-15 campaign.
“Training camp brings a sense of excitement and anticipation and this season is no exception,” said Garnet Kazuik, director of scouting for the Kootenay Ice, in a team release. “Given the turnover on our roster from last season, there are a number of spots available with our club and because of this, we expect a high level of intensity as we evaluate the development of both our new and returning players.”
Included amongst the returners are goaltenders Wyatt Hoflin (1995) and Keelan Williams (1996).
On the blue-line, Tanner Faith (1995), Tanner Lishchynsky (1995), Troy Murray (1997), Mario Grman (1997), Bryan Allbee (1997), Dylan Overdyk (1997) and Cale Fleury (1998) return.
Up front, the Ice will see veterans Luke Philp (1995), Jon Martin (1995), Zak Zborosky (1996), Matt Alfaro (1996), River Beattie (1997), Austin Wellsby (1997) and Vince Loschiavo (1998) competing for playing time this fall.
A pair of household names aren’t on the returners list heading into training camp.
Forward Jaedon Descheneau (1995), a fifth-round pick (124th overall) at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is already south of the border training with the St. Louis Blues ahead of the team’s camp.
Descheneau has yet to sign his NHL entry-level contract and remains eligible to return to the WHL for his overage season, but for the time being, he won’t be seen at camp in Cranbrook.
The other exemption from the list of returners is defenceman Tyler King (1995).
King underwent knee surgery June 24 in Saskatoon after playing through pain for the duration of the 2014-15 campaign.
The native of Pilot Butte, Sask., originally sustained the injury during the 2014 WHL pre-season. After playing through the injury, a follow-up examination called for an MRI, which revealed damage serious enough to require surgery.
“It’s a credit to his pain threshold,” Chynoweth said of King’s perseverance last season.
The veteran blue-liner will be in attendance at training camp, but won’t participate on ice as he is expected to miss up to six months while recovering from surgery.
King’s injury impacts the Ice overage situation, at least in the short-term, as seven 1995-born players are expected to compete this fall.
With WHL clubs only permitted to carry three 20-year-old players, the competition for one of those three coveted overage slots is set to be fierce.
Philp, and Martin will vie for 20-year-old slots at forward, with Descheneau potentially returning to the mix as well.
King, Lishchynsky and Faith represent the overage blue-liners.
Hoflin rounds out the veteran crew in net.
“They all know the drill,” Chynoweth said. “They know the situation. In our exit meetings last year we discussed that. They’re obviously going to come in and try — no different than our young prospects — to make an impression on the new coaching staff.
“We’re looking for the intangibles and we’re going to look for the best three. With a 20-year-old, those players are usually your better players and also your leaders. Especially with the group that we have, those seven 20-year-olds are all good players, first and foremost. But we need them to be big-time leaders on a rebuilding hockey club.”
Players will report for fitness testing on Sunday, Aug. 30, before on-ice sessions get underway Aug. 31 at Western Financial Place.
All on-ice training camp sessions are open to the public, beginning with the first prospects game of the week Aug. 31 at 10 a.m.
Notes: Kootenay Ice prospect Jakob Walter has his contingency plan in place. The 16-year-old netminder, a second-round pick (33rd) at the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, will move into the junior ranks this season after spending 2014-15 with the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget League. Walter has committed to the Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, but will also attend training camps with the Kootenay Ice and Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Kootenay Ice training camp complete schedule:
Monday, Aug. 3110 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Prospects Game #112:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Veterans Practice4 p.m. to 6 p.m. – Prospects Game #2
Tuesday, Sept. 19 to 10:30 a.m. – Team White vs. Team Black11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Team Blue vs. Team White1 to 1:45 p.m. – Goaltenders Session5 to 6:30 p.m. – Team Black vs. Team Blue7 to 8:30 p.m. – Team White vs. Team Blue
Wednesday, Sept. 29 to 10:30 a.m. – Team White vs. Team Black11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Team Blue vs. Team Black5 to 6:30 p.m. – Team Blue vs. Team White
Thursday, Sept. 36 to 8:30 p.m. – United Way Intrasquad Game