Ice prospects hungry to prove themselves

With roster set, young guns hoping to earn regular ice time.

Cracking the Ice roster is a dream come true for defenceman Matthew Thomas.

However, until recently, that dream wasn’t in reach for the 17-year-old.

Thomas, who came to training camp from Calgary, was an unlisted and undrafted player, who got a personal invite from Kootenay Ice head scout Garnet Kazuik.

Thomas spent last season playing with the Calgary Royals Midget AAA team in the  Alberta Midget Hockey League, tallying eight assists in 34 games.

He’s had relationships with other WHL teams, attending camp with the Chilliwack Bruins two years ago, and making an appearance with the Everett Silvertips at camp last year, but ended up sticking with the Ice this season.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“Right now it’s almost hard to believe,” said Thomas. “I wasn’t expecting it all summer or anything, so I’m still getting used to it and still wrapping my head around the fact that I’ll be here all year.

“But it’s a great feeling and I’m excited for the year.”

Though Thomas wasn’t drafted, he came across the Ice’s radar via Kazuik, who runs an early morning program that the young defence man attended before school.

Kazuik seemed to notice, and began talking with him about taking a shot with the Ice, Thomas said.

“Around the end of the hockey season [last year], he asked me if I wanted to come to camp,” Thomas said. “…I thought I may as well come and give it a shot and see what happens.”

Thomas is joined by goaltender Wyatt Hoflin, defenceman Tanner Faith and forwards Collin Shirley, Luke Philp, and Kyle O’Connor as the new rookies on the team.

Adjusting to the WHL level of play has been the main challenge for Thomas, who said he’s getting more and more acclimatized with every practice.

“The speed is probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed, and the pace of the game, how much less time you have as a defenceman to make a decision, to make a pass or where to pass it,” Thomas said.

Also hailing from Calgary is O’Connor, who managed to earn a spot as a 16-year-old after beating out the competition in training camp and the exhibition season.

O’Connor was a fourth round selection by the Ice in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft,

After getting drafted, O’Connor said he spent all last hockey season and the summer preparing for a shot at making the Ice roster this year.

“I did fitness testing every month to come in ready for camp,” said O’Connor. “Registered for school mid-year and I could feel that they had some decent interest in me.”

Now that the roster is set, he can breathe a sigh of relief.

“It feels really good, all my hard work over the summer has paid off,” O’Connor continued. “It feels really great. I’ve always wanted to play in the WHL, now I just have to prove that I belong here.”

O’Connor got his first taste of regular season action in the opening game on the road in Edmonton, and he wants to use his speed and shot to contribute to the Ice’s offence.

“I think this will be a big development year for me and I’ll do the best I can to get as much ice and contribute offensively and defensively as best I can,” O’Connor said.

Shirley is the other 16-year-old rookie, while Faith, Philp, Thomas and Hoflin are 17.

Shirley is the first round selection from the 2011 draft, while Philp was late cut from last year’s team. Hoflin was the lone goaltending prospect who stuck alongside veteran Mackenzie Skapski after training camp.

Faith cracked the roster after going through camp injury-free—he got hurt last year during his first attempt and was injured again while called up halfway through the season.

The prospects complement a team of 15 returning veterans and Jakub Prochazka, who comes to the Ice from the Czech Republic via the CHL Import Draft.

Just Posted

Some light at the end of the tunnel for driver examiner shortage

As Sparwood student readies petition, ICBC has two new testers training

Moving towards a spectacular Sam Steele Days

Sam Steele Society has made some adjustments to enhance the festival including a parade route change

MP puts out call for senior grant funding opportunities

Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament Wayne Stetski is alerting eligible organizations that the… Continue reading

Kootenay Christian Academy honours its teachers

Students at Kootenay Christian Academy decided to take Tuesday, May 22, and… Continue reading

Stetski calls for gender equality award nominations

Kootenay–Columbia MP Wayne Stetski is calling for nominations for the 2018 Governor… Continue reading

Kootenay Christian Academy honours its teachers

Students at Kootenay Christian Academy decided to take Tuesday, May 22, and… Continue reading

Canucks sign top prospect Elias Pettersson to entry-level deal

Slick centre drafted No. 5 overall in 2017 NHL draft

Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps to 1,600 hectares overnight

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 1,600 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Former B.C. police chief dies in ATV accident

Ex-Nelson top cop began his career in Vancouver

Referendum in Ireland would repeal strict ban on abortion

Voters throughout Ireland have begun casting votes in a referendum that may lead to a loosening of the country’s strict ban on most abortions.

Lava from Hawaii volcano enters ocean from 3 flows

The Kilauea volcano has been gushing lava on the big island of Hawaii for the past three weeks.

Summit talk turns warmer; Trump says ‘talking to them now’

North Korea issued a statement saying it was still “willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities” to reconsider talks

Harvey Weinstein turns himself in, arraigned on rape, criminal charges

Harvey Weinstein arraigned on rape, criminal sex act charges following allegations of sexual misconduct

Explosion at Mississauga restaurant sends 15 to hospital

Hunt underway for two suspects connected to Mississauga, Ont., blast

Most Read