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Versatility, simplicity name of game for Mortlock

Defenceman/forward hoping hard work earns him opportunity after coming to Kootenay Ice camp from Regina Pats
After bouncing between Junior A and the WHL’s Regina Pats

Nathyn Mortlock is hoping a versatile and simple approach to the game will give him a shot at cracking the Kootenay Ice.

The 19-year-old native of Medicine Hat, Alta., is plying his trade at Kootenay Ice training camp this week after spending part of last season with the Regina Pats.

Mortlock, who is listed as both a forward and defenceman, is hoping versatility and simplicity provide the key to a permanent place in the Western Hockey League.

“It’s always good for the coaching staff to have options,” Mortlock said after scrimmaging Wednesday morning at Western Financial Place. “If you can play every position, that looks better. I think it’s a little bit of an advantage being able to play both.”

While, Mortlock won’t be playing every position -- goaltender is a little bit outside of his realm -- he’s most comfortable on the blue-line and has spent training camp anchoring the right point.

Only four regular defencemen from last season’s contingent stand fair odds at returning to the Ice blue-line.

Rinat Valiev is expected to turn pro, while Tanner Faith and Tanner Lishchynsky, along with an injured Tyler King, represent a trio of 20-year-olds hoping to scrape out an overage spot.

An overage battle rages on with six players in competition -- including goaltender Wyatt Hoflin and forwards Jon Martin and Luke Philp, not to mention the fact forward Jaedon Descheneau is still eligible to return from the St. Louis Blues.

With all that in mind, nothing is guaranteed for this year’s 20-year-old crew.

That leaves Troy Murray (1997), Cale Fleury (1998), Bryan Allbee (1997) and Dylan Overdyk (1997) the remaining veterans vying for ice time.

At the end of the day, a veteran presence like Mortlock might not be a bad thing should one of the 20-year-olds not stick.

The 6-foot-1, 183-pound Mortlock has 35 games of WHL experience, including 28 contests at the end of the 2014-15 campaign with the Regina Pats.

To top it off, he worked his way into eight playoff games with the Pats, and by all accounts, was reliable and serviceable.

“We made a pretty good playoff run [in Regina],” Mortlock said. “We lost to a pretty good team in Brandon, but other than that, I was pretty happy with the way I played.

“It is a good experience playing junior hockey. You learn a lot just being committed and working hard.”

Outside of his time in Regina, Mortlock spent 20 games with the Melville Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

According to Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice, Mortlock became available after he was released by the Pats following the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft.

This fall, the versatile junior veteran has his eye on a permanent place in the WHL after being invited to Cranbrook by Garnet Kazuik, director of scouting for the Ice.

“I’m just focusing on myself and playing the best that I can, showing the coaching staff what I can bring to the team,” Mortlock said. “I’m trying to just keep it simple and not do too much out there. Hopefully, if I play the way I do, I have a shot at making this team.”

Kootenay Ice training camp concludes Thursday at 6 p.m. with the annual United Way Intrasquad Game at Western Financial Place.

Notes: The WHL has announced it will be moving to a three-on-three, five-minute overtime period following any regulation tie during the 2015-16 season. The change was made from a five-minute, four-on-four overtime period in an effort to eliminate the number of shootout decisions. The change aligns with overtime rule changes made by the National Hockey League earlier this off-season.