Regina, Saskatchewan – The Regina Pats open their 2015 Training Camp Saturday morning at the Cooperators Arena. 60 rookies will hit the ice for the weekend practices and scrimmages. Rookie camp will culminate in the annual Blue and White Game on Monday night at 7PM.
It’s a different looking camp this year with the returning players not taking part in the inter-squad game. They will not skate until Tuesday. Senior VP of Hockey Operations, GM and Head Coach John Paddock says that is by design. “I don’t think the vets need anymore time. The season is long enough. They don’t need time. we have a lot of kids coming into this. Not just our draft picks but guy we need to look at, it needs to be separate. Then the whole school thing. with the school timing this year and our province being different than Manitoba and Alberta there is just a lot of little reasons that we weren’t able to make things fit like we would ideally want I guess.”
Of the 22 players on the roster for 2014/15, 16 are returning. Then add in Adam Berg, Jake Leschyshyn, Lane Zablocki, Jake Elmer and Brady Pouteau who are all more than likely to make the team and it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for new faces. Here is a full breakdown of the players in camp. Paddock says that doesn’t mean guys can’t play themselves onto the roster. “We got all our players back so I don’t know that there is a lot of spots open. We have some room on defence for some people. It will be interesting to see (Jared) Freadrich and (Brady) Pouteau and Nikolai (Knyzhov). Once we get through this weekend and get more of the games itself and then get skating with the veterans, I mean those guys we are counting on them to fill some roles. (Adam) Sandstrom we think is a real good young prospect but he hardly played last year with injury. He is another guy in that defence group. People like Jake Elmer, we are looking for a big step forward from him. We are just going to be really young however you look at it. Whether it’s players back from last year or a couple guys pushing somebody out.”
Riley Woods is a guy who is entering his 17-year-old season and is coming off a big year with the Regina Pat Canadians. Paddock says he will get his shot to make this club. “We are going to give him every opportunity to be on the team. We will be putting him in in the exhibition games in positions where he has always thrived on. The rest will be up to him. I’m not just going to put him on the team and I’m not just going to cut him loose. Players make the decisions themselves and so we will have an evaluation here of all players and Riley specifically from scrimmage games this weekend, three games in the rookie tournament and four games in the pre-season and then we will have a better idea of what’s going to happen.”
Daniel Wapple is back as a 20-year-old goaltender. As is his backup from last year Tyler Brown who is 18. Add in 1st round pick Jordan Hollett who is 16 and 17-year-old Kurtis Chapman who was a 4th round pick in 2013 and there is some good depth. Paddock says he’s not sure how that position is going to shape up. “We like the depth, we like Jordan (Hollett) and Kurtis Chapman but they have to beat our guys out. With our young team I think Wapps (Daniel Wapple) is very important for this team to get confidence. It will just have to play out in the exhibition games. We are building for the future but the future also includes being a competitive team now and people having confidence they can make a mistake and it doesn’t end up in the net. It’s a big question, it’s an important question, I don’t have any answers for it. I just like our goalies and they will shake out at the start of the season and during the year and next year however they shake out.”
Of the 22 returning players, 8 of them are entering their 18-year-old season. There are potentially another 4-6 guys who have a good chance at making the club. Paddock says it’s their strongest age group but he’s not concerned with the number of 97 born players on the roster. “Some of those 97’s are really good players. Some are going to NHL camps. There is other players who can change and grow in the game. If Colton Kroeker gets stronger I think he’ll score a lot of points in this league. We are just again going to let that play out. We are not looking ahead to next season but 97’s being a strong age group, they will be very important next year when we think of ourselves as a more serious contender. You need to have players in each age group. I think we have built up the 98’s, there’s some question marks on defence, just what level they are going to get too. We have some real good 98 forwards, we are happy with our 99’s, with Jake (Leschyshyn) and (Jordan) Hollett as two high picks and Erik Gardiner and (Robbie) Holmes and some bigger guys. You need guys in each group.”