The future has almost arrived for the Regina Pats.
The WHL club got a sneak peak on the weekend as close to 20 prospects were summoned to Regina for the team’s annual spring camp at the Co-operators Centre. The on-ice and off-ice sessions were an initiation of sorts for the players who were selected in the 2011 WHL bantam draft, a group which wont be eligible for full-time duty in the WHL until the 2012-13 season. The gathering also served as a final tune-up for the Class of 2010, a promising group that will be integrated into the lineup starting this fall.
“This year it’s not so much feeling your way through it, you’re coming here to make the team and for me it started this weekend,” offered top prospect Morgan Klimchuk, the fifth-overall pick in the 2010 draft and a virtual lock to break camp with the Pats in the fall. “I really have to come here and show what I can do. It has been a long year and half of waiting and preparing. I was lucky to come here (at the end of last season) and get a feel for it, but that’s over now. Its time to really buckle down and make a name for myself here.”
Ditto for Kyle Burroughs of Langley, B.C.
“It’s a big time and it’s really exciting for me and my family; hopefully it’ll be the start of my hockey career,” said the promising defenceman, a third-round pick in last year’s bantam draft who also spent some time with the Pats at the tail end of last season. “Last year I came in (to spring camp) basically blind. I kind of knew what to expect this time around (in spring camp). It was a lot of fun getting to see how everybody kind of moulds together as a group and worked hard together. We’re a positive group and were optimistic about the future for sure.”
The Class of 2010 is the focal point of the Pats’ restoration project, a group which the team believes it can build around. Defencemen Nolan De Jong (seventh round) and Alec McCrea (10th) were no-shows for spring camp due to prior commitments but GM Chad Lang said he expects both players to be in Regina for main camp at the end of August.
De Jong and McCrea could challenge for spots on the blueline, along with Burroughs and Colby Williams (fourth round). Up front, centre Ty McLean (fifth round) is looking to crack the lineup after an excellent rookie season with the midget AAA Tisdale Trojans. He’s joined by classmates Klimchuk, Brett Harris (fifth round) and Demico Hannoun (ninth round). Highly regarded goalie Tanner Burghardt (sixth) rounds out the group, which is joined by protected-list pickups such as forward Dryden Hunt, forward Tristan Reimer and goalie Teagan Sacher.
“I want to make this team,” said McLean. “It’s what I’ve been preparing for. It’s what I’ve been training for my whole life. You dream about this (opportunity) since you were a little kid.
“You just hope to make it to that level. When you’re younger you dont really realize all the steps but after you’ve put in all the work, all the training, all the camps, it means a lot more to you now that you can make the team. Obviously the training and stuff never steps, there’s still a lot more steps to take, but that’s my goal. It’s what I want to do.”