Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Main wanting to be a pain for opponents this season

I spoke to Kelowna Rockets forward Spencer Main this morning prior to an on ice workout during day two of main camp.
Now in his fourth season, the North Vancouver resident is hoping to provide a calming influence in the dressing room and add some steady play out on the ice.

Question: Spencer, you are heading into your fourth season here in Kelowna. Hasn't time gone by quickly?

"When you think of all the games we have played and all of the good times, it was a long time ago. When I was 16, I was playing with some guys that are now playing in the NHL so it's been a long time here".

Question: What do you remember about your rookie season?

"I came into camp as a 16 year-old like Madison Bowey and Jesse Lees. I was able to practice with the team before, so I knew the guys and my billets were set up. I was really comfortable coming into camp and I thought I preformed well".

Question: Tell me about your summer?

"I took the first two weeks off after the season and just hung out. I had to get a job for the first time this summer, so that was something new to me. I worked at a golf course. It was interesting and fun once it got nice out it was more enjoyable. The first couple of months down in Vancouver were pretty rainy."

Question: I would figure you will play a leadership role with the team this season?

"Being one of the 19 year-old's, besides me and Browny (Adam Brown) and Cally (Mitchell Callahan), we are the only fourth year guys on this team so we have a great opportunity to be a leader on this team."

Question: Would you be interested in the captaincy?

"I know I am going to be one of the leaders no matter if I have a letter on my jersey. I think their are a lot of guys on the team that are like that. We have so many guys that could wear the 'C' or the 'A'. I don't think it matters who wears it. We are all going to be a leadership group".

Kelowna's hockey community hit hard by Belak's death

The death of ex-NHL player Wade Belak has hit the hockey community hard.
Belak was found dead in his hotel Wednesday, just blocks from the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto.
Todd Simpson, Kelowna realtor and former NHL player, was with Belak this week participating in the taping of a new season of CBC's Battle of the Blades which airs in September.
Belak even tweeted this week that he was quote, "hanging out with his long lost brother", in reference to Simpson.
The two were teammates with the Saskatoon Blades during the 1993-94 season.
Calls to Simpson by AM 1150 News were not returned.
Belak was often seen training in Kelowna during the off-season.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

They call him 'Johnny'

Kelowna Rockets defenceman MacKenzie Johnston is taking his third season in the Western Hockey League very seriously. It may have something to do with this being his draft year or he may have a better grasp of the commitment it takes to separate himself from the pack. Whatever it is, the Rockets can only benefit from what the Swift Current, Saskatchewan product plans to bring to the ice this season.
Johnston came into Rockets main camp in tremendous shape, and his physical appearance appears to have translated into a better mindset.

"Whether I have a letter or not, I want to be a guy that the younger guys can look up to and an older guys who you can talk to on and off the ice. I really want to be in a top defensive role. I mean I am not going to be putting up numbers like Tyson Barrie was but I want to be a defensive specialist and play against the first lines on other teams".

Did you start coming into your own in the second half of last season?

"Ya, I finally hit my stride for the first time in a year and a half. Even when I was taking hits I was having fun because I was playing and playing well. Something just clicked. I don't know what it was but I will take it and run with it."

Talk about your physical transformation this summer?

"I worked out in Calgary this summer with Stack Conditioning. I was eight weeks there and two weeks here (Kelowna) working with skating coaches and then I spent a little bit of time at home. I am 195 now, so I am pretty happy with that. I feel a lot stronger too which is the biggest thing. There is a difference putting on weight and actually feeling stronger and I feel that strength so I am pretty happy right now."

Main Camp Update

  • Let's start the blog posting with some conditioning news. Rockets Athletic Therapist Jeff Thorburn tells me this years group of players were possibly the most well conditioned he's seen in his five plus years at the helm. Thorburn says their were no weak links. When pressed to name a few players that stood out he mentioned Kevin Smith, Brett Bulmer, MacKenzie Johnston and Shane McColgan were just marginally better, but overall, the fitness level of the players 'as a whole' was solid.

  • The Tuesday morning scrimmage featured veteran goaltenders Adam Brown and Jordon Cooke facing one another.

  • Sixteen year-old defenceman Jesse Lees looks a little bigger than a year ago. I had to look at my roster sheet twice to identify him.

  • Speaking of sixteen year-olds, Madison Bowey made some solid outlet passes and was seen numerous times rushing the puck.

  • I was a little surprised to see Mitchell Callahan at main camp. Sure he is still eligible to return for his 20 year-old season, but the chances are good he will play pro this season in the Detroit Red Wings organization. I am sure getting in some additional ice time before heading off to camp was the reason he was skating at Prospera Place during the morning session.

  • I had a first hand look at European forward Filip Vasko. Vasko showed some good skills and compete in the morning session. He likes to shoot the puck which is an encouraging sign.

  • NHL's Shea Weber, Josh Gorges and Travis Moen were seen hanging out at the arena. Moen is in town visiting family, much to the delight of Rockets head scout Lorne Frey. My bet is Frey is enjoying his grandson's visit as much as he is training camp.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Main camp kicks into high octane

Between 55 and 60 players will compete at Kelowna Rockets main camp, which moves into high gear Tuesday with scrimmages and workouts.
Those players are separated into three teams and will do their best to stick around for two home exhibition games this weekend against Vancouver and Victoria.
The Rockets will have five goaltenders at main camp including veterans Adam Brown and Jordon Cooke.
Only three-15 year-old players selected in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft will stick around for main camp. They include Rourke Chartier (1st rd), Austin Glover (2nd rd) and Ryan Donaldson (5th rd).
More from main camp tomorrow when I take in the first scrimmage at 10:45.
What's with the picture to the right? You can read this article that was just published by Okanagan Collections Magazine. Warning! It is a self serving piece.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The strength and weaknesses heading into main camp

Rookie camp officially came to an end Sunday and now the picture will become clearer this week as to what type of team the Kelowna Rockets will ice this season.
This is what we do know:

  • The Rockets have 20 returning players from last years team including 20 year-old's Kevin Smith, Adam Brown and Cody Chikie. Tyson Barrie and Mitchell Callahan are technically on the roster but are expected to play pro hockey this season.
  • When I say 20 veteran players, that could technically be reduced to 17 considering rookies Jesse Lees, Madison Bowey and Jason Siebert, despite seeing some playing time last season, will again be considered first year players this season.
  • Sixteen year-old Jason Siebert played in just 16 games last season. I've been told that appearing in 20 or more regular season games no longer has you designated as a first year player. Siebert broke his wrist November 22nd against Spokane and never returned.
  • Siebert, Lees and Bowey are the only players returning that have failed to score a WHL goal.
  • With seven defenceman returning (Lees and Bowey apply here), it appears all seven are safe at making the roster. What is scary is four of the seven d-men have a year or less experience. MacKenzie Johnston, Madison Bowey, Jesse Lees and Damon Severson fall into that category.
  • You win because of the strength of your older players and the Rockets have just three 19 year-old returning forwards. Brett Bulmer had 18 goals last season while Spencer Main and Max Adolph combined for just 13 goals between them.
  • The strength of this team offensively is clearly in the 18 year-old players, or those born in 1993. Shane McColgan, Zach Franko, Colton Sissons and Jesse Astles make up this group. Those four players combined for 90 goals and 166 points.
  • It doesn't take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that the strength is in goal. Adam Brown's return means the Rockets have arguably the best 20 year-old goaltender, if not the best goaltender in the Western Conference if not the league. Jordon Cooke is a solid insurance policy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Huska applauds steps on concussions

Kelowna Rockets head coach Ryan Huska is pleased the Western Hockey League is taking pro-active measures to eliminate concussions.

Three members of the Saskatoon Blades will wear small sensors on the back of their helmets in pre-season games to measure the impact the head takes during a game.

"The more information we can gain on the type of hits and how many hits the head may take over the course of a game will help. Everybody is trying to find a way to eliminate head shots or reduce dangerous hits and if they have a better idea of an exact number or a pretty good average of the number of times players get hit in the head it will help with prevention plans."

The sensors measure when the player got hit, how hard and in which way the head was jarred.

The WHL will follow the NHL's lead by going to softer shoulder and elbow pads.

Big goaltender trying to make big impact

The Kelowna Rockets selected only one goaltender in Western Hockey League Bantam Draft in May.

The Rockets took Moose Jaw resident Thomas Spence with one of three 5th round picks.

Spence admits he too was surprised that the Rockets drafted him.

"I had no idea I was going to get drafted," Spence told me this morning before an on ice session.

"I said to myself, now that I am going to Kelowna I guess I have to cheer a little less for the Warriors now", Spence added with a chuckle.

The 6 foot 2 goaltender will play midget hockey this season in Moose Jaw before hoping to make a strong bid with the Rockets next season.

"I try to use my size to my advantage. I think I am fundamentally strong and my stick handling and passing is pretty good. I just need to work on my down low movement".

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Future on display

The Kelowna Rockets made ten selections at the Western Hockey League bantam draft in May and eight of those ten players will show their stuff for the first time when on-ice sessions at rookie camp open Thursday at Prospera Place.
The Rockets first round pick, Rourke Chartier from Saskatoon, will be there along with second round pick Austin Glover, who hails from Clavet Saskatchewan.
The two no-shows at rookie camp will be 15 year-old forward Gordon Wasteste and the Rockets 7th round pick from this summers draft, American born Johnny Walker. Wasteste broke his femur last season while Walker has already registered for school.
The Rockets selected only one goaltender in the 2011 draft, Thomas Spence from Moose Jaw Saskatchewan in the 5th round.
Spence, at 6 foot 2, was acquired when the Rockets obtained a 5th round bantam pick from the Swift Current Broncos for defenceman Kyle Verdino.
In total, 160 players will participate at rookie camp, which seems like a large number but not enough to confuse the watchful eye of Frey and his scouting staff.
The draft class of 2011 consists of six forwards, three defenceman and a goaltender....with four of the teams selections coming from Saskatchewan, with three from BC, and one each Alberta, Manitoba and Phoenix Arizona.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yonkman thirsting to get back in NHL full time

Nolan Yonkman wants to play in the National Hockey League full time.
The 30 year-old believes his chances are better now after signing a two way contract with the Florida Panthers this summer.
"I had a great time with Phoenix last year and I saw some games again in the National Hockey League. We are excited to go to Florida. I got a two year deal there and I am looking forward to it. I hope they have a good position for me there, get in some games and get back in the door to the NHL".
Despite being 6 foot 6 and closing in on 250 pounds, Yonkman has only seen spot duty in the NHL since he graduated from the Western Hockey League in 2001. It makes you wonder how a player that big can't find full time employment at the elite level.
"Timing. Teams want to develop their younger guys. I've turned 30 this year but as a defensive defenceman I might be playing my best hockey right now. Early in my career with Washington I kinda hit an injury bug there for a few years so it may have closed my window with them a bit. I'm feeling good and I hope I get an opportunity to play".
Yonkman played four seasons with the Kelowna Rockets from 1996 until 2000 before being traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Yonkman has the bragging rights of being the first Rockets player to score a goal at Prospera Place.

Monday, August 22, 2011

NHL'ers in Kelowna prepare for training camp

Wade Redden was seen working out this morning at the Capital News Centre. Redden will again play in the AHL with Hartford this season.

Nashville Predators d-man Shea Weber works out as Blake Comeau (right) of the New York Islanders and Josh Gorges (left) of the Montreal Canadiens look on.

I spoke with the newest member of the Calgary Flames, Scott Hannan. Hannan signed a one year deal worth one million earlier this month.

You can't help but look up to this guy. At 6'6, Nolan Yonkman enters the season with a new two-way contract with the Florida Panthers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rockets ice should be better than ever

A sure sign that the hockey season is almost here.
The ice at Prospera Place officially goes in Friday and the smiles on the faces of hockey fans in anticipation of the Kelowna Rockets training camp beginning next week are evident.
Prospera Place General Manager Wayne Pansegrau is in charge of making sure the ice is one of the best in the entire WHL.
"We've given ourselves four to five days this year, so we have given ourselves a little more time. Normally we would do it in a three day span. We like to get it in a day before training camp so we can get a skate on it before the Rockets rookies get on it for training camp on the 25th."

"For the first two days we just use a hose. Once we have a base down and apply the white paint/water mixture, we seal that in with straight water and probably another eight floods of that. Then we add in our markings like our face-off dots, red line, blue line and then add our advertisements. We switched a couple of years ago to a textile logo which is a reusable fabric logo that we can lay into the ice. It saves us a lot of labour and it enables us to get some more detail to the actual ads."

Pansegrau says the ice at Prospera Place should be better than ever this season.

"It is tough to make good ice with bad water. We have gone to the trouble of installing a brand new reverse osmosis water system in our building this summer. The last couple of years we have been using tap water, which in Kelowna isn't the greatest. When it comes down to making ice our new system will give us a better product to use."

"At the end of the day we want to have the best quality for our main tenant. Like the Rockets who want to be the best team every year, we want to be the best ice crew every year."

Prospera staff have brought in Mike Craig, who's father is the head ice guy for the NHL to help bring in the ice this season.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rockets import pick a no-show

Kelowna Rockets General Manager Bruce Hamilton says the teams first pick in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft this summer won't attend training camp next month.
Latvian Zemgus Girgensons was selected by the Rockets 54th overall.
Hamilton told me Girgensons' family has been convinced that he should remain in the USHL with Dubuque this season until the NHL draft is over.
Hamilton says the Rockets second round pick, Philip Vasko, is expected to arrive in Kelowna a week from today.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ten questions heading into Rockets training camp

10) How many 16 year-old's will the Rockets carry this season. Three? Four? The safe answer is two considering rookie defenceman Jesse Lees and Madison Bowey are locks to make the opening day roster. Keep your eye on sixteen year-old Austin Ferguson though. A 10th round pick in the 2010 draft, the Abbotsford resident is getting rave reviews from head scout Lorne Frey. Ya, Frey pumps the tires of all the players he drafts but Ferguson has been a pleasant surprise.
9)Will a dark horse emerge at training camp this year? Will an off the map player impress the coaching staff to the point that they have no recourse but to place him on the team? I love those stories. Mitchell Callahan is the best example of a player who walked into camp and landed a job with the team. Adam Brown followed a similiar path. Now he's the Rockets go-to-goaltender.
8) If you are a rookie goaltender at training camp, do you even show up? All kidding aside, but it has to be discouraging to see an exceptional goalie like Adam Brown and then notice that his back up is equally talented. Last year the back up spot to Brown was up for grabs. This season Jordon Cooke's objective is to show he can take over the number one duties when Brown departs.
7) Are the 20 year-old's safe on the Rockets roster? Adam Brown is! You don't trade away an elite goaltender. The Rockets learned that lesson when they dealt Derek Yeomans to Seattle a couple of years ago for Clayton Barthel. Is d-man Kevin Smith or forward Cody Chikie safe? Not so, if Mitchell Callahan returns for his final season of junior eligibility. If 'Cally' comes back, someone has to go and it won't be Brown.
6) How much playing time does Bowey and Lees receive from defensive coach Dan Lambert? A regular shift? If so, those two are going to make their fair share of mistakes in the first half but will be dynamite after Christmas.
5) Who replaces Tyson Barrie? Ok, nobody does. Lees and Bowey will be good d-men down the road, but no one is capable of dominating like Barrie did.
4) Who steps up as the leader right from the start of training camp? Who wants to be the captain? It is a wide open field. You don't demand respect if you want this position. You receive it by the way you carry yourself both on and off the ice.
3) Losing three of your top four point producers from last season means someone has to pick up the slack. Geordie Wudrick, Tyson Barrie and Mitchell Callahan are gone. Look for Brett Bulmer, Zach Franko and Colton Sissons to pull harder on the rope this season. Leading the pack will be Shane McColgan.
2) Two players I'm interested in watching is Jesse Astles and Tyrell Goulbourne. Astles should be a physical force this season while Goulbourne is a heart and soul player that will give you everything he's got. Astles came out of his shell last season and Goulbourne impressed during a late season call up. Those two are the building blocks when it comes to punishing the opposition with a big hit or a fight.
1) Is 19 year-old Max Adolph able to bounce back from a series of concussions? The Saskatoon resident had an injury riddled 2010-2011 season that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Can Adolph afford to take one more blow? He suffered three concussions last season alone. Adolph's health is a huge question mark after playing in just 36 games last season.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rockets training camp dates released

The Kelowna Rockets will open their 2011 rookie camp August 24th at Prospera Place.
Close to 160 players will register before participating in on-ice sessions from the 25th to the 28th.
Main camp opens on August 29th.
The Rockets first overall pick in this years draft, Rourke Chartier from Saskatoon, will participate in rookie camp.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bloodoff gives it one more shot with team that drafted him

Evan Bloodoff has one last chance to impress the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes.
The Kelowna Rockets forward will attend the Coyotes training camp on a free agent tryout.
Bloodoff was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the 6th round of the 2009 draft, but became a free agent after the Coyotes didn't offer him a contract June 1st.
If Bloodoff fails to earn a pro contract, he will likely attending school this fall.

The 21 year-old played 280 regular season games over five seasons in Kelowna and is one of only nine players to play his entire five major junior seasons in a Rockets uniform.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Brown; Oiler bound

Kelowna Rockets goaltender Adam Brown is off to an NHL training camp next month.

The 20 year-old has been invited to attend the rookie camp of the Edmonton Oilers.

Undrafted, Brown will join the Oilers for the prospects tournament in Penticton next month (September 11-15) against rookies from the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks.

Brown is excited about the opportunity to show that he belongs.

Brown is expected to be one of three - 20 year-olds on the Rockets roster this season along with Cody Chikie and Kevin Smith.

Mitchell Callahan is eligible to return but will likely play pro hockey in the Detroit Red Wings organization.

Friday, August 5, 2011

All is not quiet in Rocketville

  • It's a busy week in Rocketville. Head Coach Ryan Huska is in Edmonton/Fort McMurray for the Canadian World Junior Team summer evaluation camp. Huska is an assistant coach for a second straight year on Team Canada. The Rockets don't have a player participating at the camp but they do have a prospect. Dillon Simpson was selected by the Rockets in the 8th round of the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft. He never played a game with the Rockets, but practiced with the team before electing to pursue his hockey career at the University of North Dakota.
  • Rockets forward Shane McColgan is in Lake Placid New York today for the start of the U.S National Junior Team summer camp. The 2012 World Juniors are December 26th to January 5th in Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Brady Leavold is making a comeback. Leavold, who played one season with the Rockets in 2007-2008, is returning to hockey after sitting out all of last season to nurse a concussion. The now 23 year-old is attempting to crack the lineup of Missouri Mavericks of the Central Hockey League. Working with a martial arts trainer four days a week, Leavold tells me he is in the best shape of his life. After playing junior at 5'9 and 190 pounds, the Port Coquitlam resident now weighs a solid 216 pounds.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Memorial Cup champ watched son at Rockets camp

  • He scored arguably the biggest goal in Swift Current Broncos history and now his son is attempting to catch the eye of the Kelowna Rockets scouting staff. Tim Tisdale, who scored the game winning goal in overtime leading the Broncos to a Memorial Cup victory over the Saskatoon Blades in 1989, will be watching from the stands as his 15 year-old son Logan will attend rookie camp later this month. Logan Tisdale is a goaltender with the Swift Current Bantam Kabos Raiders.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wudrick headed overseas

Geordie Wudrick is taking his hockey career overseas.
Wudrick has signed a pro contact with the Rosenheim Star Bulls of the German second division.
Wudrick will join fellow WHL alumnus Norm Maracle (Saskatoon Blades) and Mike Wilson (Swift Current Broncos).
ended his WHL career this past season with the Kelowna Rockets, playing in a combined 400 regular season and playoff games.
Last season Wudrick scored 43 goals.
Wudrick was a third round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2008.