- With rookie camp in the rear view mirror, it is time for Kelowna Rockets fans to get excited about the new faces that will battle for a spot on this years roster and the veteran players that return a year older and likely a year smarter. It amazes me season-to-season how a player improves his personal stats from a year ago. This is often the result of being placed in more crucial situation to create offense, whether it be in a top six forward role or simply more power play time. Every player believes they should see playing time on the power play, but if I am a betting man, new head coach Jason Smith won't hand it out like you would candy at a parade. Players need to earn it.
- The Kelowna Rockets lose two significant scorers in Tyson Baillie and Rourke Chartier. Baillie will play at the U of A this fall and Chartier will play pro as a signed player in the San Jose Sharks system. So, where does the offense come from? Sure, the team loses two former 40 goal scorers (Chartier had 48 goals in 2014-2015) but isn't there enough players returning to dominate the puck? Dillon Dube had an inconsistent season last year, so you would think he would be in for a breakout year? Jake Kryski, acquired from Kamloops in the Joe Gatenby trade has to be better than his 12 goals from last season showed. No pressure Jake, but can't the 18 year-old find the back of the net 20 times this season? Tomas Soustal and Calvin Thurkauf combined for 38 goals a year ago. Surely 40 goals between those two can be easily attained. Don't forget sophomore forward Kole Lind either. This guy has great finish despite struggles in the final two months of the regular season where he didn't score in his final 30 regular season games.
- Tomas Soustal won the 5k run during fitness testing on Friday at the Apple Bowl. Rourke Chartier has owned this event over the years. While it isn't the only event that shows who trained hard this summer and who didn't, I think the run is the best indicator of cardio performance and the dedication and determination of the individual to get better.
- Six goaltenders are in main camp including 20 year-old Michael Herringer and second year netminder Brodan Salmond. Salmond has the inside track for the back up spot. I will be interested to see how he has come along in his efforts to solidify that position, or does 16 year-old James Porter make a strong push at main camp? The Rockets like Porter, who was a 7th round pick in the 2015 draft. Porter is an American, who lives in Idaho but played hockey at prep-school (Edge) near Calgary. The back up spot may be interesting to watch.
- I am interested in seeing Jake Kryski in Kelowna Rockets colours. After not being drafted this summer, his motivation level, you would think, would be sky high. Was Kryski put into ideal situations in Kamloops to succeed last season? The Blazers would say yes. Kryski, under his breath, will likely say no. While it is increasingly difficult to score at the WHL level as opposed to bantam, you don't just lose your scoring touch after scoring 59 times with the Burnaby Winter Club do you? My belief is Kryski really wants to play in Kelowna, so having a better mindset should only help him in his effort to find the back of the net more often this season. How hard will he play against Don Hay and the Blazers this season? As hard as Joe Gatenby will play against the Rockets in his 19 year-old season.
- How will Kaedan Korczak perform against the veterans? The 15 year-old first rounder was a stud in rookie camp and stood out more than any first rounder since Shane McColgan owned the ice a few years ago with his yellow helmet on his head. Korczak will play on Team Blue and will likely be paired at times with d-man Jonathan Smart or Devante Stephens.
- Speaking of Stephens, this is a big training camp for the 19 year-old rearguard. Ya, 19. When you are in that age group of players born in 1997, you have to make an impact. You can't play behind younger players. You need to be a 'go-to-guy'. At forward, Tate Coughlin also has to step up or younger players will pass him.
- Last season at this time, Jonathan Smart was battling mono. How nice must it be to head into training camp healthy and playing with a boat load of confidence after playing for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka?
- Are the Rockets content with their three 20 year-old's? Riley Stadel and Rodney Southam are the forwards with Michael Herringer a lock as the starting goaltender. If Justin Kirkland under performs with the Nashville Predators AHL affiliate and returns to Kelowna, the waters get muddy awfully quick.
- Watch for Ryan Topping at main camp. A 16 year-old rookie who plays centre. An 11th round bantam pick, lets see what he can do in his first crack of making the team.
- Workouts this weekend start at 9 am Saturday and Sunday, but it is the game action that is most interesting for the fans. Games are played after every practice session at 10:45 am and 5:45 pm.
Friday, August 26, 2016
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