Friday, September 2, 2016

Cowell close to making opening day roster

Rockets rookie Jake Cowell
  • I don't claim to have been at every Kelowna Rockets workout at Prospera Place during training camp, nor will I watch the team on a consistent basis in practice during the regular season, but when I took in Thursday's on-ice sessions a few impressive things stood out. 1) The pace of the practice. I have always been told the pace in which you practice is the pace in which you will play. If you go through the motions, will that not affect your performance in a game? Do you hit golf balls at the range with reckless abandon and then expect to hit it straight when you play for real? The answer is no. The Rockets practice sessions are high pace and purposeful. 2) Short, sweet and to the point. In the practices I've witnessed under the watchful eye of head coach Jason Smith, they involve up tempo drills, instruction and include chalk talk with both assistant coaches Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard. 3) Smith had the players skating lines at the end of practice on Thursday. Again, I do not attend every Kelowna Rockets practice at home, so it may be something more common place than I am led to believe. The last time I witnessed the team skating wind sprints was when Ryan Huska was behind the bench and the team was being taught a harsh lesson on the ice surface of the Saddledome in Calgary. I think it's awesome. It is old school.
  • Watching the players push through the fatigue at the end of practice with the series of skating drills was impressive. Tomas Soustal, Devante Stephens and Lucas Johansen were leading the charge. Rookie goaltender Roman Basran can skate well for a big man too. Yep, the goalies are involved in the skating drills. Even assistant Travis Crickard was participating. I thought all the players on the ice dug deep as Coach Smith barked out the signals on what he wanted the players to do. 
  • The practice sessions are giving me a chance to watch players like Jake Kryski a little more closely. Acquired from the Kamloops Blazers in the Joe Gatenby/Danny Gatenby deal, Kryski's skating style reminds me in many ways of former Rockets captain Tyler Spurgeon. Kryski is somewhat upright and has short explosive strides.         
  • The rookie that stood out Thursday was 17 year-old forward Jake Cowell. Cowell is a player the Rockets listed after Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey received an e-mail suggesting he take a look at the Winnipeg resident who was playing high school hockey. Frey told Manitoba scout David Jacobson to take a look at him and came away impressed. But Frey had to get a look with his own two eyes. Frey too came away thinking Cowell could potential play if given the opportunity. Cowell did play bantam hockey at Pursuit of Excellence a few years ago but failed to hear his name called in the WHL bantam draft. The reason? In bantam, Cowell was close to 5 foot 7. Fast forward to today and Cowell is close to 6'1. Cowell has a good shot of making the opening day roster.  
  • Like their arch enemy Victoria Royals, the Kelowna Rockets are using heart monitors at practice. Each player wears a heart monitor which is then displayed on Prospera Place's video screen. The computerized program calculates everything from calories burned to heart beats per minute for every player on the ice. It essentially shows the coaches and training staff who is working hard in practice and pushing themselves physical, and weeds out those that appear to be working hard visually, but statistically aren't pushed themselves to the limit.  The Royals have used the program for the last four to five years. On average, a player will burn close to a thousand calories per practice. 
  • Former Kelowna Rockets forward Shane McColgan is going to rookie camp with the LA Kings.
  • Carter Rigby has elected to retire. The former Kelowna Rockets forward is an assistant coach with the KIJHL's Summerland Steam.
  • See ya at the rink this weekend. We will not be broadcasting the pre-season games on AM 1150 but I will be tweeting away for those interested. Our first radio broadcast of the year is September 23rd in Kamloops.  

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