The theory that the Moose Jaw Warriors would be having a less than competitive training camp this season because of the number of returning veterans and lack of open spots didn’t take long to be dispelled.
It was quickly apparent through the opening sessions of main camp beginning Saturday morning that the players wanted to be there, wanted to make an impact and ended up putting on an impressive show for Warrior general manager Alan Millar, head coach Tim Hunter and the rest of the team’s coaching staff.
“Absolutely,” Millar said when asked if the camp had the competitive edge he was seeking. “The number of returning players is one thing and you look at the number of returning players coming back and the number of open spots. There’s still going to be competition in certain parts of the lineup and we’ve seen that in the way the 16- and 17-year-olds have played and performed.
“The other thing about camp, especially when you’re dealing with the Bantam Draft, there’s the competitiveness of getting to main camp, getting into the Black and White game, getting invites a chance to be listed, guys having a chance to earn a WHL standard player agreement and scholarship.”
With a number of the top veterans not taking take the ice for various sessions or the intrasquad game, players in other stages of their careers had a chance to show what they could do.
“At different stages and levels there’s all kinds of competition at camp, we’ve seen some good things and we’re really pleased with the five days,” Millar said.
Millar felt one of the more impressive showings of the weekend came from the composure shown by many of the younger players when it came to showing what they could do — rather than force the issue and end up pushing outside their envelope, they played a smart and straightforward game that kept them out of trouble.
That was especially true for the handful of camp invites, including 16-year-old defencemen Dylan Herzog, Josh Makarchuk and Brendan McBride, all of whom worked their way through rookie camp and main camp into the intrasquad game and beyond.
“Those kids all brought some similar qualities in that they played hard, they played a smart, solid and simple game,” Millar said. “It’s one of those examples where young kids get into these camps and they think they have to go end to end and they have to dangle.
Less is more sometimes and we feel we’re surrounded by good hockey people, our scouting and coaching staff recognize the qualities we want in a player and sometimes when guys keep it simple and sometimes when they’re not noticed that much because they’re playing a solid game, that’s good. And those guys have done that. They have an opportunity to move on with us and they could be listed depending what happens the next three days.”
When it came to the club’s goaltending, the three youngsters in camp — 16-year-olds Ethan Fitzgerald and Carl Tetachuk and 15-year-old Jackson Berry — showed the kind of depth the Warriors could have in net in the future, while the defensive corps saw a host of 16-year-olds — including Austin Herron, Matthew Sanders, Alek Sukunda and Drae Gardiner — demonstrate the kind of skill that left little concern for Millar regarding the teams blueline crew beyond this season.
Then there were the selections from this season’s WHL Bantam Draft, led by the Warriors first pick in defenceman Daemon Hunt.
“Hunt is a very good young player,” Millar said. “He’s smart, he’s poised, he has a good edge to his game. He’s played a lot of the camp with (veteran defenceman) Josh Brook and they’ve thrown the puck around pretty well together.”
The forward position is by far the deepest the Warriors have had in recent seasons and that carried over into camp, where several players performed well enough they could very well be on the verge of being listed and signed by the team.
“There’s lots of good depth and that gives us lots of options in terms of who’s going to stick around and who we’re going to potentially sign,” Millar said. “I think we have a really encouraging list of four or five guys that we’re going to consider listing. Three of those kids didn’t get to main camp, but we’re really encouraged be what they did at rookie camp and they’re in the discussion for us to consider listing them.”
The Warriors play their first exhibition game of the season tonight when they host the Swift Current Broncos for their annual rookie game. Game time is 7 p.m.
Overtime… Team Black’s Jayden Halgbewachs scored four times in the first period and finished the game with five points, as Team White emerged with a 7-5 victory in the intrasquad game… Justin Almeida had a goal and three assists for White while Chance Petruic and Bryce Anderson had their other goals… Tristan Langan scored two for Black; Luka Burzan, Josh Brook and Cameron Sterling had their other goals. Brayden Tracey had two assists.