Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Training Camp Primer

The Brandon Wheat Kings are preparing to get their 2010 training camp underway.

Close to 90 prospects are expected to register Tuesday night and participate in rookie camp over the next two days while returning players will be undergoing their fitness testing this week before hitting the ice for the first time on Friday.

"Training camp means different things to different people," says Brandon GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon, "You've got guys that are here trying to make the hockey club, you've got guys that are here trying to make an impression and, perhaps, get listed and you've got guys that are here to see how far away they are from playing at this level so you've got a lot to watch for."

The 90 or so players attending rookie camp is a significant jump from the last few years for the Wheat Kings, who normally bring somewhere around 60 in for rookie camp.

McCrimmon says they sent out a similar number of invitations to camp this year, but simple received a better response.

"It's for no other reason than we've just had that many more free agents come to our camp," says McCrimmon, "I don't know if that's because of the exposure the organization was able to gain with the Memorial Cup or what exactly those reasons are."

Training Camp is also the first time the club's 2010 Bantam Draft picks will be at a camp run by the organization because the Wheat Kings' annual Prospects Camp in May was cancelled because they were busy elsewhere (Memorial Cup!).

"It's been a while since we've seen all of our non-roster players in a camp setting so it'll be really important training camp for us for that reason," says McCrimmon, "It'll be real good to see the 2010 draft class because we haven't had them to a camp in our organization yet."

A lot of focus will be on Brandon's blue line this fall as there are, quite likely, 4-5 spots open for rookies to fill at this point.

McCrimmon compares the situation to 2007, when the club looked painfully thin at forward entering training camp, which allowed the likes of Brayden Schenn, Scott Glennie and Matt Calvert an opportunity to shine.

"We definitely have a transition going on at that position," says McCrimmon, "I do like some our rookies coming in to play defence for our time. There'll be a learning curve, some adjustments and the transition that goes with moving up to a higher level but we think those players are going to continue to develop and improve."

Among those expected to impress on the back end are 2009 first round pick Eric Roy and three players that saw some action with the Wheat Kings last year in Jordan Fransoo, Rene Hunter and Kyle Krzyzaniak.

The Wheat Kings haven't officially released their training camp schedule as of yet, but the first ice-time (scrimmage) for the rookies will be on Wednesday morning.

I'll post the schedule once I get ahold of it.

Meanwhile, here's a couple of other quick notes to get you going for training camp:

- McCrimmon isn't expecting 18-year old Brandon Regier to attend camp. Regier walked away from the game two years ago, but returned to the ice last season with Mission in a Junior B League in British Columbia. Regier remains on the Wheat Kings' protected list but it certainly seems, at this point, that he isn't in any of their plans.

- McCrimmon says, at this point, there aren't any WHL veterans scheduled to attend camp other than the Wheat Kings own returning players. So, a reclamation project (such as Dylan Flette a year ago) seems unlikely this fall.

- Former Wheat King Stephane Robidoux is no longer on Brandon's protected list, and is currently in training camp with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

- The WHL pre-season schedule begins tomorrow (September 1) with Swift Current visiting Brandon product Joel Edmundson and the Moose Jaw Warriors while Prince Albert entertains Saskatoon.

- Tomorrow, I'll have my Top 10 List of things to watch for during the Wheat Kings' 2010 Training Camp.

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