Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Top 10 Things to Watch for at Camp

The Brandon Wheat Kings hit the ice today (Wednesday) for the start of the rookie portion of their training camp.

As the club begins its preparations for the 2010-2011 season, here's my ten things to watch for during training camp...

- Is Liam Liston ready for prime-time? If Liston can prove capable of handling #1 goaltending duties, it'll free up a 20-year old spot to be used elsewhere on the roster. If not, Jacob De Serres or Andrew Hayes will have to be kept around to mentor the 17-year old.

- Can David Toews be an offensive force? Toews scored just nine goals and 26 points the last two seasons at the University of North Dakota. He'll have to prove he's capable for being a top-six forward in order to justify taking one of the three 20-year old roster spots.

- What young defencemen can play a regular shift? The Wheat Kings have a plethora of prospects on the blue line, but also a plethora of openings. One or more of the crop of Eric Roy, Jordan Fransoo, Rene Hunter, Spencer Galbraith, Josh Elmes, etc. will have to prove capable of playing in the top four.

- When will the trade winds blow? A veteran-thin blue line is the main concern for the Wheat Kings, and I find it difficult to believe the club won't make a move to acquire at least a serviceable experienced defenceman early this year, perhaps even before the season starts.

- Is Melnychuk ready for #1 status? Right now, the fourth-year defenceman would be the Wheat Kings top blueliner. In my opionion, he's been underrated in his first three seasons. However, it's still a major step forward to become 'the guy' on the backend. Time will tell if he's ready.

- How will the new prospects look? The Wheat Kings did not hold a spring prospect camp in May because they were busy hosting the Memorial Cup. This week's camp will be the first time the newcomers to the organization will get a chance to strut their stuff, including Brandon's first pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, defenceman Colton Walz.

- What impact will a new coach have? For the first time in a while, there's a new voice on the bench as Mike Vandenberghe is filling in as an assistant coach on an interim basis. Vandenberghe has five years of head coaching experience in the SJHL and it'll be interesting to see how and how many of his coaching philosophies are brought to the Wheat Kings.

- Can Scott Glennie take the next step? At least one of Glennie's regular linemates the past three years, Matt Calvert, is gone and the other, Brayden Schenn, could be. That means Glennie will be relied on to provide even more offence and more leadership in his fourth year.

- Which young forwards step into the lineup? There are, likely, 5-6 spots open up front and it's quite possible we can see the next incarnation of the 'Baby Blue', a threesome of rookies playing third-line or better minutes. Jason Swyripa, Tyrel Seaman, Austin Lewis, Jens Meilleur, Dakota Conroy and Brendan Harms would be my main contenders.

- Is there a diamond in the rough? 2007 training camp saw an unherald MJHLer Del Cowan make an impression and stick with the Wheat Kings for the next two-plus seasons. Is there another Cowan in this year's mix?

*As a footnote, I'd like to say to watch the 20-year old situation in training camp but, if the past means anything, it'll likely be at least 2-4 weeks before anything is settled in that area. But, I suppose, the battle starts now.

Additionally, the Brayden Schenn watch will likely continue for at least the next six weeks, if not longer. Schenn will head to Los Angeles for their rookie camp next week. When or if he returns is anyone's guess, but it's almost a certainty that he won't be in Brandon for the start of the regular season on September 24.


Anonymous said...

Really looking forward to this season almost as much as last year for different reasons.

It will be interesting to see what happens on the blue line

Melnychuk Bestland
Miller Kryzaniak
Hunter Fransoo

I am thinking that is what they go into the season with. Hunter and Kryzaniak both played last year and didn't look too bad. Fransoo will make it as well he has the look already of a WHL defender. Roy is the real wildcard. He is a bit of riverboat gambler and is all over the ice.

Reminds me alot of the 2004-05 team that started the year with Boyle,Yeo,Erb and Lenoski. The only vets were Webb and Later was a reclamation project at the time. They acquired Day later on that season. But it was alot of offense up front and a supposed weak D on the back

Anonymous said...

I had the privilege of being able to watch Corbin Boes play a few times this past season and it looked to me like he would be able to handle a backup role this season. The kid has a lot of talent and he can shake off a goal pretty quickly. He has really quick feet and his long legs cover the net really well, add in the positioning and he has a solid game.