Friday, 9 September 2011

Cooper in Rare Company

Taylor Cooper
Taylor Cooper is in pretty rare company tonight when he plays his first Western Hockey League pre-season game with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

The 16-year old from Sherwood Park, Alberta is one of only for players that has never pulled on a Whaet Kings' jersey before for any type of game, whether it be pre-season, regular season or playoffs.

Imports Bruno Mraz and Alessio Bertaggia and Tim McGauley, who played five regular season games with Saskatoon last season, are the others.

"I'm just excited right now...I just want to play my best and see what happens," said Cooper after Thursday's practice, "I'll just work my hardest to try to get the systems down, and that'll help a lot."

First-year Wheat Kings' coach Cory Clouston talked about the importance of the players being able to compete with structure, and I asked Cooper how difficult it is for a young player to absorb the systems they were being taught this week.

"It's pretty difficult, but it's managable," said the 5-foot-11, 180 pound Cooper, "I just go out, be a sponge and absorb it all."

Cooper was a fifth-round pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft and is making the rare jump from Minor Midget (AMMHL), where he had 36 goals and 79 points in 37 games with the Sherwood Park Squires last season.

Chaff...if Thursday's practice means anything, Cooper will play on a line with Tim McGauley and Daniel Asham tonight. Paul Ciarelli will centre imports Mraz and Bertaggia, Jason Swyripa is in the middle with Dominick Favreau and Dakota Conroy while Tyler Seaman, Jens Meilleur and Carter Proft made up the other Brandon line. Defence pairings Thursday were mixed, but most often were Ryley Miller-Ryan Pulock; Dylan Kuczek-Spencer Galbraith; Eric Roy-Ayrton Nikkel; Colton Waltz-Rene Hunter...the Chicago Blackhawks acquired former Brandon Wheat King David Toews from the NY Islanders on Friday for future considerations.  Toews will play with Blackhawks' prospects at the Leafs' Rookie Tournament in Oshawa this weekend.

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