Thursday, 12 December 2013

Bukarts Adjusting Nicely to Brandon, WHL

Rihards Bukarts has had a good first half while
adjusting to Brandon on and off the ice
  A new country, a new language and a new style of hockey.

  Those are just some of the things Wheat Kings' import Rihards Bukarts has had to get used to since arriving in Brandon in mid-August.

  There's been a lot of changes for the Latvian over the last four months, including his adjustment to the North American style of play.

  "Hockey is a little bit faster than in Europe.  You need to put pucks on the net and go for rebounds," said Bukarts, "Stops in the defensive zone, be better in the defensive zone and on offence to to change my game.  I'm getting better, I think."

  The more physical style also hasn't been a big issue for Bukarts, although he admits he could initiate contact a little more.

  Bukarts has goals in four of the last five games for Brandon and is tied for sixth in rookie scoring in the Western Hockey League with 11 goals and 24 points in 33 games.

  Off the ice, Bukarts command of English has improved dramatically -- something he credits his teammates and billets for helping him with.

  "I'm just listen to guys that are fixing me, like some words I'm saying wrong," said Bukarts, "They help me speak better and just dressing room talks and with billets, these things kist make he better."

  Bukarts, who turns 18 on New Year's Eve, says that all the adjustments and changes he's made and will continue to make during his tenure with the Wheat Kings will be worth it if he obtains his long-term goal.

  "The reason I come here is like every young hockey player, I have a dream of playing the NHL and I come to Canada to get my dreams come true," said Bukarts, "If I have a KHL contract, they are fighting between KHL and NHL, and they will never draft me from KHL so that's the reason I come to the CHL."

  The 5-foot-9, 190 pound Bukarts was Brandon's first round pick in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, seventh overall.

  The product of Jurmala, Latvia was given a late invitation early this week to play for his country at the Division I, Gruop A World Junior Hockey Championship that begins in Poland on Sunday but will not be participating in that event.

  Here's my full conversation with Bukarts prior to Tuesday's home game against Kamloops...

Chaff...D Eric Roy and G Curtis Honey, who both missed Tuesday's game with Kamloops with a lower body injury and illness respectively, did not practice with the Wheat Kings Wednesday while F John Quenneville (lower body) has also given the day off Wednesday...Brandon hosts their annual Teddy Bear Toss Friday when they entertain the Kelowna Rockets (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

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