Thursday, 11 September 2014

Pre-Season Closes This Weekend

Tim McGauley
  It's the final weekend of pre-season play in the Western Hockey League this weekend, with the Brandon Wheat Kings finishing things off with a home-and-home against Moose Jaw by hosting the Warriors Friday night (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place) before traveling to Mosaic Place on Sunday.

  Brandon's lineup this weekend should be close to an even blend of rookies and returnees, especially five players away at NHL Rookie Camps and a sixth, New Jersey first rounder John Quenneville, joining that group Saturday when he leaves for Devils' camp.

  Third-year Wheat Kings Colton Waltz and Tim McGauley are two of the players with extensive WHL experience that'll suit up this weekend, and both say they want to use it as preparation for the start of the regular season.

  "I just want to get my legs up to speed for regular season, obviously there's going to be a change of pace," said Waltz, "Make sure our team is getting the structure down and showing some of the young guys the ropes so they know what to do once the regular season hits."

  "Summertime, you kind of forget about the things you've learned and you're a little bit rusty on the ice.  I really want to make sure I get all the rust out," said McGauley, "The last couple of games, I haven't really been myself...I just want to get all the rust off and just have a really solid game."

  Among the players away at pro camp is Jordan Papirny (Montreal), so expect rookies Logan Thompson and Josh Dechaine to split the goaltending duties.

  Additionally, there have been a number of players missing practice this week due to minor injuries or illness, including 2014 first overall pick Stelio Mattheos, and their absences forced some juggling for the Wheat Kings that included defenceman Taylor Green lining up at left-wing during Thursday's session.

Colton Waltz

  The absence of some of the more experienced Wheat Kings puts a little extra pressure on those that are still around including Waltz, who was an alternate captain with Brandon last season.

  "Whenever I'm out there playing as an older, I want to have that leadership presence," added Waltz, "I guess this weekend too, a little more responsibility with a lot of the older guys gone.  Hopefully, I'm able to do my best and show the guys what to do."

  While Brandon has six players attending NHL Camps, the Warriors are missing four for the same reason while Tampa Bay draft pick Brayden Point.

  Tanner Eberle (Montreal), Jack Rodewald (Buffalo) and Dallas Valentine (NY Rangers) are attending NHL Rookie Camps are free agent invitees.

Chaff...a photographer from Sportsnet was at Brandon's practice on Thursday, so be looking for a feature article on the Wheat Kings a some point in the future...Brandon D Eric Roy and the Calgary Flames' prospects face the Winnipeg Jets' prospects to open the Young Stars Classic in Penticton on Friday...the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, which includes Peter Quenneville (Columbus) and Richard Nejezchleb (NY Rangers) begins Friday as well...there is also an NHL Rookie Tournament in London, Ontario that begins on Saturday that involves Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Chicago and Toronto prospects.

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