Thursday, 17 September 2015

Last Chance to Impress for Rookies, Vets

Mark Taraschuk
  The Brandon Wheat Kings conclude their pre-season this weekend with a home-and-home series against Moose Jaw, beginning Friday night (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  You can still expect a pretty youthful lineup for Brandon this weekend but Wheat Kings' GM and Coach Kelly McCrimmon says the players who've returned from NHL Rookie Camps could also see some action.

  Colton Waltz returned from Oilers' camp 'nicked up' and might sit out the weekend while Macoy Erkamps, Jordan Papirny and Rihards Bukarts are expected to play Friday and/or Saturday.

  This second set of pre-season games for the Wheat Kings and while it's still about evaluation, it's also about ramping up the start of the regular season in a weeks' time.

  "One step closer to league play so in terms of your team game, preparing for seven days away, it takes on more meaning that way," said McCrimmon after Thursday's practice, "Certainly in terms of evaluations, it's a big weekend for a lot of players and not just first-year players."

  Brandon's pre-season roster sits at 28 players but that includes three 15-year olds who are ineligible to play full-time in the Western Hockey League this season.

  Caiden Daley, Rylan Bettens and Garrett Sambrook are likely to be re-assigned to their Midget AAA teams next week.

  Meanwhile, this could be a nervous time for some of those first-year players trying to carve out a full-time roster spot.

  Second-year defenceman Mark Taraschuk knows what that's all about.  He was in the same situation 12 months ago.

  "I know how some of these guys are feeling out there," said Taraschuk, "Pre-season last year was always a little nerve-wracking.  You were gripping the stick a little tight but, this year, I'm looking to come in and show I'm ready to take on more responsibility."

  Taraschuk had six assists and a +14 rating in dressing for 32 regular season games during this rookie season in 2014-2015 while also going pointless in two playoff contests.

  He'll be one of the blueliners counted on to soak up more minutes this season, especially with the sudden departure of Ryan Pilon earlier this month.

  "I'm ready.  I came into camp and my fitness testing results were good.  I thought I had a good camp," said Taraschuk, "The first week of pre-season is always about judging how everyone else is doing and you just improve your game.  You have to credit your other teammates because they're the ones that help you perform."

  Taraschuk adds he's really stressing being sound in his own end first, and feels that doing so will allow him to be on the ice more often and will eventually lead to contributing more offensively.

Chaff...former Wheat Kings' D Eric Roy was released from his free agent tryout by the Calgary Flames on Thursday...the Regina Pats assigned Foxwarren product Dawson Barteaux, 15, to the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League's Yellowhead Chiefs on Thursday...the Pats and Prince Albert Raiders will play a 3-on-3 overtime period during their game Friday, regardless of the score at the end of regulation time...the Warriors feature a pair of Westman products in Russell's Rylee Zimmer and Roblin's Josh Brook.  Brook was Moose Jaw's first round pick in the 2014 Bantam Draft.

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