Brandonite Brett Kitt fires the puck in Brandon Wheat Kings practice on Tuesday afternoon at Westman Place. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Desperation turned into motivation for Brett Kitt this summer.
Knowing he had only one realistic chance left to make his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings, Kitt committed his off-season to doing everything possible to make his Western Hockey League dream a reality and the results have been evident on the ice for the 17-year-old forward.
Chosen in the fifth round of the 2011 WHL bantam draft, Kitt has been on the Wheat Kings’ radar a long time, but it took a missed opportunity at last year’s training camp to finally show him what he needed to do to play at an elite level.
"I came in last year and I wasn’t ready to play and I came in this year and knew this was my last chance to make the team," Kitt said. "Preparation was key."
"Since I didn’t have a great camp last year, I knew that I couldn’t come in here and screw around," he continued. "I needed to come here ready to go and just show that I’m here to play and I’m ready to make the jump into junior."
After a strong season with the Midget AAA Wheat Kings, picking up 25 goals and 51 points in 42 games, Kitt hit the gym hard with fellow Brandon prospect Tyler Coulter over the summer, earning praise during camp for his conditional from Kelly McCrimmon, the WHL club’s head coach and general manager.
Kitt picked up momentum as training camp went on and now is trying to show he can continue to elevate his performance during pre-season games.
"You’ve gotta treat them like a Game 7 (of a playoff series) every time," Kitt said. "Kelly looks for consistency. You can’t be good one night and bad the next; you’ve got to be consistent all the way through."
A 6-foot-1, 192-pound left-winger, Kitt displayed the physical element of his game during Brandon’s weekend sweep against the Moose Jaw Warriors. He played aggressively in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Warriors, throwing a number of hits and engaging Moose Jaw forward Josh Uhrich in a fight.
"That’s part of my game is being physical," Kitt said. "I’ve also got to put the puck in the net, which I didn’t do that night, but I’m hoping this weekend is different. … I’ve got to make a difference in the game."
Simply playing for the Wheat Kings was a thrill for Kitt, who didn’t take part in any pre-season games last year. But now that he’s had a taste he’s determined to stick around with the WHL club.
"Growing up I’ve always dreamed of putting on the jersey and playing and I finally got to do that Friday," he said. "But I want to put the jersey on more than just one or two nights, so I’ve got to keep going."
The Wheat Kings host the Regina Pats on Friday (7:30 p.m., Westman Place), then visit the Pats on Saturday to wrap up their pre-season schedule.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 11, 2013