All three of the Brandon Wheat Kings’ 20-year-old players will have one more week with the Western Hockey League club before heading to NHL training camps.
Defenceman Eric Roy goes to Calgary Flames training camp on Sept. 10, the same day right-wingers Peter Quenneville and Richard Nejezchleb will join the Columbus Blue Jackets’ and New York Rangers’ camps, respectively. All three could sign and play professionally in the NHL or AHL, or could return to Brandon to serve as the team’s three overagers this season.
This will be Roy’s second training camp with the Flames. The fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL draft went last year, but feels he will be much more at ease this time around.
"It’s going to be really exciting," said the 6-foot-3, 208-pounder from Beauval, Sask. "There will be a lot more confidence for me. I know I’ve been there before and I just have to go there and work hard and just try to prove that I belong there and work hard. I just want to get bigger and stronger and become a better player and a better person. Just go in there and whatever Calgary wants me to do, I’ll listen to them."
Nejezchleb was also at an NHL camp last year, but this year’s experience will be a lot different for the Czech import. Last season he attended Pittsburgh Penguins camp as a free agent and felt like an outsider. This year he was selected in the fifth round of the NHL draft and hopes to feel a lot more at home with the Rangers organization.
"It’s a different feeling," the 6-foot-3, 208-pounder said. "Last year when I was there in Pittsburgh, some guys were like ‘Who am I?’ and I’m a free agent. This year the guys will appreciate me coming there and it’s a way better feeling.
"It’s going to be lots of learning. There will be better guys there, faster and better goaltenders. I just have to learn and that’s all I can do."
Quenneville, meanwhile, is heading to his first NHL camp. Although the 5-foot-11, 196-pound Edmonton native was a seventh-round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2013, he opted not to attend rookie camp to keep his amateur status intact while playing NCAA hockey.
Quenneville is looking forward to getting his first taste of the professional ranks this year and seeing what level he needs to be at to play professionally. However, he knows if things don’t work out this year with Columbus, he has a good home to come back to in Brandon.
"It’s going to be all the top prospects and stuff like that, guys who are my age and maybe a little bit older who are looking at trying to break in and become professional," he said. "I think that will teach me a lot about what it takes to be a pro and see how close I am.
"I’m definitely going to give it everything I’ve got and it will be good to see where I stack up against pros and young guys that are pushing for those NHL jobs. We’ll see. I think we’ll have a hell of a team here in Brandon so either way, I’m looking forward to this season."
The 20-year-olds aren’t the only Wheat Kings off to NHL camps. Quenneville’s younger brother John, 18, will join the New Jersey Devils next week, while Jayce Hawryluk, 18, is off to Florida Panthers’ camp. John Quenneville, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound centre, was taken 30th overall in this year’s draft, while Hawryluk, a 5-foot-10, 197-pound right-winger from Roblin, was selected 32nd overall. Meanwhile, 18-year-old goaltender Jordan Papirny, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound Edmonton native, has earned a free agent invitation to Montreal Canadiens’ camp and leaves on Sept. 11.