Geordie Maguire will make his WHL debut tonight. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
There will be more than a few firsts when the Brandon Wheat Kings hit the ice tonight against the host Regina Pats for their first pre-season game of the 2012-13 Western Hockey League season.
First, new head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk will take the reins of the Wheat Kings in his inaugural game as bench boss. The former longtime assistant coach, who is also the franchise leader in games played (323), is excited about the opportunity to put his mark on a young team.
"It’s something that I’ve looked forward to," Gylywoychuk said. "I’m sure it will be a bit of a learning process for me, but it will also give me a chance to get to know some of our players and it should only help prepare me and the team for our first regular season game."
The game will also mark the first time 17-year-old Winnipegger Geordie Maguire will wear the black and gold colours in WHL action.
"I’m super excited and I just want to play," Maguire said. "The whole week all I’ve wanted to do is play a game."
Maguire, who was acquired from the Everett Silvertips over the summer, was the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League scoring champion last year, netting 40 goals. The 6-foot-0, 165-pound forward understands goals are going to come at more of a premium in the WHL and intends to keep things simple in his first game.
"I’m going to use my speed and get in the corners and play with a lot of intensity," Maguire said.
Maguire is one in a large group of young forwards that are trying to crack the opening-day roster and Wheat Kings brass will use the exhibition games as a measuring stick to evaluate where each player is at in their development.
"I think the guys are looking forward to battling an opponent for real," Gylywoychuk said.
"We want to make sure we get a good look at all of the young guys and on the flip side we’ve got some veterans who are looking forward to wanting and demanding more responsibility and it’s important for them to step up."
While Gylywoychuk said the coaching staff and management continue to evaluate talent, it might be the ability to harness that talent within the Wheat Kings’ system that will be the difference between making the team or being a late cut.
"We’ve really stressed some key things — our foundation of how we want to play — and we’re going to see who can comprehend and grasp those things right away," Gylywoychuk said.
Compete level is an intangible that at times can be tough to measure in a comfortable environment such as practice, and Gylywoychuk said he’s interested to see who will come to the fore in the face of what should be adverse conditions in rival Regina’s rink.
"It’s a lot different from a practice to a game because all of a sudden you’re playing against an opponent that wants the puck just as much as you do," Gylywoychuk said.
And although camp might be winding down ahead of the team’s home-and-home series with Regina to open the regular season on Sept. 21 and 22, make no mistake, no roster spot is a lock.
"There is always a chance for changes," Gylywoychuk said.
NOTES: Brandon will host Regina in its first home exhibition game on Friday night at Westman Place at 7:30 ... Wheat Kings D Ryley Miller (illness) did not practise Wednesday ... The Swift Current Broncos picked up F Justin Spagrud, 17, and a conditional second-round WHL bantam draft pick in a deal with the Victoria Royals for the rights to F Evan Richardson, 18, yesterday ... The Regina Pats have acquired D Keaton Lubin, 18, from the Calgary Hitmen for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2014.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 6, 2012