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Brandon boys in Wheat Kings' plans

The Brandon Wheat Kings boast a protected list that’s the talk of the Western Hockey League, and next week a pair of homegrown snipers will try to show they’re among the best of the bunch.

The Wheat Kings open their rookie camp with registration on Tuesday, followed by ice sessions on Wednesday at Westman Place. Blue-chip talent will be abundant, with three top-six picks from the WHL bantam draft taking part as Nolan Patrick and Kale Clague (the No.4 and 6 picks, respectively, from last year’s draft) looking to make their mark this season. Meanwhile, this year’s No.1 overall selection, Stelio Mattheos, is attempting to show he’ll be a force to be reckoned with when he’s old enough to make the team next season.

Brandonites Tanner Kaspick and Ty Lewis are no slouches, either, and the 16-year-old forwards are both strong candidates to break into a lineup that could be on the verge of emerging as one of the WHL’s elite, based on the Wheat Kings’ returning talent plus the highly touted youngsters coming in.

Kaspick and Lewis were both standouts with the Midget Wheat Kings last season, with Kaspick tying for third in Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League scoring with 63 points, while Lewis shared eighth with 57 points.

Along with Patrick and Clague, Kaspick is virtually a lock to make the team, with all three seeing action with the WHL club as call-ups last season, but the 5-foot-11, 184-pound centre said being old enough to play full-time in the league has raised the stakes.

“It’s a different vibe this time around because now the goal is to make the team and not just make an impression,” said Kaspick, a second-round pick (25th overall) in the 2013 bantam draft who scored a goal in his WHL debut last season. “So this year I’ve really got to bear down and I’m looking forward to it that much more.”

When Lewis was drafted in the third round last year, the only knock on him was his size, but now the 5-foot-10 centre says he’s approaching 180 pounds, which should be plenty big enough to play in the WHL, given his skill and hockey sense that scouts have raved about.

“I think I prepared pretty well the last four or five months, so the off-season’s been great and I’ve been training really hard with (Wheat Kings strength coach) Jim Frederickson at FPC and I think I’m in pretty good shape,” Lewis said. “And I was in Calgary (for the national under-17 camp) and I think that was a pretty good step for preparation for Wheat King camp.”

Lewis, Kaspick, Patrick and Clague all took part in the U-17 camp, which wrapped up early this month, with Kaspick leading all players with four goals in three scrimmages.

But it takes more than just early draft picks and national-team candidates to make up a WHL roster and Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon likes the talent his team has stretched throughout its 50-player protected list.

“I think our depth chart is pretty solid right now,” McCrimmon said. “We’ve got strength in every age group. When you look at the 96s (players born in 1996, including 2013-14 scoring leader Jayce Hawryluk), I think that group is real strong, 98 we think is a real good group, 97s has got good players in that group as well. And then the 99s, the players we just drafted this past May, is a good group as well. We don’t have any gaps that would be big concerns.”

Joining the likes of Patrick, Kaspick and Lewis up front, the Wheat Kings have another high-scoring Brandonite in 18-year-old Duncan Campbell, who will take another crack at the lineup after suiting up in a couple of WHL games last season and winning the Manitoba AAA Midget scoring title with 85 points.

Kirklan Lycar and Tristen Elder are 17-year-olds who will try to make the jump this season, while 16-year-olds Linden McCorrister and Dylan Thiessen are among those taking their first shot at the roster. Waiting in the wings are Mattheos and Brandonite Connor Gutenberg, who hope to use strong performances in training camp to springboard into big seasons as 15-year-old Midget AAA rookies, with an eye on stepping up to the WHL down the road.

Newcomers along with Clague on the blue-line include Ivan Provorov, a Russian import with great potential, as well as fellow 17-year-olds Mark Taraschuk, Mark Matsuba and Aaron Kellogg, who will each try to leverage a couple of years of midget experience into roster spots in Brandon. Seventeen-year-old goalies Evan Robert (2.09 goals-against average) and Logan Thompson (2.77 GAA) both come to camp after putting up nice numbers in midget last season.

While a number of players have spent the last year or two steadily building up to their goal of becoming WHL players, there will be others who suddenly force their way into the discussion with standout camps. While the Wheat Kings keep tabs on all their prospects after the bantam draft and bring them to a spring camp each year to evaluate their progress over the season, McCrimmon said there are always a few surprises once training camp starts.

“Fall camp gives you a good indication of how committed guys are to working on strength and conditioning and fitness and then just again, over the years there’s always that player or group of players that really seems to take a big step during the off-season,” he said. “Whether that’s just physical maturity or confidence that comes from being a year older, it’s hard to say. But that’s something that we’ve seen for many, many years. There’s players that seem to improve as much in the summer as they do in they winter.”

ONE-TIMERS: The Lethbridge Hurricanes have acquired G Zac Robidoux, 18, from the Medicine Hat Tigers for a third-round pick in next year’s bantam draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2017. The Morden native had a 2.19 GAA and a .924 save percentage with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Portage Terriers last season and went 2-1 with a 2.27 GAA in three games with the Tigers.


The 2013-14 regular-season statistics for protected prospects in the Brandon Wheat Kings’ system who were not regular roster players for the WHL club last season, with this season’s age in parentheses. (Note: 15-year-olds ineligible to play full-time in WHL this season):


Hunter Arps (15), 6-1, 145 pounds

North East Wolfpack (Saskatchewan Bantam AA)

1,333 MP 2.34 GAA NA 11-6-5 W-L-OT

Joshua Dechaine (16), 6-1, 170 pounds

St. Albert Flyers (Alberta Minor Midget AAA)

1,018 MP 2.42 GAA .924 % 8-5-4 W-L-OT

Justin Klassen (15), 6-0, 159 pounds

Central Plains Capitals (Manitoba Midget AAA)

1,308 MP 4.40 GAA .864 % 5-13-1 W-L-OT

Evan Robert (17), 6-2, 172 pounds

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (U.S. Midget)

NA 2.09 GAA .922 % NA

Logan Thompson (17), 6-1, 165 pounds

Calgary Buffaloes (Alberta Midget AAA)

998 MP 2.77 GAA .916 % 9-7-3 W-L-OT


a-Mikey Anderson (15), 5-10, 185 pounds

Hill-Murray Pioneers (Minnesota High School)

25 GP 1 G 5 A 6 PTS 10 PIM

T.J. Brown (16), 5-10, 165 pounds

Red Deer Chiefs (Alberta Midget AAA)

33 GP 4 G 11 A 15 PTS 14 PIM

Kale Clague (16), 5-11, 181 pounds

Lloydminster Bobcats (Alberta Midget AAA)

31 GP 11 G 22 A 33 PTS 34 PIM

Jarrod Gourley (15), 6-1, 185 pounds

Calgary Bisons (Alberta Bantam AAA)

32 GP 5 G 24 A 29 PTS 52 PIM

Dane Hirst (15), 6-0, 177 pounds

Eastman Selects (Manitoba Bantam AAA)

33 GP 4 G 12 A 16 PTS 26 PIM

Aaron Kellogg (17), 6-0, 200 pounds

Fort Sask. Rangers (Alberta Midget AAA)

34 GP 8 G 8 A 16 PTS 46 PIM

b-Ryan Lindgren (16), 5-11, 190 pounds

Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep (United States U-18)

51 GP 3 G 12 A 15 PTS 80 PIM

Mark Matsuba (17), 5-11, 180 pounds

St. Albert Raiders (Alberta Midget AAA)

30 GP 0 G 5 A 5 PTS 36 PIM

Ian Mitchell (15), 5-9, 150 pounds

Spruce Grove Saints (Alberta Bantam AAA)

24 GP 4 G 17 A 21 PTS 26 PIM

i-Ivan Provorov (17), 6-0, 193 pounds

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (U.S. Junior)

56 GP 6 G 13 A 19 PTS 32 PIM

Mark Taraschuk (17), 6-2, 191 pounds

Winnipeg Wild (Manitoba Midget AAA)

43 GP 9 G 29 A 38 PTS 24 PIM


c-Wade Allison (17), RW, 6-1, 200 pounds

Omaha AAA (United States 16U)

77 GP 75 G 77 A 152 PTS NA

a-Joey Anderson (16), C, 5-11, 175 pounds

Hill-Murray Pioneers (Minnesota High School)

25 GP 21 G 29 A 50 PTS 16 PIM

Braden Billaney (16), RW, 5-10, 155 pounds

Southwest Cougars (Manitoba Midget AAA)

36 GP 4 G 4 A 8 PTS 44 PIM

Duncan Campbell (18), C, 6-3, 187 pounds

Brandon Wheat Kings (Manitoba Midget AAA)

44 GP 39 G 46 A 85 PTS 60 PIM

c-Colt Conrad (17), C, 5-10, 160 pounds

Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep (United States U-18)

45 GP 14 G 27 A 41 PTS 16 PIM

Ben Dalke (16), RW, 5-8, 151 pounds

Pembina Valley Hawks (Manitoba Midget AAA)

43 GP 20 G 9 A 29 PTS 38 PIM

Tristen Elder (17), RW, 6-2, 175 pounds

Tisdale Trojans (Saskatchewan Midget AAA)

44 GP 16 G 16 A 32 PTS 42 PIM

d-Rhett Gardner (18), LW, 6-1, 175 pounds

Okotoks Oilers (Alberta Junior)

52 GP 13 G 24 A 37 PTS 82 PIM

Connor Gutenberg (15), C, 5-9, 130 pounds

Brandon Wheat Kings (Winnipeg Bantam AAA)

32 GP 20 G 20 A 40 PTS 6 PIM

e-Brendan Harms (20), RW, 6-0, 185 pounds

Bemidji State Beavers (NCAA Division I)

38 GP 7 G 14 A 21 PTS 18 PIM

Tanner Kaspick (16), C, 5-11, 184 pounds

Brandon Wheat Kings (Manitoba Midget AAA)

40 GP 28 G 35 A 63 PTS 42 PIM

Jeremy Klessens (15), C, 5-10, 180 pounds

Red Deer Rebels White (Alberta Bantam AAA)

31 GP 27 G 18 A 45 PTS 42 PIM

Ty Lewis (16), C, 5-10, 180 pounds

Brandon Wheat Kings (Manitoba Midget AAA)

35 GP 28 G 29 A 57 PTS 38 PIM

Kirklan Lycar (17), C, 5-11, 165 pounds

Eastman Selects (Manitoba Midget AAA)

44 GP 18 G 27 A 45 PTS 18 PIM

Stelio Mattheos (15), C, 6-3, 177 pounds

Winnipeg Monarchs (Winnipeg Bantam AAA)

32 GP 53 G 50 A 103 PTS 28 PIM

Leif Mattson (15), RW, 5-9, 153 pounds

Interlake Lightning (Winnipeg Bantam AAA)

33 GP 35 G 33 A 68 PTS 16 PIM

Linden McCorrister (16), C, 5-10, 159 pounds

Interlake Lightning (Manitoba Midget AAA)

37 GP 12 G 9 A 21 PTS 45 PIM

James McIsaac (15), C, 5-9, 155 pounds

Winnipeg Warriors (Winnipeg Bantam AAA)

31 GP 32 G 26 A 58 PTS 110 PIM

Nolan Patrick (16), C, 6-3, 183 pounds

Winnipeg Thrashers (Manitoba Midget AAA)

39 GP 33 G 30 A 63 PTS 42 PIM

Dylan Thiessen (16), C, 6-0, 185 pounds

Winnipeg Wild (Manitoba Midget AAA)

41 GP 17 G 24 A 41 PTS 12 PIM

a-committed to University of Minnesota-Duluth.

b-committed to University of Minnesota.

c-committed to Western Michigan University.

d-committed to University of North Dakota.

e-entering sophomore year at Bemidji State.

i-2014 import draft pick.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 23, 2014

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