James McIsaac (right) shadows Connor Gutenberg during Sunday’s intrasquad game at Westman Place. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon felt training camp started well and stayed at the high level all the way through.
McCrimmon was impressed with how his veterans came back to the Wheat City in great shape, and showed it in fitness testing which has created "probably the strongest, best-conditioned team we’ve had, probably (ever)."
Training camp wrapped up on Sunday with an intrasquad game before 11 players were re-assigned, trimming the roster to 33.
"The camp was real good," McCrimmon said. "The veteran players returned in great condition and that was positive. I think the skill level at camp was high. There was decent structure to training camp scrimmages, which helps us to evaluate. It was a real good week."
Among the players who were re-assigned was 17-year-old goalie Evan Robert, along with 17-year-old defencemen Aaron Kellogg and James Shearer, and 17-year-old forward Tristen Elder. Three 16-year-old forwards were also let go in Ben Dalke, Braeden Binda and Boissevain’s Brayden Billaney, while all the 15-year-olds, except for centre Stelio Mattheos — the 2014 first-overall bantam draft pick — were also re-assigned.
The 15-year-olds — including defencemen Jarrod Gourlay and Ian Mitchell as well as forwards James McIsaac and Brandonite Connor Gutenberg — aren’t eligible to play in the WHL this season.
The Wheat Kings now have three goalies, 10 defencemen and 20 forwards as they begin pre-season preparations.
McCrimmon is looking forward to Mattheos getting a taste of the WHL before he heads back to Midget AAA. He’s also excited to begin preparing for Friday’s pre-season opener when the Wheat Kings will host the Pats at Westman Place at 7:30 p.m.
"Training camp is one piece, and an important piece," McCrimmon said. "Now we get into the practice setting where you have the better opportunity to work closely with players and gauge who has the ability to elevate their level of play with better players, more pace and systems being worked into practices now.
"I think it’s a real important time for our coaching staff in terms of getting to know our players better and it’s an important time in terms of the players trying to separate and make the hockey team."
INJURIES: Left-winger Ty Lewis will stay with the WHL club, although the 16-year-old former member of the Midget AAA Wheat Kings suffered a broken arm in camp. He will see a doctor today to determine how long he’ll be out. Defencemen Kale Clague and Taylor Green both missed the intrasquad game with injuries, but are expected to be back on the ice for today’s practices.
SCRIMMAGES: Saturday’s final scrimmages before Sunday’s intrasquad game proved to be offensive showcases. Colton Waltz scored the winner 59 seconds into overtime on Saturday evening as Team Black edged Team White 10-9. John Quenneville had a hat trick for Team Black, while Ryley Lindgren and Jesse Gabrielle both found the back of the net three times for Team White. Quenneville scored three times in the day’s earlier scrimmage.
PRE-SEASON: The Wheat Kings’ will visit the Pats in the Queen City on Saturday in their second pre-season contest before hosting the Moose Jaw Warriors on Sept. 12. Brandon’s pre-season schedule wraps up on Sept. 14 in Moose Jaw.
Tickets for Brandon’s home pre-season games, as well as its regular-season opener against Regina on Sept. 19, go on sale today. They can be purchased at the Keystone box office, online at keystonecentre.com or by calling 204-726-3555.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 2, 2014