Kord Pankewicz (right) collides with Quintin Lisoway in Wheat Kings rookie camp Wednesday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Even though he’s one of the Brandon Wheat Kings’ top prospects, the first day of rookie camp made Kord Pankewicz feel like he’s still got a lot to learn.
The 16-year-old native of Drayton Valley, Alta., who was selected by Brandon 11th overall in the 2011 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, was back on the blue-line for the first time in a year on Wednesday after playing as a centre last season with the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League’s Leduc Oil Kings.
"I haven’t played ‘D’ in a while," Pankewicz said after his first rookie camp scrimmage on Wednesday morning at Westman Place. "The last time I played ‘D’ was back here (in last year’s training camp), so it was a good adjustment. Once I get the positional (play) down, I think it will be good."
"I like to jump up in the rush a lot," he continued. "I got caught a couple times today, but I have to adjust, know when to pick my spots."
Drafted as a defenceman, it’s not clear where Pankewicz’s future lies as a Wheat King and new head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said it’s a decision that won’t be rushed.
"Kord’s a unique player," Gylywoychuk said. "He has the ability to play both positions … and I think he excels at both. He’s a young player that’s trying to make an impression and he’s going to play a little ‘D’ this weekend, he’s going to play a little forward, and we’re going to see what best fits for him. We want to make sure that the transition is going to be the easiest at whatever position it’s going to be."
After producing 15 goals and 37 points in 33 games last season, he could be an immediate offensive contributor for a team that will be young up front this season. On the other hand, his skills might make Pankewicz a natural successor as the team’s power-play quarterback two years down the road when he’s entering his WHL prime at 18 and current blue-line kingpins Ryan Pulock and Eric Roy are likely graduating to the pro ranks as 20-year-olds.
"Every year you kinda look at the big picture," Gylywoychuk said. "This year we have a lot of graduating guys up front. There’s a lot of spots to be filled but ... we want to do what’s best for Kord and on the other side, we want to also fill the voids we have on the Brandon Wheat Kings. That stuff will all get sorted out and I’m sure at the end of the day, Kord will want to play a certain position, he’ll tell us and we’ll see he’ll grow into that position."
The most sportsmanlike player at the Telus Cup Canadian Midget AAA championship last spring in Leduc after producing two goals and 10 points in seven games, Pankewicz said he’s ready to do whatever’s asked of him this season.
"I’ll just play wherever (Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon) and Chewy put me and hopefully that turns out good," he said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 30, 2012