When the Brandon Wheat Kings acquired Taylor Green in August, it wasn’t as much for what he was as what they hoped he would become.
While he’s still a work in progress, Green is making steady progress at developing into the player Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon envisioned when he sent a fifth-round pick in this year’s Western Hockey League bantam draft to the Seattle Thunderbirds for the towering 18-year-old rearguard.
"He’s improving, so that’s the key for all our players is that they work to improve, and in Taylor’s case I think he has," McCrimmon said. "He’s partnered with Colton Waltz, who’s a real good player and … he’s been a plus player most nights, and he’s got real value for us on the penalty kill; I think that’s an area of his game where he’s really helped our team."
After struggling early to find his niche in Brandon, Green has settled in on the third pairing with Waltz and has posted an impressive plus/minus of +14 in the 24 games since the beginning of November. Overall, the 6-foot-7, 224-pound native of Port Coquitlam, B.C., has posted six assists and 34 penalty minutes in 37 games, and his +6 rating is tied with Rene Hunter for the best among Brandon blue-liners.
"It always takes time with a new team to kind of fit in and stuff, but I’ve been playing better the last little while," Green said. "I love playing with Waltzy. He’s been helping me do that as well and I’m having fun right now."
McCrimmon and Green both said the key to his development is improving his skating and mobility, something the former second-round WHL bantam draft pick has worked hard on this season.
"I think with any big player, it often comes back to the mobility, the foot-speed and continuing to work on his skating," McCrimmon said. "… He’s 6-foot-7, so it takes time for players like that to fully mature."
McCrimmon also believes that Green can add more to the offence than is readily apparent, crediting the player for his ability to join the rush and play on the offensive blue-line. Although Green isn’t about to bump Ryan Pulock off the top power-play unit, he does have three assists in his past three games, including the first two-point game of his WHL career in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Prince Albert Raiders.
There’s another aspect of his game that he’s more concerned with developing right now, though.
"I still want to pick it up physically," he said. "I’m a big guy, obviously, so I want to try and keep putting a little bit of weight on over the course of the season here and be more physical."
Green said he’s tried to make the most of his practice time by focusing on each of his reps during every drill. The work is something he’s enjoying with the team playing well, having moved to within two points of the East Division lead going into Friday’s showdown with the first-place Swift Current Broncos at Westman Place.
"We’re really gelling right now, and so it’s fun to be at the rink every day," he said. "We’re having a good time and everybody’s really clicking. It’s fun."
ONE-TIMERS: In the midst of a five-day stretch between games — their longest break of the second half — the Wheat Kings took advantage of the layoff to hold eight players out of Tuesday’s practice to recover from some aches, pains and illness … The Wheat Kings (23-17-4-0) go into Friday third in the East Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, with a game in hand on the Broncos (23-16-1-5).