Connor Gutenberg is used to having to show his ticket when he wants to see the Brandon Wheat Kings play.
A little ways down the road, the Brandonite hopes he’ll be part of the show.
Gutenberg, 15, was drafted by the Wheat Kings in the fifth round of this year’s Western Hockey League bantam draft. It was a dream come true, although Gutenberg knew when he stepped on the ice for rookie camp on Wednesday that he had to keep his feet firmly grounded in reality.
“I’ve got season tickets, so I go to every game that I can,” Gutenberg said. “To be participating in camp it’s really special.
“Once you step on the ice, it’s just like another ice-time, another game.”
Gutenberg led the Brandon Bantam AAA Wheat Kings in scoring last season, finishing fourth in the Winnipeg league’s West Division with 20 goals and 40 points in 32 games.
His first taste of WHL life came at the Wheat Kings’ spring prospects camp. With spots on the line, though, Gutenberg said he’s seeing a new level of intensity this week.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “Guys are here trying to make the team now, so it’s a lot more intense and there’s a lot more on the line this time around.”
Gutenberg doesn’t have to worry about making the team yet — he’s not old enough to play in the WHL until next season — but he still wants to put his best foot forward.
“Just make an impression every time I’m on the ice,” he said. “Just doing the little things right, contributing offensively if you can, play solid defence, just play your game.”
Gutenberg wants to fill out his game and his frame a little more before next year’s training camp. Listed at 130 pounds last season, the 5-foot-9 forward weighed in at 146 pounds this week after a hard summer in the gym.
Playing with and against older players in rookie camp, Gutenberg said this week will be good experience to have under his belt when he tries out for the Midget AAA Wheat Kings this season.
“They’re a lot bigger and stronger and faster, so you’ve got to keep up with them,” Gutenberg said of the older players in camp.
“Even going to (midget) camp I’ll know what to expect after playing with these guys.”