Ryley Lindgren fires a shot in Wheat King practice Tuesday. (COLIN CORNEAU)
With 34 players still on the Brandon Wheat Kings’ roster — 31 of whom are candidates to play for the team this season — Ryley Lindgren is in a heated competition with the very same players who will be on his side this weekend when the Western Hockey League club opens its pre-season against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
That’s just part of life in a sport where competition within a team continues throughout the season, both for roster spots and for the most coveted roles on the team. Lindgren acknowledges that the competitive aspect will never go away, but said the best way to face it is by working together as closely as possible.
"We’re all fighting for a spot, but we’re all a team as well and we have to bond together," said Lindgren, whose Wheat Kings will host the Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday night (7:30, Westman Place) before visiting them on Sunday. "And the way we’ll play our best and have our success is by playing your own game and getting along with each other and creating chemistry.
"But you have that a little bit in the back of your mind that you want to beat guys out."
Lindgren is one of 19 forwards vying for what could eventually shake down to about 14 spots. Two other forwards in camp, 2013 bantam draft picks Nolan Patrick and Tanner Kaspick, are too young to play in the WHL this season and will return to midget at some point.
So far, Lindgren has done a good job of ensuring that he will be one of those remaining with the Wheat Kings when the smoke clears. The 17-year-old centre from East St. Paul played well in call-ups with Brandon last season, picking up two assists in four games, and was one of the top rookies throughout training camp. His next challenge will be to maintain that through the Wheat Kings’ four-game pre-season schedule.
"The pre-season’s huge," Lindgren said. "…Whether it’s playoffs, pre-season, even camp, just make your mark and show the coaches what you can bring to the team this year."
Lindgren hoped he would get that chance last year, but the Wheat Kings opted to send him back to midget with the Winnipeg Thrashers. Lindgren made the most of that time, scoring 24 goals and tying for 12th in Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League scoring, with 50 points in 42 games. He also played for Team West at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and bulked up to 183 pounds, adding 19 pounds to his 5-foot-11 frame since last year’s camp.
"Getting sent back last year was pretty tough but I think in the end it was the best decision for me," he said.
"I got a lot of chances to develop out there."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 4, 2013