Right-winger Mark Stone joined his former Brandon Wheat Kings teammates for practice on Tuesday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The Brandon Wheat Kings certainly weren’t short on scoring as they practised on Tuesday. Or leadership for that matter.
The Western Hockey League team was joined on the ice by a handful of pros, with the likes of former Wheat Kings Mark Stone, Ryan Craig, Tyler Plante, Colby Robak and Brodie Melnychuk taking part along with Brandonite Brett Skinner.
Like many WHLers signed by National Hockey League teams, Stone’s immediate future is cloudy due to the NHL labour dispute, so he’s determined to get his ice time in while he can.
"There’s so many question marks on what’s going to happen, and you need to get some skates in and the Wheat Kings have been gracious enough to let me skate, so it’s an opportunity I’m not going to let go," said Stone, the WHL’s most sportsmanlike player last season when he finished second in the league in scoring with 123 points, including 41 goals.
"Really nobody knows except for the owners and Donald (Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players Association). I mean there’s guys you can call to ask, but right now I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen."
Stone will leave for Ottawa shortly to prepare for a Senators camp that he doesn’t expect to happen. From there, he will head down to Binghamton, N.Y., at the end of the month for camp with the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate, which wouldn’t be affected a lockout.
While some 20-year-olds could be sent back to junior in the case of a lockout, the Senators likely want a prospect of Stone’s stature in their system as soon as possible and he fully expects to start his professional career this season at one level or another.
"There’s always the American League so I know I’m going to be playing professional hockey," he said. "It’s just a matter if it’s up in the NHL or the AHL, so right now I’m just preparing to play hockey and not worrying about where I’m going to be."
CRAM SESSION: A number of rookies are getting a crash course in life as a Wheat King this week.
After taking Monday off to recuperate from the grind of training camp, the Wheat Kings were back to work on Tuesday with only two full days to get ready before heading on the road for Thursday’s WHL pre-season opener against the Regina Pats.
While some of the rookies know the routine after call-ups and last year’s pre-season, Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said the players had a lot of information thrown their way yesterday.
"We want to make sure that we get as good as we can defensively as quick as we can," he said. "We want to play strong defence all year long. That’s why we started out with some heavy lifting. It was a work day for these guys. They had an off-ice workout and we did some defensive stuff and some battles and I think it was a good place to start. It’s all new to some of our young guys. We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of new faces, so we just want to make sure we cover as much as we can."
The Pats are in pretty much the same boat as the Wheat Kings as they are also playing their first pre-season game and actually started camp one day later than the Wheat Kings.
AROUND THE WHL: Regina has signed C Rylee Zimmer of Russell after choosing him in the fifth round of this year’s WHL Bantam Draft … Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reports that D Landon Peel of Virden, who spent part of last season in Regina before being reassigned to Swan Valley of the MJHL, decided to stay in Junior A with the Stampeders this season rather than return to the Pats … The Edmonton Oil Kings have added former NHL D Sean Brown to their staff as an assistant coach.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 5, 2012