Defenceman Tyler Yaworski skates during Wheat Kings practice at Westman Place on Tuesday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
During the Brandon Wheat Kings’ intrasquad game on Sunday, Tyler Yaworski knocked Alessio Bertaggia to the ice with a check that left the club’s top sniper grumbling.
Rarely did a forward venture anywhere near Yaworski without feeling at least a little bit of lumber.
Imagine what the 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenceman will be like when he’s not facing his own teammates anymore.
"Obviously, I take pride in being a hard guy to play against," said Yaworski, who was acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders last month for a fifth-round pick in next year’s Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. "I like to think that I play with a bit of an edge and I take pride in the physical part of my game, too."
That’s no surprise for a player who has 448 penalty minutes in 164 career games and finished third in the WHL last season with 188 PIMs. What may surprise some is that since arriving the 20-year-old veteran has looked like a steady defensive stopper as well, skating well, making a good first pass and taking care of his own zone in a no-frills fashion. He even contributed 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) to the Raiders last season, despite seeing little power-play time.
While the Wheat Kings are still one overager over the limit, it appears they have plans for Yaworski to complement offensive-minded blue-liners like Ryan Pulock and Eric Roy. The native of Sherwood Park, Alta., appreciates the responsibility.
"It’s nice to feel wanted and to come to an organization like the Brandon Wheat Kings is a feather in my cap," he said. "I’m really excited to be a part of a Wheat King tradition. I think it’s 12 out of the last 13 years (actually 19 out of 20 if you want to go back that far) they made the playoffs, so I’m looking forward to having a successful year and hopefully a long playoff run."
That’s not to say it didn’t take Yaworski a little bit of time to warm up to the Wheat Kings, particularly after playing against them during his previous three seasons as an East Division rival. But the phone calls from coaches and management and the text messages from players began rolling in immediately after the trade and he said the welcome he has received has eased the transition.
"Obviously it was a little bit different putting on the Wheat Kings jersey and stuff like that," said Yaworski, who played his first WHL game with the Saskatoon Blades in 2009 before being traded to the Raiders.
"But my billets and the guys here and the coaching staff have been really good to me so far and really brought me in and made me feel part of the team, and I’m just looking forward to getting going here."
ONE-TIMERS: With 32 players on the roster, the Wheat Kings split their team in half and held a pair of practices on Tuesday as they prepared for Thursday night’s pre-season opener in Regina against the Pats … RW Jens Meilleur and LW Dominick Favreau skated Tuesday after both veterans sat out training camp with sore backs, although Meilleur wore a non-contact jersey yesterday.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 5, 2012