Last week it was a look at some of the 15, 16 and 17 year-olds attending Broncos training camp. This week it's a glance at some of the veterans rolling into town in less than two weeks time.
1990's - 18 year-olds
This is perhaps the age group where the Broncos have made the biggest transition in regards to what they drafted in 2005 to what they have now. Of the 1990 bantam draft, only 1st rounder Geordie Wudrick is on the current roster.
The Broncos traded Ian Curtis (PG), Phil Gervais (Edm), Jordan Mistelbacher (Evt), Kris Foucault (Koot), and lost Clayton Cumiskey in the Edmonton Oil Kings Expansion draft.
Here's a rundown of what the Broncos return:
F- Geordie Wudrick - the 4th round pick of the L.A. Kings this summer will be looking to take the next step in his junior hockey career.
A gifted, big-bodied player who is looking for a break-out season. I don't think Geordie will ever be a top goal-scorer in the league but he will provide the team with a stable presence who can play in all situations. Geordie can score, but he may provide more of a support role for linemates Cody Eakin and Justin Dowling if the Broncos choose to keep that line together that was so productive in the playoffs. Regardless, he will be a major part of this year's team.
F - Justin Dowling - A former top scorer in the Alberta "AAA" midget league, we saw flashes of how talented he is at times last season. A head-turning playoffs should be the jump Dowling needs to get off to a strong start this season. He has a lot of offensive upside and a lot of people around the team are excited about his sophmore season in the WHL including me. His rookie season saw him collect 27 points. He should look to nearly double that output this season barring injury.
F - Jan Dalecky, - The 2nd year Broncos import from the Czech Republic is a player I'm really excited to see in an expanded role. Dalecky is a hard worker and good skater He works incredibly well along the boards and off the cycle. Pound for pound might be the strongest puck possession player on the team. You can see his talent. A year in the WHL under his belt should help the likable Dalecky have a productive season.
F - Mike Brown. The Calgary native is a favorite amongst his teammates. Brown is a thick, strong kid who did well in his 4th line role last season. Brown, who battled injuries will come into camp knowing what to expect. He will be pushed by some of the younger players this season but should be up for the challenge.
The Broncos do not have any 1990 d-men. I'm thinking it's probably on their wish list. If there is a trade in the works I would expect the Broncos would be getting one somewhere in the mix. If history tells us anything with G.M. Head Coach Dean Chynoweth, there's always a mini blockbuster the first week into the season.
1989's - 19 year-olds
Where the Broncos lack a 1990 d-men, they make up for it in their crop of 89's. So much so they felt Paul Postma was expendable in that big deal with Calgary to begin last season involving Kyle Bortis, Keegan Danereau and Erik Felde.
D - Eric Doyle - Look for Eric to be the man this season in his 4th year in the league. He will QB the powerplay and play key minutes, He's sure to add plenty of offense from the back-end. His 49 points last season was the offensive output the Broncos were looking for. Doyle will be one of the leaders on the team.
D - Ryan Molle - The New Jersey Devils 7th round pick will be a rock on the back-end this season. Look for a little more offense although he won't be relied on for that aspect. Primarily a shutdown d-man, look for Molle to see more time on the PP.
D - Derek Claffey - The Broncos defensive anchor. The Red Deer native excels in his own zone. He's going to be looked upon as a leader with this team once again. Bronco fans are looking forward to Claffey being the " Myles Rumsey type" but with more offensive prowess.
F - Grant Toulmin - Yes former 2nd round bantam pick Grant Toulmin will be back at Broncos training camp this season after a year in BCHL. He's excited to try and make an impact any way possible. Another good character player who wants to be more of a physical presence. We may see more of the rough and tumble side our fans were clamouring for out of Grant. Could add more offense than in years past. It will be interesting to see what a year of junior "A" did for him. He has a good attitude, and that's always a solid base to work with.
F- Matt Tassone - Last year's most improved player, now an NHL draft pick of the Dallas Stars (6th round). What a year for Matt Tassone who was fired up right out of last year's training camp. Look for more of the same from the native of Sherwood Park. Fans should be excited for the type of season Matt could have. He will score this season and be a big part of the offense. Look for a 25-30 goal season while providing some grit and toughness along the way.
G - Mark Guggenberger - A good pick-up from Portland at last year's trade deadline. Guggenberger had some astonishing numbers as a Bronco last season including a GAA of 2.59 and a save % of .917. His four shutouts in 14 appearances made a name for himself. It's just a matter of what mindset the goaltender will come in with this season.
With Travis Yonkman the favorite to see the bulk of the workload, do the Broncos have room for a 19 year-old back-up? Guggenberger has all the tools to be an elite goaltender in this league and turn pro. Can he make the most of it?
1988's - 20 year-olds
The Broncos have an elite group of 1988's. So much so that a lot of their tough decisions will be out of their hands with the prospects of several playing pro. The Broncos should have among the best group of 20's in the league this season.
Here's who may or may not be back. Remember, after the first week in October, the Broncos can only have three 1988 born players on their roster.
F - Levi Nelson - Already signed with Boston, Levi will more than likely play pro in Providence of the AHL this year Nelson will be at Broncos training camp, but strictly on a conditioning basis. He may play in some pre-season games but I'm not sure he will. He told me he would love to but I don't know what good it would do either him or the Broncos. I'll be keeping a close eye on Nelson this next season in the pro ranks and wish him all the best. Thanks for an exciting three seasons in a Broncos jersey.
F - Dale Wiese - The New Rangers draft pick could be back this season due to a lack of room in the Rangers system. Nearing their 50 contract max, the Rangers may really like Dale but won't be able to do much about it. Dale has already taken on the mindset that he will spend another year of junior hockey. If he does play this year with the Broncos look for him to be a dominant power forward. The selfish part of me wants to see Dale in a Broncos jersey but if he signs and isn't back then that's great for him. Potential Broncos captain candidate.
F - Spencer McAvoy - One of my favorites since coming over in a trade with the Tigers in his 17 year-old season, Spencer will be hard up for a spot with such an elite age group. He knows it but will come to camp and compete hard anyways. The versatile F/D will be a 20 year-old in the league somewhere if not with the Broncos.
F - Keegan Dansereau - Maybe one of the most skilled players to come through the team in awhile, the Broncos will have a tough decision to make here. Dansereau can be a dominant player in this league and has the ability to compete for scoring title. Dansereau garnered some attention for playoff MVP with the post-season he had.
This will go either two ways. Either he stays with the Broncos and is a key, top line player or he will be traded to a team looking to make a long playoff run. He could be that key ingredient either as a Bronco or go-to veteran on a team like Kelowna or Spokane - two teams out west expected to compete for a WHL championship. If he stays or goes, Keegan will be motivated to play for a pro-contract in his final season in the WHL.
F - Zack Smith - The more I break down the 1988's the more I'm impressed with the Broncos potential group. Don't expect the Senators 3rd round pick to be back in the Broncos mix. Although he hasn't signed with the Ottawa Senators, it sounds like only a matter of time. The Sens have plans for him in the AHL and pretty much said that point blank when they drafted the Maple Creek native in June.
Last year's captain can play any way you want to play. Speed and finesse or rough and tumble. The complete package means big things for Zack's future. He could be back, but I would render a guess of about a 10% chance.
D - Jesse Dudas - Air-lifted out of a tough situation in Prince George at last year's trade deadline, Dudas may be deemed a key on the Broncos back-end this year. The Broncos may need his services with the departure of graduates Michael Wilson and Bretton Stamler.
Injuries have always plagued the defenseman but what a package Dudas brings to the table. An Aaron Rome type player, Dudas can do it all when healthy. Hit, fight, score, QB a powerplay, and shutdown the other team's top line.
Passed over by Columbus after being drafted in 2006, Dudas is a free-agent again. He'll want to prove the Jackets wrong this season.
G - Travis Yonkman - Haven't heard if Yonks will get an NHL try-out this fall but definitely deserves one after the playoffs he had. It feels like only yesterday when he robbed Regina's Jordan Eberle with the stick paddle in OT to turn the series around. Or save after miraculous save in the triple OT game against the Calgary Hitmen.
His regular season wasn't too shabby either going 31-19-0-6 with a GAA of 2.67 and a save % of .909 in 57 appearances.
Many people think he will be here this season to play over 60 games in the Broncos crease. I'm thinking those people are probably right. Yonks is excited about coming back to Swift Current for his 20 year-old season to be that rock they will need between the pipes.
Excited for the season yet?
See you at the rink,