WHL Clubs will open up the regular season in a short 10 days but many teams are wondering what exactly the roster will look like for opening weekend.
With NHL training camps starting about a week later than usual, some teams (including the Broncos) will be short staffed to start the 72 game schedule. The Broncos have nine players off to NHL camps and are expecting maybe half of them back for opening weekend.
One the one equalizing factor is that all the WHL clubs are in the same predicament here. The Broncos weekend opponent, the Moose Jaw Warriors, could also be short some key personnel.
I thought I would get an update from Broncos Head Coach and General Manager Dean Chynoweth on how things are coming together.
On likely being short a handful of players to start the season....
"Everybody in the league is going through that with the camps going later... there's not much we can do about it and we are going to keep the extra bodies around because of it."
On some of the rookies who have impressed during the pre-season.....
"I think Taylor Vause has shown last year when he came in for playoffs and taking in that experience - he's been able to translate it into some minor successes so far. Dillon Wagner who played junior "A" last year is ahead of some of the other guys from that experience. Jordan Peddle has had a pretty strong camp and has gotten better each week and Christian Magnus has shown at times why he was our top pick in the 2007 bantam draft. "
On making a deal with trade talks in the league seemingly heating up.....
"There's nothing really going on (with us). These tournaments are good because you get to see the other teams and evaluate some of their players and also talk to their coaches and managers. But right now we're kind of stuck in limbo to see just what players we will get back (from NHL camps). You have to sort through that before you look to go ahead and make a move."
On the signing of 18 year-old defenseman Andrew Hewitt....
"He's another guy who played junior "A" in Winnipeg last year that we had recruited fairly heavily. With the addition of him it fills an age bracket on the back-end we don't have. He's a steady stay-at-home guy that is strong. As he gets comfortable I think he's a player who will eventually be in that top five group (on the Broncos blueline)."
- I stopped in at the Broncos office yesterday and had to wait around as the girls filled more season ticket orders for some new fans. The season ticket number is approaching 1600 and the team feels they will be well above that number...maybe even approaching 1700 once opening weekend arrives. If I recall correctly, last year they sold just under 1500 season tickets.
- The WHL Broadcasters have been asked for our annual regular season predictions. Saskatoon Blades voice Les Lazaruk coordinates the survey every year for the WHL. Last year, broadcasters correctly predicted 7 of the 8 playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. Brandon was the lone exception to crack the top 8 after we predicted a 10th place finish.
I'm having a hard time this year in the Eastern Conference. After favorites Lethbridge and Brandon, I had a tough time picking the teams from #3 through #10. To me there is three tiers in the East: Brandon and Lethbridge in the first tier, Red Deer and Edmonton (in the midst of building from their youth up) in the last and everybody else in between. It's still way to tough to call until you actually see what players return from NHL camps and which ones stick at the pro level.
- I'll be working on a new project this season for the Western Hockey League. I'll be hosting and producing WHL This Week for the league and it's 22 radio partners. I won't be doing it alone, most of the broadcasters around the league have told me they are willing to chip in and track down interviews and stories in their markets... that will be a huge help. I think if we cooperate, we can put a nice piece together.
The first show will be available just before opening weekend. We hope to put together a nice professional weekly production to show off the quality of the WHL and it's personnel . Opening weekend guests will include WHL Commissioner Ron Robison, WHL General Managers Doug Soetart (Everett), Bruce Hamilton (Kelowna), and Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon) as they break down their respective Memorial Cup bids. Take a listen, tell me what you think....
A reminder, we are on the air Saturday night for pre-season hockey as the Broncos host the Prince Albert Raiders. Pre-game show on the Eagle 94.1 FM begins at 7pm.