This is becoming an annual blog feature. It's an opportunity to get excited about the upcoming Broncos season with training camp about three weeks away.
Without further adieu, here are my top 10 reasons with a special bonus in the middle.
10. Mike Brown
Many believe the best is yet to come out of the Broncos 19 year-old forward. The time for that is now. Brown's coming out party may have been the last couple weeks of the regular season and playoffs against the Medicine Hat Tigers. Brown showed a commitment to physical fitness in the 2nd half of the season and really started to dedicate himself to the game. You talk to some of his current and former teammates and they agree that Mike Brown is due for a big season in his 19 year-old year. Time will tell.
9. Geordie Wudrick
An up and down season best sums up Geordie's year. It took until October 25th (15 games) for Wudrick to score his first goal of the season. After Christmas Geordie caught fire including a seven game goal scoring streak and a 14 game point streak from mid-February to mid-March. In those 14 games, Wudrick scored 12 times.
It's his 19 year-old season and maybe a fresh start under Mark Lamb will help.
Geordie has the tools to be a dominant player but will need to remember nothing comes easy in the WHL. Once he figured that out last season he was a force to reckon with in the 2nd half.
8 Reece Scarlett
The Broncos 1st round bantam pick from 2008 should crack the line-up as a 16 year-old defenseman. Reece will play a steady game but don't expect him to be an impact player for at least for a couple years. His games as a 15 year-old drew some rave reviews. He's a player for Bronco fans to keep an eye on for the coming years.
7. Tyler Amburgey
There's a good chance the Broncos could see American-born defenseman Tyler Amburgey at training camp following two seasons in the U.S. National Development Program.
Amburgey is pegged at being a solid defenseman with good size and some grit. The 18 year-old has the potential to come in and be a top-four defensmen with the team this season. But first, he has to be at camp for that to happen. I don't know a lot more about the situation. It's definitely something to watch in the coming weeks.
6. Michael Stickland
Depending on the Broncos 20 year-old situation, Stickland could play a major role up-front with this year's team. At times he was the Broncos best player after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Kootenay Ice. He collected 24 points in 23 games in the regular season after joining the Broncos. He was then their leading scorer in the playoffs recording seven points in seven games against Medicine Hat.
The Red Deer native is one of five potential 20 year-olds on the roster which included D Eric Doyle, D Derek Claffey, D Ryan Molle and F Matt Tassone
He's only 15, and isn't eligible to play in the WHL full time this year but several people I've talked to are excited about getting a first look at the Broncos 1st round bantam pick from this summer. The small, speedy and shifty Richardson out of Nanaimo, BC should turn some heads at rookie camp. He's projected to be a future top-scorer in the WHL.
A new outlook on things from behind the bench will be something to watch for. After five years of Dean Chynoweth as the Head Coach/General Manager, now Mark Lamb gets a chance to put his stamp on things.
He talked about wanting to play an 80's "Edmonton Oilers" style of play when he was first was introduced as the Broncos front man. He likes good skating teams who provide a lot of puck pressure. It should be interesting.
5. Matt Tassone
Here's hoping Taz can regain the form he found last season before season ending shoulder surgery. In fact, the over-age forward had both shoulders surgically repaired in the last few months. Named the regular season MVP for his break-out offensive season, Tassone isn't expected to be ready for the start of the year. In fact, it could be a couple months into the season before he's able to play in a WHL game.
When he's healthy, he will be a top offensive threat. I'm hoping the rest of Matt's recovery goes well and he can put the injury problems behind him for his final season in the WHL.
Like last season, I'm thinking the Broncos could be in a position to carry four over-age players similar to last year's Jesse Dudas situation. Once Dudas was cleared to play - which was around Christmas, the Broncos had two weeks to make a move to get down to the allotted three spots. This another wait and see scenario.
4. Eric Doyle
The Broncos defenseman tells me he's ready for a big season. The offensively gifted d-man scored one of the nicest goals in the WHL last season in his coast-to-coast rush against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Doyle was one of the top offensive rearguards last season collecting 55 points in 71 regular season games. He is the top powerplay QB and has proven to be very durable despite a first round concussion against Medicine Hat in game three that ended his season.
The Calgary native should be motivated to play for an NHL contract. Expect him to be a top three point producer amongst WHL defenseman.
3. Taylor Vause
The well-liked 2nd year Bronco should have a big offensive season. Showing flashes of brilliance at times, Taylor is a player you can't help but like and cheer for.
It's his NHL draft year and a 50-60 point season for Vause won't be out of the question providing he stays healthy.
Here's hoping Taylor Vause continues to progress into an elite forward in the WHL.
2. Cody Eakin
What haven't we said about Cody Eakin already? Cody will come into the new year fresh off the World Junior Development camp in Saskatoon. The 3rd round pick of the Washington Capitals played in 55 games last season scoring 24 goals and adding 24 assists. We all know he's more than scoring, it's the little things he does on the ice and the energy he creates. He's one of the top fore-checking centers in the league and created offense because of it.
Derek Claffey is set to return as captain of the hockey team but Cody Eakin would also be a strong choice as well. Cody pretty much has the "C" sewn up for next season after Claffey's
Let's hope Cody can avoid injury problems and play a major role in any team success this year.
1. Justin Dowling
This may come as a bit of a surprise at #1 but after a break-out 66 point season, expect a lot more from Dowling in his 19 year-old year.
If Dowling can play in most of the games like he did last season (71 of 72), expect him to lead the team in scoring and chase an 80-90 point season as a top line player.
Passed over at the NHL draft, Dowling recently attended Pittsburgh Penguins development camp. I'm expecting him to attend their fall camp as well.
The opportunity for Justin to succeed this season should be immense.
There's my list. What's yours?