Sunday, September 21, 2014

Short staffed but Rockets don't stumble

'A banner night' - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Jackson Whistle has likely heard the critics. Many WHL observers question if he can be a full time starting goaltender. Saturday night, the West Kelowna resident proved the Kelowna Rockets are in good hands with a first star performance from the 19 year-old veteran. Whistle made 32 saves in a 6-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers in a game that featured the home team minus four key players that are attending NHL training camps and another who was at camp but came back with bumps and bruises and was unable to play.
  • Whistle made several solid stops after little work in the first period. The veteran goaltenders best saves came against Blazers forward Cole Ully. Whistle stopped the visitors best shooter with two nice glove hand stops, one in the second period and another in the third. Whistle also robbed Blazers forward Jesse Shynkaruk late in the third when the game was out of reach.
  • Kris Schmidli and Tyson Baillie had success playing on a line with Colton Heffley. The three combined for eight points with Baillie and Schmidli each putting up a goal and two assists. Heffley, who is fighting for an overage spot, had a goal and an assist.    
  • It was nice to see Austin Glover and Riley Stadel score. Both players had early offensive success last season but unfortunately it came crashing to a halt. Glover broke his leg and Stadel couldn't find the back of the net after scoring nine goals in the first 13 games of the 2013-2014 campaign. My belief is Stadel may have gone to a pro camp had he not cooled off so dramatically in the offensive zone. He had just one goal in the final 50 games of the regular season. My greatest concern is with Glover, who needs to bring more to the table as a 18 year-old. If he doesn't, younger players are nipping at his heels and will push him down the depth chart if he doesn't 'bring it' consistently. It was a nice start for one of the most personable players on the team. I am hoping for the best for him this season. Plus, Glover is one of my favourites because he is from Saskatchewan.
  • I thought Cole Martin had a strong game. He is a keeper. The 20 year-old has to be a lock on the blue line. Teams trade for this type of player that can shutdown the oppositions most lethal players. Martin didn't score a goal all of last season but came close last night when he hit the crossbar in the first period. 
  • Martin was wearing an 'A' on his jersey last night and it looked good on him. I don't know what the leadership group of this team will look like this season, but can he be excluded from being one of the team leaders? I can't see it. You win with a player of Cole Martin's ilk. Unselfish, a team player and a compete level that doesn't fluctuate no matter if his team is up by three goals or down by three, Martin is a valuable commodity. If he doesn't wear a letter this season it doesn't mean he can't lead. But for my money, he deserves it. It is an honour and a privilege to wear a letter. Some take it fore-granted. I know Martin's character enough to know that wouldn't be the case with this fourth year player.  
  • I am all about heart and soul players in the leadership group. Tyson Baillie also falls into that category. Everyone wants to win, but some players want it more than others. Baillie is as competitive as they come. The 'A' on his jersey looks right to me. 
  • Let's give some props to assistant coach Kris Mallette for running the d-core. I thought Mallette did a good job of bench management with the teams younger d-men. Rookie Lucas Johansen didn't miss a beat in his WHL debut and newcomer Devante Stephens, who is a little rough around the edges, found more ice time in the third period when the game was out of reach.
  • I liked Tate Coughlin last night. The rookie was involved physically and possesses a quick release when the puck is on his stick. He sure reminds me of  a young Brett Bulmer. I can see why the coaches are intrigued by him. I thought he struggled in the final pre-season game and looked like he might be on his way back home but the coaches kept him around. After what I saw last night, Coughlin is worth a closer look. 
  • The Rockets were ripe for the picking last night. As I mentioned, four veteran were at NHL training camps. Without captain Madison Bowey, Tyrell Goulbourne, Mitch Wheaton and Justin Kirkland, the Blazers had a tremendous chance to steal a game on the road. The credit goes to the veteran players for not allowing that to happen.  
  • The Rockets now have 16 championship banners raised high into the rafters at Prospera Place.While they wished all of them were white in colour, emblematic of Memorial Cup success, the red banners are still a sign of on ice success.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Game notes vs. Blazers



Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open their 20th season in the Okanagan when they welcome the Kamloops Blazers. The team came to Kelowna in time for the start of the 1995-96 campaign after four short seasons (1991-1994) in Tacoma Washington. The Rockets are entering their 24th season in the WHL and will celebrate its silver anniversary in 2015-2016. This is the first of 10 meetings between the Rockets and Blazers this season. The Rockets visit the Blazers on October 15th. After playing the Blazers twice in the first 9 games, the two teams won’t see each other until December 27th. Last season the Rockets were 8-0-0-0 vs. their BC Division rivals, out-scoring Kamloops 38-15. The Blazers last win in Kelowna was February 16/2013 in a 3-1 victory. Following tonight’s game the Rockets are on the road where they will face the Prince George Cougars in back-to-back games next Friday and Saturday night. The Rockets next home game following this evenings contest is Wednesday October 1st against the Vancouver Giants.          

Banner Raiser: The Kelowna Rockets raise two banners high to the rafters at Prospera Place this evening. The team won the Western Conference regular season title with 118 points last season, which was five points better than the Portland Winterhawks. It is the Rockets first WHL regular season banner since 2003-2004. The team also won the BC Division title last season with an 18 point advantage over the Victoria Royals. It is the third BC Division banner in four years. The team has won BC Division banners in 2010-2011, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.   

Rockets Review: The Rockets set franchise records for wins (57) points (118) and road wins (29) last season. The teams overall record was 57-11-4-0. The club was able to score 310 goals which was one of only two teams to accomplish that feat. The Rockets were 28-4-0-0 on home ice. After a successful regular season, the Rockets eliminated the Tri City Americans in five games in round one before dispatching of Seattle in four games in round two. In the Western Conference final against Portland, the Rockets were eliminated in five games. Myles Bell led the team in goals (42) and points (77) while Damon Severson led the team in assists (46). Madison Bowey set a new team record for goals by a defenceman (21). Cole Martin led the WHL in +/- with a plus 61.

Back for More: The Rockets return 18 players from last year’s team. Captain Madison Bowey anchors the blue line while Justin Kirkland, Nick Merkley, Tyson Baillie and Rourke Chartier return to put the puck in the net. The team does lose its top three point getters in Bell (77), Ryan Olsen (64) and Damon Severson (61). Marek Tvrdon also graduated after a deadline deal in January. Jordon Cooke is now attending the U of S and will play with the Huskies. Jackson Whistle returns after playing a back-up role to the CHL goalie of the year. Whistle played in 22 games last season and won 18 times. Tyrell Goulbourne, Colton Heffley, Cole Martin and Carter Rigby are fighting for three overage spots.   

This and That: Dan Lambert was named the head coach of the Rockets after Ryan Huska resigned June 23rd to take the head coaching job with the Adirondack Flames of the American Hockey League….Lambert has two new assistant coaches. Kris Mallette, a former Rockets defenceman, joins Lambert behind the bench after spending last season as an associate coach with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Travis Crickard is the team’s new goaltending coach after Kim Dillabaugh took a full time job with the NHL’s LA Kings. Crickard has coaching experience with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s…Kris Mallette played two seasons with the Rockets from 1996-1998 before being traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors….The Rockets had two players drafted this summer by an NHL team. Justin Kirkland was taken by Nashville (3rd rd). Rourke Chartier was selected by San Jose (5th rd.)…Jackson Whistle attended the Vancouver Canucks Young-Stars Classic in Penticton on a tryout and played in one game with the Canucks….Tyson Baillie and second year defenceman Dalton Yorke earned tryouts with the San Jose Sharks….The Rockets have won 50 or more games in back-to-back seasons….The Rockets are rated as the 5th best team in the CHL Top 10 rankings which were released prior to the start of the season…Cole Martin is a +108 in the last two seasons…The Rockets won last season’s home opener with a 5-2 win over the Blazers…Last season the Rockets first game was on the road – @ Kamloops – in a 5-2 victory…This is the third straight season that the team opens the regular season against the Blazers…Dillon Dube (born 1998) is the only 16 year-old on the roster. Rookie Lucas Johansen is still 16, but turns 17 November 16th…Johansen is the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets and former Portland Winterhawks forward Ryan Johansen…Dan Lambert earned his first WHL victory behind the bench December 14, 2011, in Regina, in a overtime victory over the Pats. Ryan Huska was away at the World Junior Hockey Championships where he was an assistant coach…Lambert also coached three games in January of last season when Ryan Huska’s father fell ill.      

New Faces: Devante Stephens is a 17 year-old defenceman who was listed by the team. Stephens, from White Rock, played last season with the BCMMHL’s Valley West Hawks. Dillon Dube was the Rockets first round pick in 2013 and played last season with the Notre Dame Argos of the Saskatchewan Major Midget Hockey League. Jake Morrissey is a 17 year-old goaltender from Calgary. Morrissey will back-up Jackson Whistle this season. Tomas Soustal is a 17 year-old Czech Republic native who was picked in this summer’s CHL Import Draft. Lucas Johansen is a 6th round pick of the Rockets from 2012. Tanner Wishnowski is a listed player who was a member of the BCMMHL champion Okanagan Rockets last season. Tate Coughlin was a listed player who scored 25 goals with the Peninsula Panthers last season.     

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rockets open 20th season in Kelowna this weekend



Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray

With the Kelowna Rockets on the verge of opening their 20th season in the city, its mayor says the organization has been a marvelous addition to the community.

Walter Gray was a city councilor when the team arrived in Kelowna from Tacoma Washington in the summer of 1995.

"I think the Rockets are an incredible brand for the city. People say what is Kelowna known for? We could say it is known for the symphony orchestra, ballet or beautiful lake. But for 20 years now, or for 15 years when they became very prominent in terms of sports and community profile, the Rockets are right in there in the top five list of what comes to your mind when you think of Kelowna".

Gray became the mayor of Kelowna in 1996 and began the quest of finding a new arena for the team to play out of. Unfortunately for the Rockets, that meant four full seasons in a rundown Memorial Arena before Skyreach Place (Name eventually changed to Prospera Place) was built in 1999.

"They worked out of Memorial Arena for three or four seasons. Probably had we been behind schedule on Prospera Place they would have left town for more fertile ground. Happily, they stayed and they prospered and they deserve to prosper because they are just so connected to the community. The Hamilton's are sort of a family Chamber of Commerce for Kelowna. That is my view of them and therefore their hockey club".

Gray says the team provides a greater sense of pride for its resident.

"This community feels that it is their hockey club. It is like the Riders in Regina. The people of Saskatchewan feel that that's their personal football team. The Hamilton's have been smart enough to recognize that the support comes from the greater community. Support can actually also come from people that either don't have time or even an inclination to go to the game, but if they are out there saying, hey we have a great hockey team or did you know the score last night? That is the thing that keeps pumping up the greater community and it also pumps up the core audience that satisfies the business objectives of the owners of the hockey club. It has been magical", Gray added.         

Gray can take some credit for Kelowna winning the right to host the 2004 Memorial Cup. Gray was the only mayor that showed up in a Vancouver hotel in November of 2002 to make a pitch to WHL governors for Kelowna to host the 10 day tournament. 

Gray's passionate speech obviously didn't fall on deaf ears.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The pre-season grind is over - thankfully!!

  • The Kelowna Rockets surrendered three unanswered goals Saturday night in a 3-2 loss to the Victoria Royals. Colton Heffley and Austin Glover scored in the loss. Jake Morrissey made 16 saves in the setback. The Rockets end the pre-season with two wins in six pre-season games entering the home opener this Saturday against the visiting Kamloops Blazers.
  • Colton Heffley's goal was his third of the pre-season. The 20 year-old lead the team in goals scored.
  •  Austin Glover lead the team in exhibition scoring with 5 points (1+4=5) in five games. Kris Schmidli was next with four points (1=3=4).
  • While the Rockets dressed three 20 year-olds against the Royals, it was a young looking line up. The team has eight players away from NHL camps, so it will look much different in the next six days. Cole Martin, Colton Heffley and Tyrell Goulbourne were the three overagers that played Saturday night which forced Carter Rigby to watch from the sidelines. 
  • Rigby, Goulbourne and Martin all played just three of the teams six pre-season games. Heffley played in all six.
  • Martin had the 'C' on his jersey Saturday night. The 20 year-old had the privilege considering Madison Bowey is away at pro camp. It will be interesting to see if Martin is included in the leadership group this season. You won't find anyone more competitive than him. There is also a certain focus/demeanor that the Texan has brought back with him to Kelowna after a summer of training back in his home state.
  • What was Tyrell Goulbourne doing in Kelowna last night? Isn't he suppose to be at Philadelphia Flyers training camp? 
  • The Rockets scored just 13 goals in six pre-season games. Will scoring he hard to come by this season? Don't let the last couple of weeks fool you. The exhibition schedule means very little when the real puck is dropped on September 20th.
  • The Rockets finished dead last in the Western Conference in the pre-season with four points. The Victoria Royals had just five. Both are expected to battle for top spot in the BC Division this season.
  • For the record, I dislike pre-season. It has to be done, but I am not sure what we learn from it? Coaches get a chance to see young players in a 'real' game situation, but when it is void of a significant amount of veteran players, it doesn't serve the fans very well. And to be honest, pre-season isn't about the fans anyway. I think all will agree it is nice to know the evaluation process is over.
  • Fortunately the Rockets played only two pre-season games at home. On both night's the weather outside was spectacular and the crowds inside the building were very small. In fact, I can't remember the crowds being that small at this time of the year. Lets face it, only the hardcore fans are coming out on a beautiful fall evening.
  • A new font? It looked from high above that the Rockets name bars looked slightly different than last season. I thought it was easier to see as a broadcaster...and trust me I need all the help I can get.
  • Director of Officiating Kevin Muench was at last night's game. Muench told me veteran referee's Brett Montsion won't be back this season after moving to Ontario. Montsion will continue his refereeing career in the O-H-L. Veteran official Pat Smith is retiring. Smith had the privilege of officiating at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships and the 2010 Memorial Cup in Brandon. The Vancouver resident was also named the WHL official of the year in 2011-2012. Smith officiated for 12 years in the WHL.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Morrissey marveling at snow in his hometown


Morrissey - Shoot the Breeze Photography

Kelowna Rockets goaltender Jake Morrissey admits he is having a few laughs at the expense of his friends in Calgary this week.

Born in the Alberta city, Morrissey has seen his home town blanketed by snow while the Okanagan has enjoyed sunshine and a relatively mild fall.

"I am in the extremely fortunate position of ending up in Kelowna where you get four months of summer as opposed to Calgary's one and a half. There are certainly a lot colder places you could end up. I bug my brother a lot being in Prince Albert where there is a foot of snow on his car and I am still swimming in the pool, so no complaints".

Morrissey's older brother Josh has played the last three seasons with the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders.

Josh Morrissey will be in the Winnipeg Jets line-up this weekend at the Young-Stars Classic in Penticton and you can bet Jake will be there to watch him.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Price says Canadiens will miss former Rockets captain

The starting goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens admits the loss of defenceman Josh Gorges will be huge.

Speaking in Kelowna prior to a workout at Prospera Place, Carey Price says the former Kelowna Rockets captain will be missed.

"He is a great locker room guy. He is our best penalty killer. He is one of our leaders in our dressing room so it is going to be tough for the first bit but we are going to have to move on without him."

Price also took the opportunity to thank the Kelowna Rockets organization for the ice time they are providing the pro players that are getting ready for training camp.

"Bruce (Hamilton) and the Rockets have been gracious enough to loan us there ice for a couple of weeks. It definitely helps in your preparation for camp because its coming up pretty quick", Price added.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Martin putting on the (good) pounds

Cole Martin
Mailing it in wasn't an option for highly competitive Kelowna Rockets 20 year-old defenceman Cole Martin this off season.

Entering his final year in the WHL, the Arlington Texas resident hit the gym hard this summer under the watchful eye of former NHLer and now turned trainer Brett Severyn.

"I have pretty much been the same weight for the first three years in the league and now I had a huge jump this summer going up 20 pounds. A huge credit to Brent Severyn for pushing me to the absolute edge".

Martin sparkled at Rockets fitness testing, finishing third in the bench press behind only Tyrell Goulbourne and Dalton Yorke.

Not bad for a player who has a hard time putting on weight, yet still led the entire WHL in plus/minus with a +61.

Despite an impressive 19 year-old season, Martin admits he had to do some soul searching once the season ended.

"Especially being a U.S guy, living away from home since I was 13, you start think about options including maybe not playing hockey anymore. It's tough. It was a tough summer for me but I wanted to let myself know that I was going to put everything into it this year to see what I can do".      

One thing that is clearly evident when you speak to Martin.  He wants to win.  

"I would be pretty disappointed if we didn't go further. It has definitely been a big stinger to me each year and gets progressively worse. Last year was hard on me. I want to see us make a long playoff push and that is what I am hoping for", Martin added.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pre-season starts with a shutout

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • It was only a pre-season game, but for veteran Jackson Whistle that didn't matter. The 19 year-old made 24 saves in a 5-0 shutout win Saturday night over the visiting Kamloops Blazers. Whistle, like any first year starter, will have pressure on his shoulders as he proves to those that doubt him that he can take over from Jordon Cooke and be more than an adequate replacement. In this game, Whistle went the distance with 16 year-old Jake Morrissey as his back up.
  • It is now a three horse race in the Kelowna Rockets crease. Whistle is the guaranteed starter but it is a battle between Christopher Tia and Morrissey for the back up spot. While Morrissey was Whistle's back up last night, don't count out Tia. The 19 year-old has had a solid camp and the Delta BC product will get every opportunity to make the team. Whistle will be heading to the Young-Stars tournament in Penticton which means management will get an even better look at who is better, Tai or Morrissey. 
  • In Saturday's win, three of the five goals were scored by defenceman. It was nice to see Dalton Yorke and Joe Gatenby find the back of the net. The two combined for 0 goals in 83 regular season games last season. Yorke was the most physical defenceman for the home team. It will be interesting to see where he is penciled in the depth chart this season. Is he a top six defenceman or does he see sporadic duty?
  • Lucas Johansen. The 16 year-old (turns 17 in November) d-man is the real deal. Johansen is calm with the puck and I like his decision making. Johansen also has the ability to make nice passes. Nothing is guaranteed, but from what I saw from him in his first ever game wearing a Rockets uniform, I think he deserves to make the team. Again, my opinion doesn't count. Be thankful it doesn't.
  • The Rockets dressed two 20 year-old's last night. Those two were Carter Rigby and Colton Heffley. Tyrell Goulbourne and Cole Martin sat in the stands. In my opinion it is a two horse race for the one overage spot and Rigby and Heffley are the two fighting for it. Rigby didn't receive a shift in the third period when the score got out of hand at 5-0.
  • I thought 1997 born d-man Devante Stephens had a solid outing. Jordan Borstmayer scored a goal and played well for a raw rookie. 
  • The best Blazer? I thought goaltender Cole Kehler did a great job in a relief appearance of starter Connor Ingram. The best forward for Kamloops may have been Jermaine Loewen.  Loewen has good size (6'3 and 201) and was robbed by Whistle in the third period. I also liked Blazers forward Spencer Bast. Bast is a smooth skater. 
  • To be fair, the Blazers - as a group - looked tired after playing the night before. They were badly outplayed in the second period when they were out-shot 18-3.    
  • It was nice to see Austin Glover and Kris Schmidli see the score sheet. Both picked up two assists. Now 18, these two in particular need to contribute more this season.
  •  The Rockets face the Giants tonight in the second of six games during the pre-season. It will likely mark the debut of Euro Tomas Soustal.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fists fly as veterans raise level of play at main camp

Rookie Jake Morrissey tending net.
  • Even a happy family has a disagreement every once in a while. Case in point, Kelowna Rockets captain Madison Bowey dropping the gloves with 20 year-old Colton Heffley on the third day of main camp. You could see this one coming a couple of shifts earlier when Bowey was agitated by Heffley after the two were fighting for the puck in the corner. For those that didn't witness it, this wasn't a wrestling match. These two teammates threw some good punches. At one point, enforcer Tyrell Goulbourne attempted to step in and he too had to avoid the punches that were flying both ways. It was the first and likely last fight at main camp, but it sent a clear message to the younger players and a few of the veterans that main camp isn't a time to be wasted away. After the tilt both Heffley and Bowey were all smiles. No harm, no foul.
  • Jackson Whistle and rookie Jake Morrissey were the tandem for Team Red in the morning scrimmage. Whistle did not allow a goal in a relief appearance of the 16 year-old netminder. Morrissey will undoubtedly see some pre-season action as he attempts to prove, despite his age, he is a worthy back up. I often wonder if a young goalie like Morrissey would be better served by having a starting roll at a lower level where he can continue to develop his game? The danger in being a back up on a good team is he could potentially regress like Josh Lepp did. I would hate to see that same mistake happen twice. I am glad I have no say on the decision being made at that position.
  • Speaking of Morrissey, if he indeed sticks with the team this season, Joe Gatenby may have a challenger for Scholastic Player of the Year. Morrissey is as good in the classroom as he is on the ice and is taking only the top classes in high school. If you are enrolled in Chemistry 12, which Morrissey indeed is, you get a high five from me.    
  • I hate mentioning a players name for a second time on this blog because often it looks like favoritism. That said, I can take a punch, so I will again state how much I like rookie d-man Lucas Johansen. Again, I have not seen every workout, but the 6th round pick doesn't panic with the puck and looks steady out there. I hope Johansen plays in the pre-season to see if I am blind or if he indeed shows strong in a 'real' game. Again, I liked Cal Foote in the Thursday sessions considering his age. I think he could play here right now.  But does he also need to be rushed? The answer is no. Justin Kirkland did not play at 16. Look what came of him! 
  • Dillon Dube is having a strong camp. The 16 year-old creates some good things in the o-zone. It was interesting watching him play with veteran Rourke Chartier.
  • Myles Bell was on the ice with the pro players following the morning session. Bell won't attend NJ Devils camp until September 13th but was wearing a 'Devils' helmet when he took to the ice this morning. "I guess this camp will decide where I am going to end up playing this year. Obviously I have expectations of myself but I am going to go there and play as well as I can and try not to worry about things that I can't control". 
  • Former Kelowna Rockets overager JT Barnett was skating with the pro's today in Kelowna.
  • Cody Sylvester, who's mother Kim works in the Rockets office, has received a tryout with the Boston Bruins AHL team in Providence.

Madison Bowey video

A video conversation I had this morning with Kelowna Rockets captain Madison Bowey.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152235868346651&set=vb.700096650&type=2&theater

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Three fresh faces stand out on day one

Veteran Justin  Kirkland attempting to win a draw.
  • An impressive first day of main camp scrimmages for the Kelowna Rockets. I attended the morning session which featured two goaltenders that could arguably make up the tandem this season. Veteran Jackson Whistle started at one end with 16 year-old Jake Morrissey at the other. Whistle is sporting new white Vaughn pads with teal and red trim. As an added touch, 'Whis' was etched on the side of both pads and gloves. The number one goaltending duties are for Whistle to lose. The back up spot is WIDE open.
  • I am no expert, but the best goaltender in the morning session was 1998 born Brodan Salmond. I thought Salmond was forced to make some nice saves for Team Orange. Salmond, from Calgary, was the Rockets 10th round pick in 2013.
  • Dillon Dube is just 16 but looks like a veteran out there. Small but skilled, the Rockets first round pick in 2013 is the real deal. You can't have a enough high end skill on your team.
  • I thought rookie Cal Foote had a real good debut in his first on-ice session at main camp. Still 15, Foote played a simple game and did absolutely nothing to get his team in trouble in the d-zone. Foote isn't flashy but makes smart plays with the puck. I sure like his size. When you are 6'2 and 180 pounds and you don't turn 16 until December, Foote has a lot going for him. Again, one ice session does not make a solid WHL career, but what I saw from the Denver Colorado resident tells me he could definitely play at the WHL level this season if he indeed chooses major junior hockey.
  • Defenceman Lucas Johansen also showed some good things in the opening session. The brother of Columbus Blue Jackets Ryan Johansen, Lucas was smart with the puck and was often seen in good areas attempting to generate offense. I thought the 6'2, 170 pound d-man had a good start to camp by not doing to much and playing a relatively simple game.
  • Veteran Ryan Olsen is in camp with the Rockets. The 20 year-old is signed by Winnipeg but is still participating in all aspects of main camp. The only player that isn't at camp that technically could be is Damon Severson. Severson could play as an overager this season but is signed by New Jersey and will likely play either in the NHL or AHL this season.
  • It is only main camp, but it looks like Carter Rigby is showing he wants to be one of three 20 year-old's on the roster this season. As one of the oldest players on the ice he should dominate, which he did physically on day one. Rigby was hitting people and winning board battles. The Penticton resident looks like he is in better shape too. It is a clear sign to the management and his teammates that he isn't going down without a fight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Foote wants to follow in fathers footsteps

Cal Foote
A 15 year-old rookie defenceman attending Kelowna Rockets main camp this week has a parent who knows something about the game. Denver, Colorado's Cal Foote has a father named Adam Foote. Ever hear of him? Yep, Adam Foote, who played over 11 hundred games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets.
"Since he stopped playing and retired he has been on the bench most games. He has coached me for two years and he has helped out assistant coach this last year", the younger Foote told me this morning after the first on-ice scrimmage of Kelowna Rockets main camp.
Much like his dad, Cal Foote is a stay at home defenceman with some impressive size for a player that doesn't turn 16 until mid December.
"I like to have his tough gritty game but I like to see myself more as a two way guy. I see myself more on the offensive side than he was".
Well spoken for one of the youngest players at main camp, Foote is impressed by what he has seen both on and off the ice.
"It kind of blew my mind how awesome it is here. Just the town and how great it is....its nice. The rink here is amazing and the facility is just great too".
A second round pick of the Rockets two draft ago, Cal Foote was unable to attend rookie camp last season because of any injury.
If you watch real close this week, the number on his helmet at training camp is 52, the same digits his father Adam donned in a hockey career which will likely see him in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the not so distant future.           

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tai attempt to make Rockets roster

Christopher Tai
  • Recognize the player on the right? His name is Christopher Tai. The 18 year-old goaltender will be attending the Kelowna Rockets main camp next week. Tai has played with three teams over his WHL career including two seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and one game each with Brandon and Medicine Hat. The Delta, BC resident spent the majority of last season in the AJHL with the Lloydminster Bobcats. Tai will attempt to challenge for the vacant back up position to veteran Jackson Whistle.
  • Speaking of Whistle; have you seen the new signage outside the Rockets office? It says 'Welcome to Rocketland' and has a face shot of Whistle with his mask on. That is proof in itself that the West Kelowna resident is indeed the teams #1 goaltender heading into the season.
  • There is nothing worse than not having your first round bantam pick attend training camp. The Kelowna Rockets felt it in the fall of 2008 when first round pick Luke Moffatt didn't show. Moffatt never played a game with the Rockets, who selected the Arizona product second overall. This season the Everett Silvertips feel the pain as 16 year-old Tyson Jost is a no-show and will instead go to camp with the Penticton Vees this season. Jost was the Okanagan Rockets leading scorer last season and would pretty much be a guarantee to make any WHL roster as a rookie.
  • What is with all of these WHL veteran players pulling the pin on their junior careers? The Spokane Chiefs have been hit the hardest when captain Reid Gow decided he didn't want to return for his 20 year-old season. When your captain losses his heart to play the game, that sends an ugly message to his now former teammates. Since then, no less than four veterans including one more from the Chiefs and one each from the Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors and Red Deer Rebels have had a change of heart. Now we hear word that Macoy Erkamps of the Lethbridge Hurricanes won't report to training camp and wants to be traded. We've heard that song played before when it comes to the 'Cane Train'. While you can joke by saying that is typical for the Hurricanes at this time of the year, the WHL isn't laughing at whats happening league wide.
  • The Rockets had a similar situation last season, when in November, Swedish forward Henrik Nyberg walked into the coaches office and told them he wanted to go home. It put the team in a tough spot. I would think it is better that a player announce his intentions to walk away from the team prior to the start of training camp rather than two months into the season. With Nyberg's departure and rosters pretty much set, the Rockets were essentially short a forward for the entire season. They attempted to fill that void at the trade deadline by acquiring Marc McCoy from Regina. McCoy was a no-show.
  • If I am feeling for one WHL coach at training camp this week its John Paddock in Regina. Named the head coach earlier this month, Paddock is going to have to rely heavily on those around him to formulate his team. With no prior knowledge of what a player did or did not do with the Pats last season, the 60 year-old can only look at a stats sheet to gauge what a veteran is capable of doing.
  • How much gas in the tank does Seattle Thunderbirds Mathew Barzal have after attending and winning gold for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic earlier this month?  While Barzal may not be rewarded with a few days off when he arrives in Kent for main camp, fellow Team Canada and Kelowna Rockets teammate Nick Merkley will. GM Bruce Hamilton says Merkley, the WHL rookie of the year, will not participate in the early stages of main camp. The 17 year-old forward doesn't have much to prove and will sit out of few days of main camp to recharge his batteries. 
  • The veterans hate it, but it is a clear indication of who was committed to working out over the summer. Fitness testing is always an interesting component of main camp. Rourke Chartier is a rock star when it comes to conditioning. The now 18 year-old is the player to beat. We won't report on who was sucking air in fitness testing in fear of embarrassment, but I anticipate some veteran players doing much better than a year ago under the watchful eye of Athletic Therapist Scott Hoyer.