Broncos Camp Starts, Cave/Heward Interviews

Colby Cave (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Colby Cave (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

The Swift Current Broncos open training camp today with scrimmages at 4pm and 6pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can get full details on the schedule and more information on the Broncos website.They included a full list of the training camp roster for the first time I can remember since I’ve been here.

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A couple of players worth noting on that roster list? Austin Calladine got the invite to Swift Current’s camp after spending time with both Calgary and Saskatoon in the WHL. He had 3 points in 37 career games. Calladine spent last season with the Flin Flon Bombers of the SJHL where he scored 35 points in 46 games. Calladine is also a former 2nd round WHL Bantam Draft pick so certainly was highly touted at one point. We’ve seen a few of these types or reclamation project type additions by the Broncos in recent years work out. Could Calladine or Luca Leone be the new Ryon Moser or Levi Bews? Time will tell.

You may also note a familiar name on the list for Team Sakic. There is a second Spagrud on the roster as Justin’s younger brother Cody is making a run at things. Cody was dynamie in bantam and could have some potential here moving forward. Another brother in camp is Coda Gordon’s brother Jaydan making his third appearance here.

Take a look at the rosters for yourselves. Who stands out to you? There are lots of returning players and not many open spots so players are going to have work really hard to stand out. One area of note in training camp will be 1998 and 1999 players fighting for WHL contracts. The Broncos didn’t have as much skill depth in the last draft because of missing 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks. There is some room in the system for people to step up.

After fitness testing I had a chance to chat with Broncos Assistant Coach Jamie Heward and returning captain Colby Cave. Heward was impressed with everyone’s fitness after Dakota Odgers crushed the beep test and also noted a couple of guys who have bought in and improved their condition. I heard Jay Merkley was in the best shape of his career and Heward singled out Jordan Harris for making major strides.

Interview with Jamie Heward:

Interview with Colby Cave:

Cave related some great news for him that he’s attending Arizona Coyotes camp in the middle of September and is hoping to get into some exhibition games. Cave was at the summer development camp in Phoenix as well. Could this mean an end to his junior career? It’s possible. The Coyotes could have some spots open on their AHL team. It’s a great opportunity for Cave and you can’t help but cheer for him to be successful. On the other hand it would sure be tough for the Broncos to lose him this year. That’s a story to watch.

Speaking of turning pro… last week the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL announced they had signed former Broncos forward Nathan Burns for this season. Burns was just an outstanding addition after being acquired from Saskatoon and was probably Swift Current’s playoff MVP. He really found an extra gear in his overage season just in time to start what should be a promising professional career. He was also at Arizona’s development camp in the summer. Instead he found a home in the Rangers organization. I heard there might be another former Bronco headed there too.

Some other news out of camp yesterday included the fact that Geordie Maguire has left hockey to start on his education. I understand he is headed to Queens which is a terrific school. I feel like we never really got to see what Maguire could be in Swift Current. An ill-timed bout with mono really stole away too much of his time here for us to evaluate his abilities or how he would mesh. It’s a shame because he would have surely been in the mix for a bigger role if he had a good camp/pre-season. On the other hand he’s going to a great school and got to experience WHL life which will help pay for that schooling. It’s a no-lose scenario for him. I’m sure all Broncos fans wish him well.

I’ll leave it there for now. I won’t be able to see every scrimmage session so please leave comments or tweets with your thoughts on what you’ve seen. The Black/White game is Sunday at 1pm. The rookie game is Tuesday in Moose Jaw.

More to come!

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Elmwood August Update, Labour Day Tournament

elmwood

The Elmwood Golf and Country Club is gearing up for their annual labour day classic. It’s a unique format that carries you through the whole long weekend. They also have a deal now where you can play golf for the rest of the season for free if you get a membership for 2015. GM Sheldon Reinhart has details on that and an update on renovations.

Interview with Elmwood Golf and Country Club GM Sheldon Reinhart (Download)

Elmwood is a sponsor for this blog so anyone who is a fan of it please support them!

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Broncos Orientation Camp Audio, Honka Update, Dale & Holt Interviews

Broncos staff talk to their young players

Broncos staff talk to their young players

The Swift Current Broncos welcomed a selection of their young players and the draft class of 2014 to their orientation camp this Monday and Tuesday. It’s an opportunity for them to introduce the young players to the Broncos organization and to one another. I had a chance to chat with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb about that and some other pressing matters leading into training camp.

Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb interview (Download

Goaltender Curt Doyle (Download) (Download

List Player Tyler Adams (Download)

List Player Landon Mackenzie (Download

For now it’s just a process of introducing themselves to the system. As main camp starts up it becomes time for these young men to really show something. Obviously with a full time job at Standard Motors and a couple of kids at home I can’t be at camp as much as I have been in previous years. That doesn’t mean we won’t have coverage here and at Swift Current Online. I’ll be there as much as my schedule permits and hope you will all chime in as well with your thoughts about what you’re seeing at camp. I think exhibition is really where the story will be told this year given how many returning players are going to be here.

ALUMNI INTERVIEWS

I had done a couple of interviews at our annual Click Before You Dig Broncos Alumni golf tournament at Elmwood Golf and Country Club. I figured I would post them here now since they had been collecting dust. Colin Powers did use them for a couple of articles on Swift Current Online, but here are the full interviews. They include Dale telling the story about his new athletic career. I think it’s pretty cool and it would be awesome if a former Bronco was in the Olympics down the road.

Daniel Dale Interview (Download

Todd Holt Interview (Download) 

The tournament was a blast. Kudos to the Rondeaus who have done a great job heading the committee in recent years and to everyone at Elmwood. I enjoy being a part of it and hope I can continue to be in the future.

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Josh Dixon Joins Broncos Staff (Interview)

Josh Dixon (Photo Regina Pats)

Josh Dixon (Photo Regina Pats)

The Swift Current Broncos named former Regina Pats assistant coach Josh Dixon as their associate coach today. Dixon stepped down from his gig with the Pats after a surprising division championship as a part of changes that saw coach Malcom Cameron surprisingly relieved of his duties. Dixon played a large role with the Pats the last three seasons after working with the OHA and eight years as a coach in college hockey. He has a variety of experience and brings a number of skills to the Broncos. I’ll let him and his old boss explain it…

Interview with Broncos Associate Coach Josh Dixon (Download)

Interview with former Regina Pats Coach Malcom Cameron (Download)

I came out of that conversation impressed. He has quite a background and is very well spoken. He’s clearly a hungry and motivated coach who could bring a new element to the coaching staff. What do you think?

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Lamb Talks Import Draft

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Maxim Letunov

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb on Import Draft (Download)

The Swift Current Broncos added two potential players in the CHL Import Draft this week. They picked St. Louis Blues second round NHL draft selection Maxim Letunov in the first round and big Swedish winger Andreas Schumacher in the second round. Despite the rumours you hear that doesn’t mean Julius Honka isn’t coming back. Teams are allowed to make two import picks when their returning import is a first round draft pick or going into their overage year. This allows the Broncos to maybe take a bit of a flier on a guy like Letunov who has committed to play in the USHL again this year and at Boston University the year after… while still having the opportunity to add a player like Schumacher in the second round if Letunov doesn’t change his mind and make the jump to the CHL.

Want the scoop on Letunov? Click here for a breakdown of his scouting reports. He’s a lanky forward will a ton of skill. Supposedly has great hands, vision and an excellent shot. Not surprisingly he needs to work on his strength and his two-way game.

So why take a guy who is committed to the NCAA? The Broncos haven’t exaclty had a rep of luring those types of players away. I think in this case it’s a situation where Mark Lamb has heard some inside information that Letunov is at least considering making the jump and had two picks so he could take the risk on him. Letunov played midget hockey in Dallas and certainly Lamb still has lots of contacts there who could give him some insight into this young man. That may have opened the door. He went higher in the draft than was expected and perhaps that will make him and his representation realize that he’s closer to being a pro than he thought he would. The WHL is a quicker path to the NHL with a more NHL like schedule and style of play. That could be attractive for this skilled Russian as he looks to prepare his game for one of the elite franchises in the NHL now.

Whether Letunov comes to camp or he doesn’t he could face some competition for a spot from big winger Andreas Schumacher. He had 28 points in 32 games of U18 hockey in Sweden last season. Schumacher is listed at 6’2 and 187lbs so he certainly has some size to him and a history for his family in North America. His brother Michael put up close to a point per game in two seasons with the Soo Greyounds of the Ontario Hockey League before turning pro. He was also a draft pick of the LA Kings.

There frankly isn’t nearly as much information about Schumacher as there is about Letunov. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a big impact player here. How much did we know about Eetu Laurikainen before he showed up?

Either way Lamb made it clear he sees one hole remaining in their top six forwards and would be happy if he could fill it with an import. There’s also a chance someone from the other lines could slide up or maybe even a rookie? If no one else fills the gap there is always the option of making a trade later on. For now it looks like the Broncos are happy to stand pat and see where things go at training camp. Don’t expect much more movement after they make their coaching announcement this week.

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Lernout, Martin & Lamb Draft Reaction

Brycen Martin and Brayden Point (stolen from @Brycen_Martin on Twitter)

Brycen Martin and Brayden Point (stolen from @Brycen_Martin on Twitter)

So how do you like this defensive group now? A day after Julius Honka was drafted 14th overall in the NHL draft, the Swift Current Broncos saw both Brycen Martin and Brett Lernout drafted in the third round. This comes after Dillon Heatherington was picked in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. That means all four players in the top four for the Broncos are first, second or third round NHL prospects. How many teams can ever claim that?

Martin and Lernout were also interestingly picked back-to-back in the draft. Montreal traded up to grab Lernout at 73 and Martin then went to Buffalo at 74. Not only are they on the same team but the two young talents also played as a defensive pair for much of the season. That makes it even more unique they were taken one after the other and by division rivals as well.

For Martin being picked in the third round was exciting and yet in talking to him also not quite what he had hoped for. There were times he was ranked as a potential first round pick and that didn’t happen. As Mark Lamb says it doesn’t matter much where you’re picked as long as you deliver once it’s your time (Cody Eakin was a third round pick and is in the NHL now), but it is also a motivator for Martin to prove he should have gone higher. As I said in talking to him he’s a “five tool” type defenceman with all the ability and physical talents any team could want. He could end up being a steal.

Meanwhile, Lernout’s selection was the result of what was a tremendous rise this year. Here is a player that wasn’t on anyone’s draft radar at the start of the season and ended up going in the top 75 to the most historic franchise in the NHL. That’s storybook. Of course he has to show last season wasn’t an aberration and that he can continue to make that level of progress. He’s big, tough and way more skilled than people realized he was. He could be exactly the type of player who comes into his own a bit later and goes on to surprise people with the professional career he could have. Again it says a lot when a team trades up to make sure they get you.

I talked to Martin, Lernout and Mark Lamb about the draft. We haven’t been able to link up with Honka yet unfortunately, but it was great to be able to talk to Martin and Lernout about what is clearly and awesome day for them. It was an awesome draft for the Broncos as they not only continue to get players drafted, but those players are getting drafted higher and higher every year. This should now be an organization you want your kid to play for based on the kinds of results we’ve been seeing with drafts and other professional opportunities.

Interview with Brett Lernout (Download)

Interview with Brycen Martin (Download)

Interview with Mark Lamb (Download)

As for the players who didn’t get picked… the draft isn’t the be all and end all. It’s exciting to know an NHL team wants to devote a spot on their protected list to you and wants to give you every opportunity to succeed. On the other hand you will get those opportunities if you show you deserve it with your play. Justin Dowling didn’t get drafted and has worked himself into a Calder Cup and a contract with the Dallas Stars. It happens all the time. Players like Colby Cave and Coda Gordon now have the chance to prove they deserve that opportunity with another great season as overage players before picking the ideal organization for them to work with after the season is done. They may also get invites to some rookie camps before that too. The door is wide open whether you’re Cave, Gordon, Landon Bow, Jay Merkley, Jordan Harris or any other player on that Broncos roster who didn’t get their name called yet. Continue playing well and developing… those opportunities will come.

Now Wednesday is another big day in the WHL off season. The Broncos pick 36th in the CHL Import Draft and I would have to think have their eye on a scoring forward. Could they mine Finland again after having overwhelming success with Laurikainen and Honka in recent years? Lamb was down at the NHL draft and has so many contacts that perhaps he could get a drafted European player here to help what should be a very good Swift Current team. It’s not a high pick though so we will see what’s left when it comes time for him to pick.

Happy Canada Day! Hope you’re enjoying it with your friends and family.

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Dallas Drafts Honka

Honka after being drafted (photo from @DallasStars)

Honka after being drafted (photo from @DallasStars)

It was a tremendous day for the Swift Current Broncos and bigger than that a huge day for Broncos defenceman Julius Honka. The Dallas Stars continued their connection with Swift Current by drafting the dynamic defenceman in the first round of the NHL Draft 14th overall. That’s the second highest draft position in Broncos history behind only Tyler Wright. Even Joe Sakic didn’t go that high as he went to Quebec 15th overall. He was also drafted a spot higher than Erik Karlsson in 2008… the player he was most often compared to.

This draft continues a fruitful relationship between the Broncos and the Stars. Dallas currently employs three former Broncos captains in their organization. Cody Eakin has been a big part of the NHL team, while Justin Dowling and Taylor Vause helped guide the AHL Texas Stars to a Calder Cup. The Stars also employed former Broncos defenceman Aaron Rome until they recently bought him out.

It’s not entirely surprising that there would be a connection between the two teams after Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb had a long stint as an assistant coach with the NHL club. That connection must be a part of what has created a bit of a pipeline from Swift Current to Dallas. Stars GM Jim Nill even said Lamb helped Dallas get to know Honka better.

Obviously Broncos fans know what the Stars are getting in Honka. So far most of the talk has been about his offensive skills and how fun people in the media think his name is. Honka is more than a one-dimensional offensively skilled defenceman. He absolutely will have to be to make it with the Stars in the kind of organization Nill and Coach Lindy Ruff are building.

It was great to see lots of coverage for Honka today like…

In all it was a very big day for the WHL with nine players from this league being picked in the first round of the NHL draft. All of them came from what should be a very competitive eastern conference next season.

Now that the first round is in the books we wait to see where the rest of the draft eligible Broncos will go and how soon. If history is any indication Brycen Martin will end up going to New Jersey with the 11th pick of the second round or Dallas with the 15th. Realistically he could end up anywhere and any team would be lucky to get him in the second round. How far will the fast rising Brett Lernout end up getting picked? They are probably next in line while we also wait to see if it happens for Gordon again, Cave, Bow or anyone else.

For now we celebrate Honka as the first Broncos player taken in the first round since 2000. He took a risk in leaving his home behind to come all the way to a small town in the heart of the prairies. It paid off as Honka became a fan favourite, made the World Junior team for Finland that won a gold medal and took the WHL by storm. Now he’s another step towards the NHL. It’s got to be an awesome moment for him and his whole family. The hard work has paid off. Take a few moments to celebrate a tremendous achievement because it’ll only get harder from here.

honka tweet

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