Most teams are going to say in public that they like their youth, they like their prospect depth and the future is bright. So take it with a grain of salt when I say the Broncos have every reason to like their youth, like their prospect depth and believe the future is bright. Over the last week from orientation camp to fitness testing to training camp on-ice sessions and the intrasquad game… we’ve seen some very impressive young talent.
I don’t base this solely on my casual observation. I’ve talked to management, players, longtime observers, other media, etc. The feeling is that the system is deep with talent and hope. You can say that when you see a 9th round draft pick like Cameron Hughes draw raves all weekend for his obvious offensive instincts or a 7th round pick like Brandan Arnold draw similar praise. You can say that when a 5th round pick like Max Lajoie is described to me by one observer as “playing like a first rounder.” You can say that when there are three first round bantam picks and three second round bantam picks in camp all seemingly living up to or surpassing expectations with their performance.
Lots of young players show promise, especially in a camp environment. Obviously the outlook that all these guys are going to have a big impact is very pie in the sky. Nobody knows just how well these players will develop nor how significant they will be at this level in the future. Some of that exciting talent will make the roster this year, but we’re at least a year or two away from seeing them take any ownership of the team.
It’s still something to get excited about if you’re a Bronco fan. There’s lots of reason for optimism.
DAY 3 (SATURDAY)
The final day of scrimmages started with Team Trottier beating Team Tiger 8-3 in the 4pm games. It was a tight scrimmage early, but Team Trottier pulled away in the second half. Zach Gonek displayed that shot he talked to me about eralier this week when he blasted a one-timer to make it 1-0 Team Tiger. It was a cannon of a shot. Tyler Hengen made it 2-0 on another one-timer, but Eetu Laurikainen settled in and only allowed one more goal the rest of the way.
Zac Mackay scored his 4th of training camp (only Lowry had more) with another hard one-timer. Mackay really got to show his shot off throughout camp. He also came up lame after blocking a shot later in the game, but later returned to the game. It’s an important camp for him and he had a good one. Dakota Odgers and Spencer Copan then fought. It was a hard battle with an edge to Odgers. Copan did enough as an undrafted 15-year-old to make it to the Black vs. White game so credit to him.
It was a terrific game for Glenn Gawdin. He was dangerous every time he touched the puck. One of the more impressive plays of the game was a pass from the left wing across the offensive zone right to Josh Derko for a goal. Derko has looked good. He dropped 20lbs but also worked on staying stronger in the summer. He looks leaner and quicker as he tries to take another step forward this year. Meanwhile, Gawdin showed enough over this game and the weekend that I’m convinced he could play here this year. I think the Broncos believe that too. He has displayed terrific offensive instincts, very good vision, a quick relief and a bag of tricks that will be fun to watch once he gets here in 2013-14.
Cavin Leth stole a puck and broke in basically as if he had a penalty shot. He found the five-hole on Laurikainen to tie the game at 3. Leth showed his speed on that play and some good finish. Mackay than got stopped on a 2 on 1 but turned it into a Curtis German game winner for Team Trottier. Shortly after that Gonek and Sine Chadi got into a scrap. Gonek was so impatient to get going he skated over to Chadi and ripped his helmet off for him, but ended up losing his balance. Gonek absolutely has an edge that will be big for him if he makes the leap this year.
Coda Gordon’s brother Jaydan then got in on the scoring as he had a point shot deflect off something in front to give Team Trottier a 5-3 lead. Gordon also made it all the way to the intrasquad game. He is hoping his performance this week showed them he deserves to be there because of his performance and not because of his brother. The undrafted 15-year-old had a very solid camp and now heads with most of them to prepare for their first midget seasons. Jaydan is a d-man, but Coda should be a good example to him that being undrafted in the bantam draft doesn’t mean he can’t come here and have success at the WHL level.
Gawdin then drove did a great job protecting the puck and driving the net to create a goal for Wyatt Sloboshan. It was another dominant play by Gawdin. Levi Bews hammered a puck home shortly afterwords for the final goal in a dominant second half. Team Trottier beat Team Tiger 8-3 with Laurikainen getting the win in goal. They finished 2-1 in the camp.
The second game was maybe the most well-played scrimmage of the six from Thursday through Saturday. It had an extra jump to it and was played somewhat tighter at the same time. It was also lower scoring than we were used to seeing as it ended 3-3 and Team Ruskowski beat Team Sakic 4-3 in the shootout.
In saying that I have to give credit to the goaltenders including a full game performance by undrafted 15-year-old Brock Hamm in the Team Ruskowski net. He’s not a big goalie, but he was quite good all throughout camp. Hamm is headed to play with the Contacts in Midget AAA and could be someone to watch. Landon Bow and Kyle Zinger were also quite good for their teams. Zinger is still in the mix with the Swift Current Legionnaires as he had a good showing at their camp including a shut out in a period of work during their intrasquad game.
— Jackson Keane (@Jacksonkeane12) August 25, 2012
As predicted by Jackson Keane, Adam Smith put a nice shot home to open the scoring for Team Sakic. Smith told me before training camp that he wanted to show he could bring a bit of offence to the table on top of his grit and toughness. I thought Smith showed some of that in camp with that goal, a beauty assist from behind the net in a previous game and in general some solid play creating chances. He will have to bring grit to the lineup. It won’t hurt things if his overall game continues to improve on top of that.
Graham Black and Christian Magnus then came together as Magnus tied the game for Team Ruskowski. That’s a combination Bronco fans are hoping can click again this season like they did in the final month of last season. However, the tie didn’t last long. Adam Lowry scored his 4th goal of the three days of camp to restore Team Sakic’s lead. He added another one later on to make it 3-1 and hit a crossbar as well. Lowry has been terrific throughout camp and seems ready to be an even more dominant power forward this season. His skating has really come a long way to the point that he easily caught up to a potential 2-0 to break it up.
Tanner LeSann saw his Yorkton Midget AAA linemate Dakota Odgers scrap in the first game of the day so he followed that with one of his own. LeSann and Paige Maul had an awesome battle that saw some big shots thrown. Bobby Zinkan and Tristen Gavin tried to follow that. Their fight ended quickly as they lost their balance.
The fights seem to spark Team Ruskowski’s comeback. Black started and finished a nice passing play with Jared Marchi for Black’s third goal of the scrimmages. Reid Gunville then tied the game on a clear breakaway move to his forehand. The 3-3 score held up until the end of regulation and Bronco management called for a shootout to decide things. Click bellow for a video of how it went down…
That was quite a move by Black at the end there. The offensive instincts of Jackson Keane and Cameron Hughes were obvious there as well. Both guys grabbed significant and deserved attention this weekend. Hughes is only entering his 16-year-old season and has room to get stronger. You can work out to get stronger, but you can’t teach the kinds of offensive instincts he has. I had a chat with Hughes after the scrimmage victory for Team Ruskowski.
Interview with Cameron Hughes (Download)
BLACK VS WHITE GAME
- Click here for the unofficial boxscore and lineups
- Click here for the official team website recap
- Click here for the Swift Current Online recap
Rookie hopeful Tanner LeSann made quite an impression as Team Black beat Team White 5-0 in the Swift Current Broncos training camp intrasquad game.
LeSann had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in the first period on the way to a 3 point game. He helped set up Dillon Heatherington’s point shot goal, fired one in for a goal 30 seconds later and not long after that got into a really good scrap (check out a fan video of the fight here) with Sine Chadi. Chadi worked the left and LeSann worked the right in what was quite a battle. LeSann later added an assist on Spencer Copan’s second period goal for his third point. It was the exact type of statement the listed player entering his 17-year-old season had to make.
Tanner LeSann Interview (Download)
It was a dominant performance by Team Black, especially in the first half of the game. Although Steven Myland gave up 4 goals (even calling it a tough game on twitter) I don’t think he had much of a chance on most of those goals. Child and Laurikainen combined on Team White for the shut out. Laurikainen wasn’t tested much but also didn’t give up any weak ones. All you can do is stop what they shoot at you. I thought both Child and Landon Bow have very good games in the second half as the two teams were held to only one combined goal in the final 30 minutes.
Manitoba High School product Liam Bilton had a nice goal early in the second period for Team Black on a well placed shot. Jackson Keane and Riley Welsh had the assists for a line that created their share of chances throughout the game. I thought Bilton performed well at camp, but Bilton was fighting an up hill battle coming into his first WHL camp entering his 18-year-old season. From his Twitter it seems clear he didn’t make it past the next round of cuts and went home, but he can still be proud of his showing. I imagine and MJHL opportunity will come for him. I talked to Bilton after the game and before he got that news…
Interview with Liam Bilton (Download)
There was another feisty scrap in the second period (again check out a fan video of that one here) as Dakota Odgers and Bobby Zinkan went toe-to-toe. Both guys also fought on Saturday in scrimmage games. It’s pretty obvious that the “care level” is high for both these young men. I don’t just say that because of the willingness to fight, it’s apparent in the way they play the game. Zinkan in particular had a good weekend. I thought he was OK on Thursday and Friday, but really stood out as having strong performances on Saturday and Sunday. He can make things happen from the blue line and could be fun to watch here. He also played pretty physical at times throughout the camp.
I really don’t envy management’s decision on the blue line. There are 9 players in that group that very much appear to belong in the WHL. At least one or two of those guys won’t be here. I wouldn’t want to have to decide who that is. It could open trade doors as well.
The only goal of the third period was banged home by Paige Maul after Coda Gordon kept a puck alive battling for it front of the net. That’s where Gordon does his best work. Colby Cave also got a helper on that one. So who is Paige Maul? The American put up 25 points in 40 games for the Rocky Mountain Roughriders last season. He showed some grit and a little bit of finish there too. Maul is also a former Medicine Hat draft pick. I don’t know yet whether he made it to the rookie game as we’re still waiting for word on who the Broncos released after the end of training camp. That should come later today.
The Black and White game was the final day in camp for a number of the 1997 born players. A signed player like Glenn Gawdin can stick around, but we likely won’t see any other 1997 play in the rookie game against Moose Jaw tomorrow unless they sign a WHL contract. There were a few undrafted 15-year-olds in the mix at camp including Coda Gordon’s younger brother Jaydan. The young defenceman did enough to earn a spot in the intrasquad game and from talking to him he really enjoyed the experience here.
Interview with Jaydan Gordon (Download)
Bronco management now has to figure out how many of those 15-year-old invites they want to place on their list and who they can remove to make room for them. There was some good talent here that I’m sure the organization wants to at least keep tabs on.
The other thing I wanted to make mention of from the Black vs. White game is that the video board was up and running. They’ve got some pretty high-end equipment up there and a team of people who are willing to put the work in. There will be kinks to work out and everyone should be patient… but it’s possibilities are endless now that the team and equipment are in place. At the very least it’s great to have the action and especially the replays on the screen.
Up next is the rookie game in Moose Jaw tomorrow. I plan on being there and providing another live blog for the game. There was pretty good feedback for them last year so we’ll see if that’s something you want me to keep up. I wasn’t able to do my live blog in the same depth as I usually would because I was doing PA announcing yesterday. I should be free and clear in Moose Jaw.
I’m expecting to talk to Mark Lamb later today and also expecting the Broncos will be releasing details on who they sent home last night. The picture should get a bit clearer today with several more key… and very tough decisions to come. I also have interviews with a few of the returning veterans hoping to challenge for an open spot in the Broncos top two forward lines. I will post those either later today or within the next day or two.