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Brycen Martin Interview (Download)
Graham Black Interview (Download)
It’s hard not to think about what the future will hold after watching Brycen Martin and the rest of the 1996 draft class throughout this training camp. That’s not to say that the current roster isn’t full of interesting players, but the buzz word about Martin after his performance last night was “star” — as in “he is going to be a star” and “he looked like a star” — and it’s hard to imagine him turning out to be anything but.
Any 15-year-old is going to have warts and it is clearly too soon to say he is the kind of player that will carry a team. He could be though. He was making some very nice outlet passes and quick decisions. He looked smooth and comfortable running a PP. His skating is top-notch. There is a reason Martin was the drafted 2nd overall. He put that talent on display last night in the loss to Moose Jaw.
Unfortunately, as much as the Class of 2011 has impressed as a whole, the most we’ll see any of them this season is in a few call up games or at Legionnaire games. Again Jordan Wittman is playing there while Dakota Odgers is headed to Yorkton and Cavin Leth to Notre Dame. I’m looking forward to seeing how far they come before next year.
The good news? All of the top five picks appear to be locked in with four of them officially announced and Wittman playing in the game last night. No guessing games now.
There was no question that Graham Black, Shea Howorko and Coda Gordon were the best line on the ice tonight. Black was buzzing around the ice all night. It seemed like he was making something happen every shift. You don’t lead the Midget AAA league in scoring by accident. He is going to make a strong case for top 6 minutes and PP time despite being a rookie.
By the way, several Broncos including Black himself told me that the puck was in on the goal that was waved off in the second period. No instant replay in pre-season. Give him that goal and both Black and Martin end up with lines of 1g-2a-3p in the game. Impressive.
The puck seemed to follow Howorko today and he was part of numerous scoring chances. It’s a good sign that he was involved and they aren’t always going to go in. Hopefully he can get off to a good start and at least earn a regular shift to start. The confidence can build from there.
Meanwhile, Coda Gordon might be a player we have to pay closer attention to. He put up 54 points in the 28 games I can find stats for with Edge prep school last season. He is listed at 6’2 and 170lbs so he has some size too. I really liked his drive to the net on the PP goal he scored. He is someone to watch perhaps.
No fights in the game but a lot of chippy play. Both teams went hard to the net and there were quite a few scrums. It was no surprise to see the likes of Zack Gonek and Zac Mackay get in the middle of those scraps. Both guys have enough skill that they won’t be exclusively grinders… but they sure don’t shy away from it.
On the other side I think there were a lot of nervous guys out there. That’s to be expected. For some it’s their first WHL game and for others it’s the reality that they were on the edge of being sent home. It’s tough to settle down and play your game in those situations. That is why I think there was such a long feeling out process at the start before things picked up in the 2nd half of the game.
Moose Jaw has some interesting young players there too. Brayden Point played with Martin last season and put up over 100 points. He showed a nose for the net and was always in the mix. Eberle has some grit and scored a couple of times. Those are the guys that stood out for me… but I was mostly focused on the Bronco players.
I thought Myland looked a bit nervous in this one and that as I said is understandable given what is riding on these games. He has had a strong camp and he still had good moments. There is time left. Austin Smith had a strong third period and made a nice stop on a partial break. Based on the poll I put up yesterday they are the two that you all think are battling it out for the second goaltending spot. We will likely see quite a bit more of both of them before the pre-season is done.
No word yet on what the roster looks like heading into the Edmonton tournament. I could give you my best guess but that wouldn’t be fair. It will probably be around the 30 player mark.
The team hasn’t released anything officially although Brendan Hopkins on his twitter seemed to imply he was headed to Estevan. Perhaps SJHL camp? Another source from Estevan told me that is also where Derek Tendler is heading. A pile of 96s from camp (both drafted and free agents) are trying out in Midget AAA. I imagine a couple of those guys worked their way onto the Bronco protected list. I’m sure the scouting team was doing a lot of work on that throughout the week. As I get any other information I will pass it on.
What did you think of the inter-squad game and the rookie game? Who stood out for you? Who surprised you? We had a lot of conversations on what the team could look like in both live blogs so check out their archives so you don’t miss out on that Bronco chatter.
Next up is the Oil Kings pre-season invitational deal with the Broncos taking on Edmonton on Sunday night and Red Deer on Monday afternoon. It should be a more veteran and pared down roster by the weekend. I’m very intrigued to see who will be left.
One final note… I’m hearing rumblings season ticket sales are not where the Broncos want them to be. They may even be behind last season’s pace. I am planning to chat with Jordan Wall about that over the next couple of days to get a clearer picture. If that’s the case it sure isn’t going to cut it. This market can’t afford to ebb and flow based on wins and losses. They need that season ticket base to go up if anything. There is likely going to be a major loss on the books after last season even with successful events like the PBR and Hall of Fame. We can’t fool around with this team. They won’t sustain major losses long.
Last year’s second half was tough to swallow I’m sure, but it’s still the best hockey you can buy around here by far at the best value you will ever be able to buy it for. I honestly believe that. The WHL is worth a season ticket even with a struggling team. It’s the best collection of young talent you will see in any league.
Rant over… talk later.