Day 2 of Broncos Training Camp saw things even up as the two teams that lost on Thursday won their scrimmages on Friday. The results of the games don’t really matter much, but it is an indication of the talent levels on the teams being pretty even.
The first game saw Team Sakic beat Team Trottier 6-4. It was a nice rebound for Team Sakic after they only scored twice on Thursday. Adam Lowry scored again for Team Sakic after a couple of goals on Thursday. He looks ready to dominate. One of the stand-out plays of the game saw 18-year-old rookie Liam Bilton put home a great feed by Adam Smith from behind the net. Bilton comes from Manitoba High School hockey where he led his team to city championship last season. Bilton is pictured in the article and had both the opening and closing goals in that victory. Maybe he’s a bit of a wildcard in camp?
Colby Cave made a really nice play to set up Jordan Wittman on one of the Team Sakic goals and Wittman made a nifty forehand to backhand move to finish it. You can really tell in game action that Wittman has physically matured.
Ryon Moser opened the scoring for Team Trottier and was flying out there at times. He’s got so much natural skill I hope he can build on the huge leap he made last year in his overage season. Dakota Odgers scored one also on a nice shot using a d-man as a screen. I noted how often he has success in the face-off dot and he told me in the halls later that he works on it a lot because face-off success leads to more ice time.
We saw a taste of what 2012 first round pick Glenn Gawdin will bring to the table for the Broncos as he took the puck to the net a few times and also made a terrific pass to set up a perfect shot by Reece Scarlett. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to see that combination work together in regular season hockey, but it was an impressive moment. We also saw a little bit of the mean streak from 2011 first round pick Brycen Martin. He is obviously a skilled player, but it was good to see him get his nose dirty in the corners and walk the line with some physical play behind the net. Mean doesn’t always mean legal… but I think playing with an edge is a positive for someone who will be expected to anchor the D someday.
The second scrimmage of the day saw Team Ruskowski open up on Team Tiger for a 7-3 win. Denis Bosc opened the scoring by finishing a nice pass off in front of the net. Eric Walker followed that with a shot from the point and Riley Welsh made it 3-0. There was a scrap in there as well. Veterans Daniel Dale and Dillon Heatherington squared off to help raise the intensity level. Dale is going to be relied upon for his physical game even more with Andy Blanke gone and it’s good to see someone like Heatherington show he can stand in there with a tough customer like Dale even if he ends up taking a couple hard shots.
Branan Arnold opened the scoring for Team Tiger showing good hand-eye on a rebound. He nearly had another one shortly after. The 2012 bantam draft pick may be at a serious size disadvantage on the ice right now, but he has sure made some things happen at camp so far. He might be someone to watch in future years with his skill level. Coda Gordon fired home a nice one-timer for Team Tiger and Adam Rossignol made a very skilled play to create a shot for himself for their third goal.
That’s all Team Tiger could manage as Graham Black (who had a beauty of a shot for a goal himself) and company pulled away late in the game. Tanner Lesann showed some nice finish on one of the Team Ruskowski goals. Cameron Hughes also stood out on a really nice set-up of a Welsh goal. He then rung the puck off the post on his next shift. The puck really seems to find him which isn’t too big of a surprise after his point-per-game season in Midget AAA as a 15-year-old.
Travis Child and Steven Myland combined for a really solid performance in the Team Ruskowski goal. They’re both looked quite good at camp. Scrimmages are a difficult place to judge goaltenders though. I think the battle for the second goalie spot in Swift Current will come down to how Bow and Myland perform in exhibition. It’s one of the intriguing battles of camp.
With that the teams are all 1-1 heading into the final day of scrimmages today. They are again at 4pm and 6pm. It’s a big day as bubble players absolutely must make the final push to get on the roster for the Black vs. White game tomorrow at 1pm. That one will cost $5 with proceeds going to the Dr. Noble Irwin Foundation. It’s your only chance to see a pre-season game at the Credit Union iPlex as the Broncos exhibition home games will be in Gull Lake and Maple Creek.
A couple of other notes worth mentioning… Jake Debrusk wasn’t playing due to a lower body injury he sustained and Richard Nedomlel is back in Swift now after a delay in getting him here from his Czech Republic home. I know I had more than a few people ask me why Nedomlel wasn’t on the camp roster with more than a little concern in their voices! The big guy is back and ready to go for the season.
MARTIN AND GONEK INTERVIEWS
Speaking of the blue line, one of the more intriguing storylines of training camp is the push from both 2011 first round bantam draft picks to make the Broncos roster on their first attempt. Brycen Martin and Zack Gonek are certainly among the more talented defenders in their age group. It seems almost a no-brainer that if they were both alone in attempting to make a team that they would. The question at this camp is with six returning veterans and an impressive young rookie like Bobby Zinkan in the mix… is there room for the two first round draft picks? Will they have to knock a veteran out of their job so both of them can stay? I talked to both Martin and Gonek about that.
Interview with Zack Gonek (Download)
Interview with Brycen Martin (Download)
Most of the early feedback I’ve heard is that both players have really impressed. With talent like that you usually want to find a place on your roster for them so they can develop with the team and in your system. That said, with the depth and strength of the Swift Current blue line, you also want to make sure both guys are ready to play serious minutes before you decide to keep them. I’m sure how to handle Martin, Gonek, Bobby Zinkan and any other impressive young D is a major topic of conversation among management. It could force a trade and it could result in a player who would usually make the WHL roster having to go back to Midget to play big minute and develop there for one more season.
What would you do? I would have to be left with the decision Mark Lamb and company face. On the other hand, having too much talent is a much better problem than not enough.
How bright do things look on the back end? A veteran group led by NHL draft picks like Scarlett and Nedomlel… a crew of youth that includes three first round bantam picks in Heatherington, Martin and Gonek… and a group of guys surrounding them you could for sure go to war with. That’s why most observers point to the defence as the key to Swift Current’s success this season.
Again two more games today at 4pm and 6pm before the intrasquad game tomorrow at 1pm. It’s a great time of the year to be a hockey fan!