Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb (Download)
If you didn’t see it yesterday, the Broncos cut down to typical roster numbers by re-assigning Eric Walker and Steven Myland yesterday. They now have 14 forwards (including the injured Shea Howorko), 7 defencemen and 2 goalies. Landon Bow has won the battle for the second goalie position in no small part thanks to his terrific performance against the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday.
In Walker’s case it sounds like the Broncos were willing to keep him around if he was willing to buy in to being a guy that was in and out of the lineup. As a 19-year-old apparently that wasn’t something Walker was willing to do as he wants to play every day. Broncos Coach and GM Mark Lamb expressed that he felt Walker could have still benefited from that role since he had relatively little WHL experience after leaving the NCAA for the WHL last season.
I’ve watched Walker play since he was a 16-year-old with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL. I’ve always felt like he had a lot of potential and that’s part of why he earned a scholarship commitment to the NCAA very quickly in his Junior A rookie season. Unfortunately he has been on a bit of a roller coaster in the last year as he started last season in the NCAA where he didn’t get to play, joined the Vancouver Giants and was then traded to the Broncos. He may be 19 but he has only played 42 WHL games to this point. Lamb saw value in getting him more experience here but it didn’t work out.
I’ll also note that I felt like Walker played the best hockey I’ve seen him play in his pre-season games and the 3 regular season games he suited up for this year. He can be a physical guy and has it in him to be a very reliable stay at home type defenceman. I also thought he did a better job with the puck so far this season. This just happens to be a tough year to crack Swift Current’s blue line. They have three other 19-year-old defencemen and a 20-year-old. They also have a couple of blue chip younger guys in Dillon Heatherington and Brycen Martin that are likely going to play every night and a promising rookie in 17-year-old Bobby Zinkan that needs to get in the lineup. That makes it very difficult for Walker to be the everyday player that he wants to be.
Will he land somewhere else? I’m not sure. Defensive depth is hard to come by at any level and there have got to be teams who could use someone who would come in and eat some good minutes. It might take an injury to open up an opportunity for a trade or perhaps if there is a serious injury here he could be back. Either way after having watched him play for that long I certainly wish him well whether it’s back in the BCHL with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs or elsewhere.
As for Myland, he couldn’t have performed much better in pre-season play. He had a 1.54 GAA and 0.947 save percentage in 3 appearances. That was a huge improvement over his numbers in exhibition the previous season. Myland has talent and has succeeded at both the BC Major Midget level where he was the best goalie in the league as a 16-year-old and in Junior B where he put up strong numbers despite missing much of last season due to injury. Again it’s someone who probably earned further opportunities but just got beat out by a numbers game. Eetu Laurikainen is going to the #1 here and management decided Bow is their guy for the #2 spot.
Myland now is slated to go back to Junior B but I would think he is ready for opportunities at a higher level. Hopefully someone in Junior A would give him a shot. Otherwise I’m sure he would be among the best goalies if not the best goalie in that Vancouver area Junior B league.
Could Myland still come back here and earn a job as a 19-year-old next fall? Sure he could. Other 19-year-old goalies have made the leap to the WHL as rookies including Laurikainen this year. If he has a great year at another level we absolutely could see him again either here or with another WHL team. He’s also a high character young man in my view and I hope he has lots of success wherever he ends up.
These moves now leave the Broncos with 21 skaters and 2 goalies. However, the uncertain status of Shea Howorko at this point still leaves them with 13 healthy forwards and it sounds like the team is still exploring possible additions there at some point.
The interview I did with Coach Lamb also includes talk about the recent overtime issues and some of the things the Broncos have been working on in practice this week. It sounds like this was a really good time to have a week of practice and Lamb is confident they will make some good strides before heading to Saskatoon on Friday.
Congrats to everybody still on the roster who has made it this far. That’s a significant accomplishment, but as Lamb told me recently, tryouts aren’t over until after the trade deadline.