After letting the young guys go to battle on Tuesday, the regular exhibition season starts for the Swift Current Broncos tonight as they face the Edmonton Oil Kings at their annual pre-season invitational. This is an opportunity for the Broncos to get in a couple of games, take a road trip together and get a look at five other teams in the league to see how they’re developing.
Each of the last two years I’ve made a point to get to Edmonton for the event. That was my plan again this week… however I’ve had a cold/sore throat I can’t shake and I didn’t see the logic in even exposing anyone to that when I’m not broadcasting the games. People like Guy Flaming and Corey Graham on twitter will probably have pretty good insight from the game tonight. I’ll also make sure to follow-up with the team whenever I can to get a sense of how things have gone. I’d like to be there and probably will again next fall.
So what are the storylines heading into this weekend? Well starting in goal there are still three guys left. Eetu Laurikainen still has to get home again at some point to take care of some schooling issues so Travis Child will get an extended look from the Broncos and I’m curious to see if the 16-year-old will do anything to push 18-year-old Landon Bow for that second spot in the crease. I think it’ll be tough because logic dictates the same two goalies stick and Child plays Major Midget AAA this year… but you never know.
Up front there are twenty names on the roster but Tyler Steenbergen and Cole Johnson will be going home after this weekend. They can’t play this year. This will just be a good experience for them before they start their midget careers. Both have shown very well and will very likely push for spots on the team next season. Also Dakota Odgers is now listed and he won’t be available until November at least after shoulder surgery. There are three overage forwards on that list as well and only two of them can stick. So how many spots are available for how many guys?
If you assume the returning forwards are safe that’s Cave, Merkley, Johnson, Bosc, Mackay, Gordon, LeSann, Spagrud and two of Black, Dale and Sanvido.
That’s ten spots accounted for leaving say three or four positions available between Leth, McLean, Gawdin, DeBrusk, Wittman and Arnold. So who stands out among that group and will they show they are capable of playing the type of role that will get them into the bottom six to start this season? At the same time if they all have great pre-seasons does that make some returning guys who didn’t play much nervous? Those guys have to have a good pre-season too.
On the blue line there are nine names listed although we haven’t seen Reid Fritzke play in exhibition so I’m not sure what his status is. If you give spots to all the returning guys that’s Heatherington, Martin, Zinkan, Lernout and Harris was in the league last year as well. Honka you would have to pencil in as well. The Broncos are also talking consistently about wanting to add a 19-year-old to their group so that could take up another spot. If you’re Bevan, Lajoie or if Fritzke gets into games you really have to show that you are able to hang with the tougher competition in exhibition. I doubt the team keeps both of them and there’s a chance they might not keep either depending what happens on trade market. Now is the time they have to really make their case for being WHL ready.
It should be an interesting weekend and it will be just as interesting to see where things stand when Saskatoon comes to town on Wednesday. The points don’t matter in these games, but they could make all the difference in some young careers.