The WHL pre-season schedule opens as it always does with a contest between your Swift Current Broncos and the Moose Jaw Warriors tonight. You can click here for my preview story. It’s the only meeting between the two clubs in exhibition. Normally they’ve ended up playing three times. This year it is also a switch from recent years where the Broncos actually have more rookies in the game than the Warriors.
With so many new faces I figured I’d give you a background on them. First an interview with 2014 Broncos first round bantam draft pick Dominic Schmiemann from earlier in camp…
Dominic Schmiemann Interview:
Schmiemann is one of the young faces we will see in the lineup for the Broncos tonight. He is an impressive one who had a strong camp and will make a very big push for a roster spot on a crowded blue line. The Alberta product put up 16 points in 34 games with Notre Dame last season and brings a big frame along with a very fluid game. He’ll be one to watch tonight. Who else? First a look at the lineup posted on the Broncos twitter acount…
G Caiden Kreitz: This undrafted goaltender had a spectacular 18 game run in Alberta Major Midget AAA last season with the Calgary Royals. A sub-2 goals against average and 0.936 save percentage were enough to earn him a second all-star team nod. He and Logan Drackett are the only rookie goaltenders left in camp and Kreitz is getting the opportunity against Moose Jaw. Can he do enough to force the Broncos to re-think their current tandem?
G Travis Child: Swift Current’s second round pick of the 2012 draft played 22 games last season with an 0.894 save percentage. Child was strongest when coming on in relief. He was an inconsistent starter as a rookie which isn’t unusual. He’s looking for more games and consistency this year to help ease the load on Landon Bow.
D Colby Sissons: Is Sissons this season’s Max Lajoie? Those are lofty hopes but there are similarities. Both guys were considered strong enough to play as 16-year-olds but sent back so they could play bigger roles in Midget. Sissons put up 17 points in 33 games and is a smooth skating, puck moving, left shot d-man from Alberta. Lajoie had 17 points in 32 games as a 16-year-old in Midget AAA and has many of the same qualities. I would imagine Sissons is expected to make the team though he still has to solidify that.
F Owen Seidel: The leading points producer in the BC Major Midget league last season is signed and someone the Broncos are hoping can bring some offensive flare to their club when they really could use some. 50 of his 67 points last season were assists so you would think we’re seeing a future playmaker here. Either way you can’t expect immediate production from a rookie. That would likely be his role long term.
F Ryan Sokoloski: Ryan is an 11th round draft pick from 2013 that seems to have progressed ahead of what you would expect when drafting in that spot. He had a very impressive 15-year-old season in city midget before jumping to the provincial midget league in Manitoba and still scoring at a good clip of 33 points in 44 games. He’s another young forward looking to earn one of several available spots up front with Swift Current.
F Josh Baker: An 8th round draft pick in 2014. Josh tore up the Alberta Minor Midget AAA league with 49 points in 32 games. Those are impressive numbers for a 15-year-old as he slotted 24th in league scoring. The Broncos don’t normally keep 16-year-olds that aren’t top draft picks so he may really have to prove he can hang to get a spot. This would be the year to do it. It looks like they have plans for him anyway.
F Tristen Elder: He’s listed at 6’2 and 185lbs on the SJHL site where he played for La Ronge last year. A former Brandon draft pick. Elder is a big kid who goes to the net from what I saw in camp. He had a goal in the Blue and White game. You don’t see a ton of 18-year-old rookies in the WHL but there are spots here and the Broncos aren’t a big team up front right now so we’ll see what he can do. As a 17-year-old he had 12 points and 96 penalty minutes in 52 games. I interviewed him after the intersquad game so you can scroll down to check that posting out. He fought a couple of times in the SJHL last season including against Swift Current product Tyson Empey.
F Tyler Steenbergen: Swift Current’s 2013 first round pick who played a full season in 2014-15. He looked all-world in the Blue and White game. They’re surely hoping he will have a breakout season with some spots open in the top six. Didn’t miss a game last season.
D Matthew Parsons: He’s a third round draft pick from 2013. Parsons doubled his point total with the Mintos from 7 as a 15-year-old to 14 as a 16-year-old. He also doubled his point total from his first year of bantam to his second. In most years a third round pick who has progressed well and played on a good team like the Mintos would be almost a lock. This year it’s a battle. One of the group of impressive D that they need to find room for.
F Jake Fletcher: Similar to Elder he’s entering his 18-year-old season trying to push for a WHL job. Fletcher was a 9th round pick of the Medicine Hat Tigers. He had 32 points in 39 games of Junior B in the Vancouver area. He also suited up for 7 games with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters and put up 3 points. Again to be an 18-year-old rookie he’ll have to show a lot and a game against mostly younger opponents is a chance for a head start.
F Tyler Adams: He was close to making the Broncos last season before helping Regina to a long playoff run all the way to the Telus Cup. Adams only moved from 31 to 36 points last season. However, he doubled his penalty minutes from 70 to 145. Does that reflect an added edge as he gets bigger? Given their interest in him last season he might have the inside track on a spot even though he is another of those older rookies.
D Matthew Stanley: He was a 12th round pick in 2013 and has impressed enough to get into this game. He made the jump from city midget to provincial midget in Manitoba and kept up a similar level of point production. The two Matthews, Sissons and Schmiemann are likely to give the six returning D the biggest push. How many of them can they keep?
F Tanner Mole: Mole is a very thick and strong kid who could bring some needed size to the Broncos. Is he ready at 16? Again the Broncos set that bar pretty high generally. Mole was a 5th round pick who some fans called among the more improved players at camp. He was a point per game player in city midget last season. I’m interested to see how the big guy can keep up with the speed of the game as we move into exhibition. He’s certainly an intriguing player.
F Owen Blocker: The only 2000 born player in the game for the Broncos. Blocker can’t make the team this season, but it is good to see that he has signed and is playing here. Blocker was their second round pick this year and projects as a two-way forward with lots of heart. He put up 21 points in 29 bantam games. Watching him will more be projecting what the future could hold after some seasoning.
D Jaydan Gordon: The last of three roster players in the game. Gordon played limited minutes with the Broncos as a 17-year-old rookie last season. That gives him a leg up over rookies who don’t know the league. At the same time his limited duty means he’s less of a lock than some other returning players might be. There is still work for him to do during exhibition season and it’s important to have a good showing in these games.
D Dominic Schmiemann: We discussed him above. He’s a real talent.
F Brandan Arnold: Arnold is signed and looked strong in camp. He had a really good second half in the SJHL last season and finished with 31 points in 49 games. Beyond points he is a hard working, speedy player with an edge to him. He’s the type of player that battles and gets under the other team’s skin. There are four players including Arnold entering their 18-year-old season here. I can’t imagine they keep four 18-year-old rookies so that will be a battle to watch in exhibition.