The Swift Current Broncos enter training camp this year with an interesting situation in goal. They have two as yet unproven 19-year-old goaltenders battling to show they can carry the load of top flight starter. They also have young guys nipping at their heels in all age groups. This one isn’t near as obvious as it was the last few seasons.
The Broncos picked Travis Child 29th overall in the 2012 bantam draft. Red Deer picked Taz Burman 30th. Their careers have been tied together from that moment on and last winter they found themselves on the same team. When it appeared the Landon Bow trade opened the door for Child to take over in Swift Current, Burman arrived and went on the best run of his career. When Burman’s numbers faltered a bit down the stretch that’s when Child put a run of strong games together. Young and developing goaltenders are always seeking consistency. The biggest question mark in the Broncos’ crease this season is who can find it first?
Burman was on fire at the start of his time in Swift Current. He was even nominated for the CHL Goalie of the Week award in early February and had a 2.25 GAA and a 0.940 save percentage in his first nine games with Swift Current. Those numbers tailed off some and in 22 games after coming over from Seattle Burman had an 8-10-1-2 record with a 3.39 goals against average and 0.903 save percentage.
How did that compare with Child? He went 7-14-2-1 with a 3.26 goals against average and 0.904 save percentage. The differences between the two statistically are almost insignificant. However, those numbers aren’t quite average WHL starter numbers either. One of them or both are going to have to take another step forward to be worthy of a being a true #1 at this level.
New coach Manny Viveiros has made it clear he would be willing to run with a 1A/1B type goalie system. We have seen that work elsewhere before like Lethbridge during the regular season in 15-16. It would be quite a departure for Swift Current as the Broncos have had a true top guy almost every season in recent history from Friesen to Groenheyde to Laurikainen and eventually Bow. Child was next in line for that spot and now the man drafted one spot behind him four years ago is a wrench in those plans.
Do the Broncos even want to run with two 19-year-olds? That doesn’t create a spot for a younger player to develop and leaves them with the potential of two overage goaltenders to deal with next off season. Perhaps there’s a team out there looking for a WHL veteran with some experience. If the Broncos move one of Child or Burman what do they have for options behind them?
It starts with Caiden Kreitz. The Broncos signed him after he had a strong camp last season and he enters this season as an 18-year-old. Kreitz then had an injury plagued struggle for a poor Calgary Canucks team in the AJHL last season. Despite an 0.880 save percentage for the season, Kreitz showed signs of growth as three of his last four starts featured a save percentage of at least 0.937. Kreitz has a pedigree. He had a 1.98 goals against average and 0.936 save percentage in his final season of midget. He will need to show that form to push one of the veterans out here because it may be now or never. You rarely see 19-year-old rookies in the WHL.
The Broncos also have three other eligible young goaltenders we don’t know much about. Bailey Brkin and Curt Doyle are entering their 17-year-old seasons, while Joel Hofer is entering his 16-year-old season.
Brkin was excellent for Coeur d’Aalene in CSSHL prep hockey last season with a 0.915 save percentage on a poor team. Doyle also played on a poor Kootenay Major Midget team and saw a ton of rubber. Both are real wildcards from a fan standpoint because the stats really won’t tell the whole story in their situations. Either would probably have a lot to prove in order to unseat the more experienced options in front of them.
Hofer may be a longer term option after a nice season in the CSSVHL for Pursuit of Excellents. A 1.74 GAA and 0.937 save percentage certainly serve as intriguing reasons to keep a close eye on what he brings to camp.
If it’s not one of the drafted guys or list guys who gets the nod there is always the trade market. I doubt the Broncos go that way. The most likely solution appears to be a continuation of what we saw at the end of last season with two veterans battling for starts. If that’s going to be the way they go this season the Broncos have to hope one or both of their returning netminders are ready to move their game up another notch. The talent is obviously there. Whether or not one or both can put it together will go a long way in determining how good Swift Current’s playoff chances look.