High Hopes To Open Warriors Camp
Brett Howden skates the puck up ice during last year's training camp at Mosaic Place.
After back-to-back years of sitting and watching the playoffs, the Moose Jaw Warriors are hoping that everything falls back into place this year.
The Warriors will open their 2014 training camp on Thursday with fitness testing at YaraCentre, followed by rookie camp on the ice at Mosaic Place throughout the afternoon.
There's a sense of optimism around the team as they enter camp this year with a new head coach and a highly touted group of young players coming into camp this year looking to secure a spot on the team.
67 players will be hitting the ice throughout the camp and the Warriors are confident that they can find a playoff team among those players.
“We're pleased with where we're at,” said Warriors General Manager Alan Millar. “The guys have been rolling into town over the last couple of days, it looks like the guys have worked hard and we're looking forward to getting them on the ice.”
Following the Warriors' run to the Eastern Conference final three seasons ago, the team has spent the last two years trying to retool their team that lost a lot after that season. They've done that through the draft with players like Brett Howden and Ryan Bowen being added and through trades, bringing in the likes of Jayden Halbgewachs and Noah Gregor.
“We're hopeful and expecting that, coupled with the development of some of our 17 and 18-year-old players, that some of the fruits of our labours during the difficult times start to pay off in terms of some very good young players coming into our program,” said Millar.
“As much as we're still fairly young, we feel that we've got a good mix of some real good older players, specifically at the 20-year-old group.”
The Warriors' strength will be in goal as they have 19-year-old netminder Justin Paulic being pushed by Zach Sawchenko, who turns 17 in December, and 16-year-old Brody Willms.
There's also pieces to work with on the back end with Alexey Sleptsov, Reid Zalitach, Dallas Valentine, Tyler Brown and Spenser Jensen all returning.
The biggest battles will be in the forward group. “We have as many as 17-18 signed players that are eligible to play and competiting for 13-14 spots,” said Millar.
Howden leads the young group of forwards that are expected to come in this year and one, push the veterans for spots on the team and two, be big contributors this year for the tribe.
This will be Howden's second camp with the Warriors and after playing in five games with Moose Jaw last year, he's feeling more confident coming into this year's camp.
“I'm just excited to get this rookie camp going and move on from there,” said Howden. “I'm not looking too far ahead, just looking at rookie camp and then moving on past that.”
After being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, a lot of expectations were thrown on the shoulders of Quinton Howden's little brother. The younger Howden said he aiming to move out of the shadow of his brother and make a name for himself during this camp, and season.
“I'm excited to throw my name out there and let them know who Brett is,” said Howden. “I'm really excited for this camp and hopefully I can crack the squad and show them who I am.”
Howden will have a lot of expectations on him and a lot of eyes fixed on him during this camp. He's not taking any for granted and coming into the camp ready to work.
“I'm just trying to show off what I have and play well,” Howden said. “I was feeling really good by the end of the summer, I worked really hard and feel like I'm in the best shape that I've been in my whole life.”
The rookies will be on the ice for practices at 2:00pm, 3:00pm and 4:00pm on Thursday and then Team Black, led by Gregor and Willms, takes on Team White, with Howden and Bowen, at 7:00pm.
More on Training Camp:
Tim Hunter Era Begins For Warriors
Point Wants To Keep Rolling
Rodewald Hopes To Build Off Big Year
Eberle Ready For His Final WHL Season
Yakubowski Excited To Be A Warrior
Smejkal Adjusting To First Week In MJ
Tim Hunter Era Begins For Warriors
Tim Hunter during his introductory media conference in July.
The past month has been a crash course on the Moose Jaw Warriors for Tim Hunter.
The tribe's new head coach was hired for the job in mid-July and since then has been getting brought up to speed on the roster battles as the team prepares for training camp to start this week.
67 players are expected to report to training camp on Wednesday. Fitness testing kicks off camp on Thursday morning and then the rookies around the ice throughout the afternoon. The opening day wraps up with a scrimmage, 7:00pm at Mosaic Place.
“I love training camp, it's a great time of the year, everyone is enthusiastic and we're looking forward to a good season, and it starts at training camp,” said Hunter.
Just like the players, Hunter has had a busy past month in preparation for training camp as he's been getting brought up to speed on the returning players and the new players coming into the Warriors this season.
He spent time after being hired calling each player and introducing himself, while also trying to get a feel for the players coming into camp.
“The guys are excited for a clean slate, new start,” said Hunter. “It's been a disappointing last couple of years, but there's been a lot of work done by Mike Stothers and Alan Millar putting these guys in place and teaching them the right, so we're just going to build on that.”
Hunter got a first hand look at a few of the Warriors' young players in Calgary earlier this month, seeing Brett Howden, Noah Gregor and Brody Willms on the ice at the Hockey Canada Under-17 Selection Camp and Zach Sawchenko in action during the lead up to the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
During that time in Calgary, Hunter also sat down with General Manager Alan Millar and Assistant GM Rob MacLachlan.
“Tim and I have spoke right through our first meeting through to meetings (Monday) in terms of what our projections are, who we feel are competing for spots on the team and who are signed players are,” said Millar. “At the end of the day, Tim has a good idea of what we're building and he's excited and getting prepared to see the guys on the ice.”
So what will the Warriors look like under Tim Hunter?
“For me it all starts with hard work,” said Hunter. “You don't need any skill, you don't need any brains and you don't need any talent to work hard. Everyone can work hard and that's something that I'll expect from everyone.”
That hard work means Hunter wants to see the players coming into camp in tip top shape. He also going to be looking closely at what type of players each player is and how committed they are to hitting the ground running this year.
“We're looking for guys that compete hard for pucks, in all situations, not just offensively,” said Hunter. “Just smart hockey sense as well, guys that know the game, think the game and are easy to coach.”
The players and coach will have about a month to get acquainted with each other during camp and the preseason before the games start for real. Hunter expects there to be a feeling out process, but it's one that he's looking forward to.
“We'll give them a template of how we want them to play and we'll start off slow with that and get them up to speed,” said Hunter. “My way of doing things is foot on the gas as a coach and I hope they've got their foot on the gas as players.”Bryson Gore last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. (file photo)
Gore Moving On From Warriors
When the Warriors released their training camp roster on Monday, there was a name noticeably missing from the 67 players that will be attending their camp.
Then came word on Tuesday that Bryson Gore had decided to stay at home in Lethbridge this year.
“In discussions over the summer, Bryson felt that it was important for him to be near home in Lethbridge,” said Alan Millar, Warriors' General Manager. “Great kid and has grown up a lot in the last year or so in terms of things that he's dealing with.”
Gore played two seasons with the Warriors, scoring 20 goals and 34 points in 137 career WHL games. The 19-year-old figured to be in a battle for a roster spot this year, but Millar reiterated that had nothing to do with the decision as it was purely based on family reasons and he's exploring his other hockey and university options.
“For Bryson, it's just not going to work for him moving forward in the WHL, we respect that and wish him all the best,” said Millar.
The Warriors have also released defenceman Royce Rossignol, who will be attending training camp with the Prince George Cougars, and Dawson Haines, who will be at the Victoria Royals camp.
More on training camp:
Warriors' Point Wants To Keep Rolling
Rodewald Hopes To Build Of Big Year
Eberle Ready For His Final WHL Season
Warriors' Point Wants To Keep Rolling
Brayden Point celebrates one of his 36 goals last season with the Warriors.
For most hockey players, the offseason is spent taking some time away from the game and getting back in shape for the next season.
With the Moose Jaw Warriors set to open training camp this week, Brayden Point's season hasn't ended yet.
The Warriors star centre went from the Warriors to representing Team Canada at the 2014 World Under-18 Hockey Championship. From there it was to the NHL Draft combine and then the NHL Draft.
After being selected in the third round by Tampa Bay, Point headed to the Lightning's prospects camp where he won the 3-on-3 tournament.
Point was then back in a Team Canada jersey earlier this month as he took part in the Hockey Canada Junior Summer Development Camp in Quebec, where he picked up one assist in two games against the Czech Republic.
“There was a few weeks where I got to hang out and do what 18-year-old kids do and it was a lot of fun, but the hockey was a good part of the summer too,” said Point. “There's been a lot going, but it's a lot of fun and it's always good to be playing a lot of hockey.”
Point arrived in Moose Jaw last week to help out with the Warriors' Kids Camps and now his focus has shifted to training camp, which begins later this week at Mosaic Place.
There will be a bit of a change going into camp this year for Point and the rest of the Warrior players. For as long as Point has been a member of the Warriors' organization, Mike Stothers was his head coach, but Tim Hunter takes over this year and Point is looking forward to the change.
“He's a guy with a lot of experience and a good hockey mind,” said Point. “He's a good coach and sees the game well, so it's going to be a real exciting season for us.”
Point actually has some experience playing for Hunter after he was his coach for the CHL Top Prospects Game last season. Point knows what to expect from Hunter and feels they're in good hands.
“We're just going to try to adjust as best we can,” Point said. “I know just working hard is enough with Tim.”
Point blew all expectations out of the water during his second season with the Warriors, scoring 36 goals and putting up 91 points, while playing in all 72 games. He led the Warriors in every offensive category during just his second season in the WHL.
“I don't really have any personal expectations (heading into this year),” said Point. “I just want to work my hardest, get better in practice and really help the younger guys at the first bit of the season to feel comfortable and adapt to the league. Not too many personal goals, but looking forward to team success.”
As a 17-year-old last season, Point was named an assistant captain for his leadership on the ice. Now entering his third WHL season, Point wants to take on a bigger role off the ice to help make sure the team reaches it's goal of making it back into the playoffs.
“I'm going to take on that role the best I can,” he said. “There's a good group of guys that have been in the league for a while and know some things about it, so it's good that we have that with the new guys like (Brett) Howden and (Noah) Gregor coming in, that's really going to help them.”
As a 15-year-old, Point burst onto the scene during the Warriors' playoff run, but he hasn't been able to taste the second season since. He said that's their sole focus this season.
“The message right away is going to be that the last two years have been no so good and it's going to be better this year,” said Point. “Right from training camp, it's going to be competitive.”
The 67 players taking part in this year's training camp will report on Wednesday and then the camp opens on Thursday with fitness testing in the morning and then the rookies on the ice starting at 2:00pm at Mosaic Place.
Rodewald Hopes To Build Of Big Year
Jack Rodewald moves the puck up ice during action with the Moose Jaw Warriors last season. (file photo)
Jack Rodewald is entering his first training camp with the Moose Jaw Warriors. It might not be his first WHL camp, but there will be a different feeling for Rodewald coming into this year's camp.
Instead of battling for a roster spot and looking to prove himself this time around, Rodewald will be entering this year's camp set in as a top-six forward for the Warriors after a great first season with the tribe last year.
“It was a really good year for me last year in terms of building confidence in this league,” said Rodewald, a 20-year-old forward from Winnipeg, Manitoba. “When you're confident, it obviously shows in your game.”
Rodewald came to Moose Jaw in a trade with the Regina Pats last September. The trade worked out great for the Warriors as Rodewald slotted in beside Brayden Point on the first line and went on to demolish his career highs in goals, assists and points, while finishing tied for second on the team in scoring with 28 goals and 55 points in 58 games.
Coming into the season, Rodewald had posted just 13 goals and 26 points in 124 career WHL games with the Pats.
“I was successful with the amount of points I put up in the amount of games I played,” Rodewald said. “Every year people are looking for you to take the next step and it's just about building on last year individually.”
With plenty of confidence from his breakout year and a desire to improve, Rodewald went to work over the offseason. After a couple of weeks break, Rodewald started his work towards get stronger to help in his role as a power forward with the Warriors.
“Pretty much just focused on getting bigger,” said Rodewald. “A lot of weights, some yoga to keep the flexibility, but just a lot of strength stuff and getting bigger.
“Every camp is the same, you're still fighting for a spot, you're still trying to prove each and every day that you can take a bigger role than last year and be a bigger leader,” said Rodewald. “It's just about working hard.”
While last year was good for Rodewald, it could have been better. He missed 14 games during the season with a broken jaw that kept him out a month and required him to wear a full face shield for the rest of the season.
The shield is gone now and Rodewald is hoping to remain healthy this year to help lead the young Warriors' squad back into the post-season.
“It's definitely something you think about over the summer, what you can do better and what you can bring now being a 20-year-old in the league,” said Rodewald. “It's kind of weird seeing that there's 1999 born people in camp, but you can definitely teach them a lot by leading.”
The Warriors have been left on the outside looking in over the past two years when it comes to the WHL playoffs and that disappointment isn't something Rodewald wants to face going into his final WHL season.
“That's going to be our main goal going into the season, but we still have to take it game-by-game,” he said. “I've enjoyed every year in the league so far, but I think this one is going to be the best one yet.”
The Warriors will open training camp on Wednesday when 67 players invited to his year's camp will report. The first on-ice sessions are on Thursday with rookie camp opening things up. The veterans hit the ice on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Sawchenko Golden At Ivan Hlinka
Zach Sawchenko makes a stop in goal for Canada at the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. (Photo: Werner Krainbucher/Hockey Canada Images)
Zach Sawchenko will be coming to Moose Jaw Warriors training camp with a little extra luggage next week.
The Warriors netminder helped Canada to a 6-2 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday to claim gold at the 2014 U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. The win is Canada's seventh consecutive at the annual summer tournament.
Sawchenko made 17 saves in the gold medal game, including eight big ones in the first period that allowed Canada to go in front 4-0 in the opening frame.
Two goals by the Czechs in the second period cut Canada's lead to 5-2, but Sawchenko again shut the door in the third period, making six more saves for the win.
Lawson Crouse scored twice for the Canadians, while Mitchell Marner added a goal and three points.
Canada cruised through the tournament, outscoring their opposition 32-10 over five games. Sawchenko was a big part of that, posting a 4-0 record with a 2.25 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
In 24 editions of the tournament, Canada has won 19 gold medals and has finished on the podium in all but two of the tournaments.
Sawchenko and the team will now travel back to Canada on Sunday. Sawchenko will be on the ice in Moose Jaw next week for Warriors training camp, starting on Wednesday at Mosaic Place.
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