AAAs preparing to host Telus Cup this spring
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Moose Jaw Generals head coach Ray Wareham keeps a watchful eye on practice Friday as their training camp opens at Mosaic Place.
The right to play for a national championship is usually earned at the end of the season, not the start.
But for the 40 attendees of the Moose Jaw Generals training camp that is exactly what is on the line.
As the hosts of the Telus Cup national midget AAA hockey championship, the players that make the team will be playing for national bragging rights come April.
“The message to the boys was ‘make me make changes,’” said Ray Wareham. “If you really want to be here, make me make some changes. I’m not afraid to make them. I don’t like doing it, but we’ve released three veteran guys already.
“They have two games Saturday and then (a scrimmage) Sunday. It’s not a lot of time, but we’ve seen all of these kids quite a bit.”
The Generals have a pretty good grasp on what their team is going to look like after their spring camp, but as Wareham said he is ready for someone to impress him enough to shuffle the deck.
Some of the biggest questions going into the season won’t be determined during the Generals camp, but rather after a number of Western Hockey League teams make their final cuts.
The Generals have a nucleus of players who have a shot at making the jump to the WHL. With reigning WHL goalie of the year Patrik Bartosak returning to Red Deer, the odds that Generals goalie Grant Naherniak plays one more season of AAA increased, but it’s far from a sure thing.
Up front Ben Duperreault (Moose Jaw), Regan Nagy (Victoria), Rykr Cole (Regina) and Dakota Boutin (Brandon) will all get long looks at WHL camps. That quartet accounted for 40 per cent of the Generals goals last year and are expected to be learned on heavily to provide some offence if they all return.
“We just have to wait and see,” said Wareham. “If we get everybody back I like this team a lot.”
Rhett Gardner, last year’s captain, is attending camp, but will play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Okotoks Oilers before moving on to play in the NCAA with North Dakota.
The Generals could have had more players in camp, but Wareham didn’t want to guarantee anyone a spot with so many roster decisions out of his hands.
“We could have got a couple of kids to do that probably, but if everyone comes back and we can’t keep them, then they have nowhere to play. And they’re all on other teams now,” said Wareham.
The Generals parted ways with a trio of veteran forwards in the off-season: Michael Korol, Adam Edmands and Cohen Yano. Yano, 17, is looking to play in the SJHL with Kindersley.
On defence Shane Collins and Drew Fellner return, though Fellner is recovering from an injury that occurred at the Sask. Baseball Midget AAA provincials.
The Generals also are looking to add Warriors fourth round pick Dustin Perillat who played for the Saskatoon Blazers last year.
“For some reason Saskatoon didn’t work out for him and if he doesn’t make the Warriors we would be open to keeping him,” said Wareham. “I don’t know the kid personally, today is the first that I met him, but obviously he’s a good defenceman.”
Regan Sieferling and Keanan Chomyn saw some time on defence as affiliate players last year. Chomyn is a converted forward who played mostly on the blue line last year and is going into camp looking to play defence.
“For just making the switch he’s come a long way,” said Wareham.
The Generals also have Braydon McCarthy vying for a spot on defence. The five-foot-eight McCarthy played midget AAA in the B.C. Major Midget League with the Thompson Blazers last year. He is the younger brother of Moose Jaw Warrior Colton McCarthy and would relocate to play in Moose Jaw if the chance presented itself.
Up front, the Generals will have key veterans Trey Tendler and Donovan Neuls back, plus affiliates Riley Cannon, Braydon Delorme and Bhody Magnusson who got experience a year ago.
“We expect Delorme and Cannon to be able to step in and contribute right away. They practiced so much with us last year, they’re almost like vets. With tournaments they probably played 10 games at least with us last year,” said Wareham who noted that Magnusson saw a lot of time in practice though he didn’t play a regular season game.
The Generals are also hoping their 1998-born rookies will make an impact.
Jared Legien who was taken ninth overall in the WHL Bantam draft by Kootenay. The Pilot Butte product is six-foot-two winger who led the Sask. Bantam AA League in scoring with 40 goals and 66 points in 26 games.
The Generals have also added Moose Jaw product Branden Klatt who had 22 goals and 40 points in 32 games with Notre Dame last year. Klatt was selected in the sixth round, 130th overall, by Edmonton in the WHL Bantam draft.
“They’re big bodies too. We’ve never really been big and size helps,” said Wareham.
The Generals also have Dawson Davidson, the leading scorer amongst defencemen in bantam AA last year, in camp. Davidson was selected in the third round, 58th overall, by Kamloops.
Forwards Caleb Riess, 70th overall by Red Deer and Jared Dmytriw, 83rd overall by Victoria, were both taken in the fourth round of the most recent WHL draft and are looking to earn a roster spot.
The camp will feature scrimmages at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and the Red-White intrasquad game will be held Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Mosaic Place.