With every cut, this season’s Moose Jaw Warriors takes further shape.
Following the Warriors 5-4 rookie game loss to the Swift Current Broncos Tuesday, the Warriors re-assigned five players: goalie Brody Willms, defenceman Christos Zinis and forwards Ethan Lazaro, Ethan Williams and Ryan Bowen.
Bowen and Willms are both 1998-born players and are too young to play in the league. Both signed their Western Hockey League standard player agreements earlier this week. The other three are all born in 1997.
“We were really pleased with both kids. I thought they both showed really well (Tuesday) night. It was a thrill for them: Willms gets the start and Bowen got the goal. We were really pleased for those guys,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar.
Brett Howden, the Warriors other 98-born player, doesn’t begin his midget AAA season in Manitoba until October. The fifth overall pick is staying in Moose Jaw for the time being.
The moves leave the Warriors with three goalies, 11 defencemen and 16 forwards in camp. With Howden leaving, but Russian forward Alexander Chirva hopefully on his way, that doesn’t leave the Warriors with many moves left to make up front.
Millar feels that Williams and Lazaro have a bright future, but that they still need some time to develop.
“Both kids are talented. We think that at 18 or 19 his speed will really make an impact,” said Millar. “He’s a similar player to (Brandon) Potomak.
“Williams is a talented guy. We continue to challenge him on his consistency. He’s responded well.”
Lazaro played in the Minor Midget AAA last year with the St. Albert Flyers a year ago, while Williams played in Winnipeg’s City Midget League.
“Both Lazaro and Williams played 15-year-old midget, they didn’t play AAA midget a year ago. We really think that’s a significant jump. We believe those two guys will benefit from playing (midget AAA),” said Millar.
“We think all of our 16-year-olds who are signed are close to being able to play. We spend a lot of our time talking about being ready to play and what is the right decision in terms of their development.”
The battle on the blue line remains congested. Zinis missed a couple of days of camp and the Black-White game with an injury which didn’t help his chances to stand out in a busy battle.
Instead the Broomfield, Colo. product is headed to the Arizona Bobcats program.
“We have four 16-year-old defencemen and they’re not all going to play here,” said Millar. “We like what Christos has accomplished since we drafted him and we know he’s going to be a big part of our team as a 17-year-old, but he didn’t play a lot last year because of injuries. We feel that he’ll really benefit from a year with the Bobcats program in Phoenix.”
Millar added that with an early start to the school year in Arizona is made sense to get Zinis back there quickly once they decided he wasn’t going to be around long-term this season.
“Christos is in a situation where he had already been two weeks out of school. We’re cognizant of those 16-year-olds and their academics,” he said. “We want them to get as much development time and to be in our environment as much as they can when they’re signed. At the same time, we have to balance that with what’s realistic in terms of their oppounity to make the team.”
Zinis is one of seven players who attended Warriors training camp who will play with the Arizona Bobcats this season. Zinis will be joined by draft picks Dylan Dix, who played in San Jose last year, Alaskan Jacob Garman and Blake Bargar who is from Torrence, Calif., but played in Phoenix last year. Camp invitees Ethan Roswell, Parker Coughlin and Sean Mallonee will also play for the Bobcats.