Development will be the key to Warriors future success

Matthew Gourlie
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Alan Millar enjoyed watching the Moose Jaw Warriors prospects this weekend.

Jacob Garman, left, throws a hit during the Moose Jaw Warriors prospects camp Saturday in Caronport.

The Warriors general manager is hoping that he will be seeing most of those players in Warriors colours for many years to come.

"We've really talked over the last three drafts of looking skating, skill and hockey IQ and I think you're seeing that on our protected list," said Millar. "I think there's a lot of young guys here who are going to play on our team. Hopefully we have a bunch of guys here who are going to grow up together and have success together."

After years of making deals to add 20-year-olds, of loading up for the 2012 playoff run and then adding youth and draft picks in the trades of subsequent years, the Warriors are committed to developing their own young players to build the core a contending team.

"That's the way you have to build in the WHL. That's the way you have to maintain success and have a consistently competitive team," said Millar of the importance of drafting and listing players. "It's not 'trade, draft, list, tweak' it's 'draft, list, develop, tweak.' We need to continue to move forward where our roster is built through drafting and listing players and our own development model.

"Trades need to be tweaks. The core of our team has to come through this development model."

At the end of last season, the Warriors had drafted 13 of their players, listed five of them and traded for five more.

It's hard to predict how 14-16 year olds will develop, but there certainly looks to be some talent to mould.

Brett Howden, the Warriors first pick in the 2013 bantam draft, excelled in his second prospects camp.

"It was tough for me last year coming in as an underage player, but this year I feel like I have a lot more confidence," said Howden. "You can tell everyone else does too. Everyone is playing their own game and you can see that there's a lot of talent coming up in this Moose Jaw Warriors program."

Millar was happy to see that at the end of a weekend that featured seminars and speakers, fitness testing and three ice sessions, the players were still working hard and playing at a high tempo.

"For the most part I'm impressed with what we saw on the ice," said Millar.

Some of the more interesting camp battles didn't materialize as injury and illness prevented some of the Warriors 1997-born players from attending. Ethan Williams and Ethan Lazaro both have one game of WHL experience and are facing a potential make-or-break camp in the fall. They, along with Tristan Langan and Shane Roulette, were all absent.

American defencemen Dylan Dix and Christos Zinis are both coming off of surgeries, but are also highly regarded by the Warriors. Defenceman Brandon Armstrong, a recent draft pick, was absent due to family reasons.

"It's an easy thing to give them a pass on and we'll work with them and hopefully see all of them in the fall," said Millar.

Lazaro played one game a year ago, while Williams made his WHL debut in 2012-13.

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