Young snipers looking to build chemistry

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Two of the Moose Jaw Warriors four worst offensive seasons in their history were the past two seasons.

Jayden Halbgewachs, centre, fights off the check of defenceman Matthew Leniuk during the Moose Jaw Warriors prospects camp Saturday in Caronport.

This past weekend's Warriors prospects camp showed that, at the very least, offensive help is on its way. Brett Howden and Noah Gregor roomed together for the weekend and in their first weekend scrimmage together combined for seven goals in two periods.

"We were rooming together and we became close over these past few days and I think that showed on the ice," said Howden. "He's a special player and I'm lucky I got a chance to play with him.

"If all goes well hopefully we're both on the squad at the end of the year."

Gregor, who has yet to sign with the Warriors, had four goals and Howden had three as their team skated to an 11-0 win.

Before the second scrimmage Gregor was "traded" to the other team and he and Jayden Halbgewachs had some impressive shifts where their opponents simply couldn't take the puck from them.

"It's beneficial playing with good players and the better the players you play with, the better you're going to get. You work off each other and make each other better. It's nice to play with good players," said Halbgewachs. "I feel we're pretty similar players."

Halbgewachs, a former first round pick of the Kamloops Blazers, was hoping to make his WHL debut a year ago, but the 17-year-old returned to midget AAA to log big minutes and play in all situations.

"This is a big year for me. Last year I wanted to make it as a 16-year-old, but obviously that's pretty hard to do. This year I want to crack the roster and I'm going to what it takes to do that," said Halbgewachs who played four games last season with the Warriors and picked up an assist.

Halbgewachs finished third in the Sask. Midget AAA Hockey League as he tallied 28 goals and 66 points in 42 games with the Regina Pat Canadians.

"Going back to AAA, you're the best player out there and it helps you a lot, but it also would have been nice to have one year in the WHL under your belt to have a feel for it. This year I want to jump right into the games and show what I can do right away," said Halbgewachs who wants to show he is all-around player so he won't be in-and-out of the lineup should he make the jump to the WHL next fall.

The Warriors have 10 returning forwards, though it is likely only two of three overages will make the team. That doesn't include Kolten Olynyk, newly acquired from Lethbridge, or Brandon Del Grosso, who nearly missed his whole rookie season due to injury.

With Howden, Halbgewachs and Gregor looking to crack the lineup and the Warriors selecting 12th overall in the upcoming CHL Import Draft, there will be some strong competition for the final few forward spots on the roster in training camp.

Howden got a taste of WHL hockey a year ago as a 15-year-old. He played the maximum five games that underage players are allowed. He finished that five game run by scoring his first goal and playing with Brayden Point and Jack Rodewald on the top line.

"It gave me a lot of confidence. Going into those games I was really nervous, especially playing with a lot of older guys. They really helped me feel comfortable," said Howden. "Throughout each game I got more confident. By the fifth game I felt like I was where I needed to be and felt like I belonged out there. I felt like I was strong out there.

"Now coming back for this camp, that experience gave me a lot of confidence and I think it showed on the ice."

The former fourth overall pick is excited for training camp and vowed to work hard this summer to fill out his 6-2, 200-pound frame to prepare him for the opportunity. He feels his off-ice training in the summer will play a big role in getting his ready to make the Warriors in the fall.

"When I come back at the end of the summer I'm excited to see how far I've grown," said Howden who was seventh in league scoring with the Eastman Selects as he scored 24 goals and finished with 58 points in 38 games.

Organizations: AAA Hockey League, Eastman Selects

Geographic location: Sask.

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