Warriors camp invitees look to make a name at main camp
There's a big jump in competition for every rookie at Moose Jaw Warriors training camp.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Ryan Bowen, left, checks Nick Leitner during a scrimmage at Moose Jaw Warriors rookie camp Friday night.
No one has faced a bigger jump than Ocean Wiesblatt.
As a 14-year-old last year, Wiesblatt played house league hockey in Calgary. After a strong rookie camp, the five-foot-six centre has earned a spot on the Warriors 50-man protected list.
"He's a very good young player. He impressed us. He plays hard. His hockey IQ is very good and he's a good skater. His skill level is good," said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. "There's a lot of potential there. He's a '99 and you never know where he's going to be at in two years in terms of his development and his size. Our scouting staff and coaching staff were unanimous that he was a guy we had to look at listing coming out of this camp."
The Warriors made their first round of cuts Friday and will move forward with 44 players once main camp starts Saturday. Wiesblatt didn't earn a spot at main camp, but considering the jump he made, getting listed was a victory in itself.
"I played community hockey with Shaw Meadows. We couldn't afford quadrant hockey, so I just played two years of that. I haven't played with fast guys, so this is a big step â€” a huge step," said Wiesblatt. "It shows me how much work I have to do. Hopefully I can come here next year and be stronger and faster."
Wiesblatt was born in Vancouver, lived in Kelowna and has spent the past two years in Calgary. His mom had been living in Calgary before Wiesblatt, his father and his four siblings moved to rejoin her.
"It's been pretty tough, but I'm trying to get through it and be successful at hockey. That's what I want," said Wiesblatt.
Where he plays hockey this year is to be determined, but Wiesblatt is getting a big helping hand and is looking to play at a higher level.
"I have someone helping me out this year â€” Sonny Belanger and Mike Huber. They're great. They're very good friends (of the family). They're helping me out with funding â€” not just for hockey, but with everything else too," said Wiesblatt.
Though Wiesblatt has some physical maturing to do before he's ready to try to compete at the WHL level, his potential and his fearlessness impressed the Warriors brass.
"I'm trying to play big. I'm not scared of the big guys. I play hard and play feisty. You can't let big guys take control of you, you have to play big," said Wiesblatt.
There were some other unlisted players who caught the Warriors eyes and moved on to main camp. Speedy forward Jaxen Gemmell from Calgary made the cut as did rugged winger Tanner Jeannot from Oxbow. Brothers Nick and Jake Leitner from Bemidji, Minn. have also been asked to take part in main camp.
"It's been going well. It's been fun up here. The pace is a little faster" said Nick Leitner, a 1998-born defenceman. Jake Leitner is a 97-born forward.
There is an NCAA Division I program at Bemidji State, not to mention the perennial powerhouse Minnesota Golden Gophers in the state, yet the Leitners were interested in getting a taste of Major Junior hockey.
"Most kids dream of playing college hockey in D1. A coach at a camp I was at told me about (the WHL) and it sounded pretty interesting and I thought I would come up here and try it," said Nick Leitner, who is 5-foot-11 and played for Bemidji High School as a Grade 10 student last season.
"I want to show everyone what I've got. I'll probably go home and play high school again this year and then go from there," he added.
The Warriors will decide in the next couple of days if any of the remaining camp invitees get added to their 50-man protected list, but right now Millar is happy with the depth at rookie camp.
"I think our scouts did a very good job with camp invites. There was no one who was out of place and there were a number of camp invites that have moved on," said Millar. "There's some guys here who are in real consideration to be listed â€” that's to be determined and we have a few days to go â€” but I'm pleased with that part of it.
"The young players have shown well. We've been happy with our drafted and signed players that took part in rookie camp."
The Warriors will have their annual Black-and-White game Sunday at 4 p.m.
Players moving on from Warriors rookie camp to main camp:
Goalies: Mitchell Adamyk (98), Brody Willms (98).
Defencemen: Brandon Armstrong (99), Josh Brook (99), Ryan Gardiner (97), Marcus Kichton (99), Nick Leitner (98), Collin Paradis (98), Dustin Perillat (97), Ben Shushkovsky (97), Christos Zinis (97).
Forwards: Blake Bargar (98), Ryan Bowen (98), Gianluca Esteves (97), Jaxen Gemmell (98), Noah Gregor (98), Jayden Halbgewachs (97), Brett Howden (98), Tanner Jeannot (97), Tristin Langan (98), Ethan Lazaro (97), Jake Leitner (97), Parker McCormick (98), Brayden Watts (99).