The Moose Jaw Generals focus was on the Telus Cup a year ago.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Caleb Riess, left, from the Moose Jaw Generals battles with Danick Crête from the Grenadiers du Châteauguay at the Telus Cup at Mosaic Place this past spring.
The Generals will be a new look team when they hit the ice this season, but the end goal remains the same.
"Our staff and the people who have been with me since the start have worked hard over that time to make it a program where we expect to compete and challenge for a title every year. It will be the same message to our kids this year," said Generals head coach and general manager Ray Wareham. "There's a lot of turnover in midget AAA. We're used to it and we're prepared for it."
The Generals will have approximately 60 players on hand when they open training camp at Mosaic Place. Wareham said he expects to only have seven returning players from the team that hosted the Telus Cup this past spring.
"I think we'll have seven returnees. We have a lot more that are eligible to be back. We think most of those guys will play junior, but for the others we just decided to go in a different direction with some of them," said Wareham. "It's a pretty big turnover, but we feel we have some good kids coming into camp. Hopefully we can find 20 good ones and have another good year."
As Telus hosts, the Generals were able to attract some young top-end talent last season, but finished fourth with a 25-9-7-3 record and went out in the first round of the playoffs. They have finished in the top-four in the 12-team Sask. Midget AAA Hockey League in four consecutive seasons.
"Last year we could score, but not too many teams suffered when they played us. There wasn't a lot of banging and crashing going on," said Wareham. "The game is speed and skating now, but you have to have that compete level and the biggest thing is consistency."
When he first took over the team more than a decade ago they were chronically out of the playoffs. Since his second season in charge the Generals haven't missed the playoffs once. Those early teams used their grit and work ethic to over-achieve. Wareham is hoping to get back to that style a little more after having recent teams that had more highly touted WHL draft picks, but weren't always better than the sum of their parts.
"It's not that the kids were bad kids, but it was a bit of a different style than I'm used to the past couple of years," said Wareham. "The kids that we have coming in are good players. They may not be as dynamic offensively as the players we've had in the past, but they may be more complete players. We're hoping to find a little more grit and get back to that style of play."
Veterans Colby Entz in goal, forwards Branden Klatt, Josh Beaudry, Jared Dmytriw and Caleb Riess and defencemen Kyle Sargent and Dawson Davidson will be in camp are all expected to return. Davidson, 16, went to the Hockey Canada under-17 summer developmental camp and could still crack the roster with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers this fall.
Veteran forward Donovan Neuls will be in back and could also be back for a final season, but Wareham expects he will play junior either in the WHL or the SJHL.
The players have been divided into four teams and will scrimmage Friday at 7 p.m. and again Saturday with two sessions — one at 10 a.m., the second at 4:30 p.m. The camp will conclude with an intrasquad game at noon on Sunday.