Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Pats Training Camp Recap

I have to apologize for this blog being woefully inactive.  Much of my time goes into writing the Pats releases which then bounce around the web (you know, the thing I get paid for).  As I get more into the swing of the every day and how it all fits into my schedule I hope this blog will once again the the regularly updated and happy place it was in the first place.  Thanks for your patience as I work through my current transition.

On to camp.  What a wild and crazy weekend.  Quite the way to kick off the hockey season spending all day at the rink watching some very talented young players.  From the looks of the '96-'97 groups, the future of the Regina Pats is well in hand.  The weekend started off with the announcement that the team signed one of its top prospects, defenceman Brady Reagan, to a WHL Standard Player Agreement.  It's actually a little disconcerting for me (standing a little over 6'2") to have a fifteen year old look me in the eye when he shakes my hand and nearly crushes it.  Considering he'll probably grow more, the physical dimensions of this young man already have forwards a little concerned.

After everyone got signed in, measured up and had their picture taken Thursday, it was finally time to hit the ice Friday morning.  It's a great feeling walking into the rink and knowing games are just days away.  Watching the '96-'97's some players really stood out.  Obviously a lot is expected of Adam Brooks and Dane Schioler and they didn't disappoint.  Brooks was especially deadly in the early going as we were watching the practice sessions.  As for players who were more unknown factors, Rob Fulton on the back end is already (like Reagan) impressive physically.  Fulton and Reagan could very well become the cornerstones for the Pats on defence.  Their size along with some decent offensive instincts bode well for the future.  Up front, the biggest surprise in camp (at least to those not already in the know) was Liam Finlay.  Measuring up at 5'5"/130lbs, I was actually a little concerned for the diminutive forward.  He almost looks like when teams have the "seventh man" minor hockey player come out to join for the anthem.  It was a challenge to find gear to fit him.  Finlay actually sees it as an advantage, saying his size teaches him to be shifty and to think differently on the ice.  Shifty he is and he definitely thinks the game well.  Finlay was stunning through the weekend and grabbed attention every time he was on the ice.  His goal in the shootout during the Blue and White Game was a thing of beauty.  Even with his limited size, if he continues to progress, it's hard to imagine Finlay not being a part of the team at some point in the future.

There were other standouts including Rykr Cole and Rylee Zimmer in the Grey/Red group.  Zimmer tweeted Monday night that he signed with the Pats, locking up another important part of this team's future.

Obviously with me just coming in this season, it's tough for me to really compare the veterans to their status last season.  That said, there was a lot of buzz around the rink with the progress Jack Rodewald and Dryden Hunt made during their off-seasons.  Some of the newcomers looked solid as well with import draftee Emil Sylvegard looking very impressive through camp.  The big swede has great quickness for a player his size and is plenty creative with the puck.  Henry Hardarson showed off some playmaking ability as well and the Pats, despite losing Jordan Weal, look like they'll have a solid set of forwards.

Players like Brooks and Schioler along with Midget graduates Ty McLean and Connor Gay look to be ready to fill in the open spots in the Pats roster and it looks like the 2012-13 edition of the Blue and White should be able to effectively roll four lines.

Both Brandon Underwood and Colton Jobke looked strong on the back-end as they look towards anchoring the Pats blue-line (or in Jobke's case possibly playing pro-hockey).  The defence definitely engenders more questions than the forward ranks.  One player who stood out in camp was Cole Hamblin.  Coming in around 240 pounds and standing 6'3", Hamblin brings plenty of size to the back end.  He wasn't afraid to jump into play off the point during camp and features a pretty heavy shot.  His size and experience of a season in Junior-A hockey could be a great addition to a defence that may be a little on the young side this season.

Currently, the roster sits around the 30 mark, with six over-age players so the picture is becoming more clear every day.  It will be interesting to see who sits out for the Pats first pre-season game coming up Thursday against Brandon.  I imagine the roster will largely be comprised of the younger players and the twenty-year olds.  We may see guys like Chandler Stephenson and Morgan Klimchuk sitting as they're already penned into spots on the squad.

For a detailed run down on training camp, make sure you head to ReginaPats.com for the details.

The first pre-season game is almost here and that also marks the first Pats broadcast on CKRM.  I'll be riding shotgun when Phil Andrews has the call on Thursday.


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