Jobs are on the line, young kids hockey futures are put to the test, aaaah the tribulations of Junior hockey are once again upon us. The Regina Pats have had a disappointing pre-season, although I should forewarn that I'm under the philosophy that the results that transpire in the pre-season present very little impact towards the forecast of the regular season. I'm here this evening to parlay my thoughts on how the Regina Pats roster could shape up come opening night and what tinkering I would do if I were in charge of day to day operations(scary thought right?).
Upfront, the perceived locks to crack the squad are in no particular order, Adam Brooks, Austin Wagner, Adam Berg, Jake Leschyshyn, Luke Smith, stud Sam Steel, Colton Kroeker and Rykr Cole,. Taylor Cooper would have a spot under normal circumstances but an injury keeping him out until atleast Christmas complicates that guarantee. Without Cooper, that's eight spots accounted for, so the rest of the bunch will be competing for the remaining five. A spot I see all but assured would be Erik Gardiner. Gardiner, who played on the same midget AAA team as Leschyshyn has that unspoken pre-existing chemistry which will garner favour amongst Paddock and staff. I expect a fourth line role with occasional time on the second power play unit forthcoming. Lane Zablocki has reportedly had a mediocre camp but this sixteen soon to be seventeen year old is likely to be granted a spot as he was the main piece that came back in the trade that sent Jesse Gabrielle to Prince George. I have previously discussed my distain towards this awful trade and how silly would Paddock look if he were to send Zablocki home before the regular season commences? Riley Woods, who was a renowned scorer in Midget AAA with the Regina Pat Canadians will be looked uponsimilarly to Gardiner to provide some secondary offence and the premise of him making this squad is solely based off of re-kindling his touch from a year ago. In what will likely go down as one of the greatest names in Junior Hockey, Trygve Many Guns will provide a level of physicality that not a lot of the other fringe prospects can contribute. This is why I believe a role will be created to fulfill his services. The only guarantee I can truly make when it comes to Trygve is with the iconic name, he'll produce the highest revenue with jersey sales. The fifth spot I'm not going to allocate towards a Pat currently in camp. This is disappointing news to Jared McAmmond who frankly hasn't made enough of an impact to retain his position from 2014/2015 and ditto for former Kamloops Blazer Eric Kreinke is who is in a number crunch and fell on the wrong side of the sword. I believe, in large part because coach and general manager John Paddock was on the record saying this that the desire is to acquire a nineteen year old forward. I first thought that Victoria Royals nineteen year old forward Brandon Fushimi would've made loads of sense but news broke a couple weeks ago that Fushimi has elected to "retire" from the game of hockey. The next name after scouring team lists that came to mind was from the Kelowna Rockets, Camrose, Alberta native Justin Kirkland. Now, I realize it's not conventional for a team that is touted as a contender such as the Rockets are to trade away a nineteen year old who accumulated fifty-one points a year ago but for the Rockets, the reason behind this trade is provide Kirkland with more playing time to aid his professional aspirations. The Rockets are a model franchise and accommodating organization so I can see a trade of this magnitude consummating. Here's what my projected forward lineup would look like:
L C R
Kirkland Steel Berg
Wagner Brooks Leschshyn
Zablocki Smith Cole
Gardiner Kroeker Many Guns
The season ending injury to Colby Williams is a gargantuan blow to the Regina Pats. It would be to no one's surprise that Williams was expected to be named captain and not only that, he was going to be this team's number one defenceman so to lose him means others will have to elevate their game. From my potentially tainted count, their appears to be five spots sewn up. These would include, and once again in no particular order Chase Harrison, Nikolai Knyzhov, Sergei Zborovskiy, Connor Hobbs and James Hilsendager. What this amounts to is that their two spots up for grabs and at least from my viewpoint, these aren't as grey as the forwards. Spot number six must belong to Brady Poteau. This seventeen year old Oak Bluff, Manitoba product won't be bluffing anybody this year with his strong play as his limited play in last year's playoff action made a believer out of me. For the seventh and final spot, it's between Jared Freadrich who looks to be bring back the great Freadrich surname back to the Pats organization and Ryan Krushen. With sincere apologies to all of you Kyle Freadrich fans out there, I think based on play alone, because ultimately that will always be the decider, Krushen wins out. Krushen reminds me a young Brent Seabrook because when you watch him play you don't notice a bunch of natural offence but both possess a booming shot. My projected defensive pairs are as follows:
As is usually the case, this is the position of interest in my opinion. There a few different permutations and combinations you can slice out with this competition. First, we must ask ourselves, what are the true intentions going into this season? If the purported assertion from John Paddock is correct that the Pats are targeting the 2016/2017 to contend, is it then necessary to include twenty year old Daniel Wapple on the roster? He won't be around in two years time, and there will be organizations who will covet his services(cough, Red Deer, cough) Also, another point worth exploring is the idea if Tyler Brown or the incoming Jordan Hollett have what it takes to carry the load on a nightly basis. If they do, this increases Wapple's expendability. My gut says their will be too much outside pressure to hold on to Wapple and a trade of Tyler Brown is likely although I've been hearing the plan is to hold on to three goaltenders for the first segment of the regular season.
I hope you found this informative! Thanks for reading.