Here is an overview of that talent I knew was on the way:
Let’s start with those that didn’t even make it to preliminary season roster.
Josh Garbutt – 16 years old. For such a young defenseman he has good instincts with and without the puck. His size and reach could be projected to be prototype by the time he is nineteen. His skills and skating ability were above average for a defenseman his age. There was some talk he should be selected to stay ahead of someone like Regan Leslie in spite of his age and experience, due to his upside. An injury to his foot shortened his stay and probably sealed his fate. Besides I am sure with all the returning help on defense, McCrimmon, Johnston and Lowes have no intention to acid test the young man if they have the luxury of not doing it; let him develop fully with lots of ice time at another level to gain confidence and strength.
Lyle McKay – 16 years old. A mobile and physical defenseman. His physical attributes are not prototype but not undersized either. He stuck out for his ability to anticipate the play and make the big hit. He really relished sticking his nose into the play and did not look out of place with the big boys. Conditioning and bulk/strength was an issue. As the pace went up, he had to labor to keep up, his obvious ability took the toll.
Andre Blanchette – 16 years old. Very good size and reach. His skills for a big guy his age were excellent. He loved to carry the puck and make the play. Quickness from crease to corner was only acceptable and of course added strength needed. I liked his play more than Garbutt. A very good prospect for the Wheat Kings.
Jacob McFlickier – 16 years old. This kid is gifted, there is no other way to say it. Speed, hands, vision, situational awareness, release, work ethic, etc., etc. With each progressive cut his ability to create and score did not diminish. The veterans at the camp were very impressed and couldn’t say enough about him. He was by far and away the leading scorer in camp above even the veterans. So why is he not on the roster? In a word he is small…very small. In a testament to what he has to prepare for next year, at the annual White and Black game, Jordin Tootoo laid him out with an open ice hit only Jordin Tootoo can lay on. Till that point through camp no one had touched him even though they tried. I thought he would never get up or disappear for the rest of the game. Yes it hurt him, but he got up, went to the bench, shook the cobwebs out, then laughed, saying something to the effect of “wow” to his benchmates. He continued to make the plays and put points on the board. That hit though I am sure will motivate him to work further on his physical skills, no need to work on his abundant natural gifts.
Eric Fehr – 15 years old. Why is he not playing with the Wheat Kings this year? Because the rules state 15 year olds cannot play in the WHL except on emergency call up basis and only up to a total number of a few games. If this rule did not exist and the Wheat Kings needed him that bad, this kid could have played in the WHL this year. He already has good frame size, agility, strength, vision, puck skills and anticipation. He did not look out of place with the veterans and even shrugged a few of them off. A very anticipated prospect for next season.
Other notables where Robin Richards, 15 and Johnathan Webb, 15.
Now for the players who made the preliminary regular season roster.
Krister Toews – 17 years old. A goalie with prototype size. What is most striking about him is not just his athletic abilities, but his understanding of the need to control the puck; his anticipation and ability to control potential rebounds is exceptional for a goaltender his age. With the surprising and premature departure of Robert McVicar to the University of Maine, Toews is my inside pick to be the future go to goaltender of the Wheat Kings.
Geoff McIntosh – 17 years old. McIntosh comes to Brandon with the reputation of a winner, proven under fire, leading his Midget team to the National Championship Tournament. His camp has been solid, but not spectacular. History suggests this will change to spectacular.
Regan Leslie – 17 years old. Not a prototype defenseman physically. Though small in stature he has excellent strength and would seem to have enough skill and above average foot speed to stick in Brandon. His ability to jump up in the play is excellent and his powerplay skills are noted. Can he play even up against much bigger and capable players? That is my question. Can the Wheat Kings afford to have a power play specialist? He was above average in camp, but not dominant like a small player has to be in the training camp.
Caine Pearpoint – 16 years old. This kid is big. He is mobile for a big guy. Good in the corners, likes to go to the net and relishes being out front in spite of the punishment dished out. Not flashy, but a straight line kind of player. Brandon hasn’t had potential for this certain type of player since Chris Dingman.
James Marquis – 17 years old. Aggressive, always on the puck. Doesn’t shy away from the trenches. His skating and quickness need work. Not flashy, but hard working and has proven his ability last year in his call up games. His results were not an accident.
Jiri Jakes – 18 years old. Pronounced “Yak-ish”. This is Brandon’s import pick from this spring’s import draft. He is nothing like anything I have seen from Europe before. While there is the unmistakable skills, and stride of a European, thats where it ends. This kid forechecks, hits and goes in straight lines. This is the way he wants to play. He is very big and very strong. While maybe not the flashy scorer or playmaker we have expected out of Europe in the past, he definitely is going to make a huge contribution to the Wheaties this year and is a good prospect – it’s tough to categorize him. He is definitely unique as a Euro.
Jeremy Wray – 18 years old. Pest. In two words a “bleep” disturber. Has good skills, grit and a good shot. His face off skills are above average. His ability to get under the skin of opposing players is exceptional. He showed over-board intensity during the camp. His presence as an option as a 3rd or 4th line centreman gives Brandon the luxury of letting one of the 16 year olds stay down a level for another year if they so choose.
Tim Konsorada – 16 years of age. Excellent size, speed, agility, awareness, hands and ethic. Has showed he belonged since day one. A very balanced player who you cannot lay off of on offense or isolate as a defensive weakness. He is willing to play the body, play in the corners, or will take you wide, shrug you off and fire a laser beam on the short side for a goal (which he did against Regina in a pre-season match). He is a solid two way performer. Does he have leadership skills? If he does, can you say Scott Hartnell clone?
Lance Monych – 16 years
old. Here is a player who has gained strength and progressed with each level of the camp and each successive exhibition game. I questioned his grit and possibly his foot speed. So far he has put to rest my concerns. He has shown a willingness to work hard every shift and has a natural ability to make things happen. If he can continue to have this level of effort and a willingness to accept the rigors of junior hockey, he has earned a spot on this roster. My gut instinct says he will not fail so much as Brandon will choose him to be the odd young forward out this season as a player like J. D. Kehler comes back from injury. Let him dominate and gain the needed strength at another level, so he can come in and dominate next year at this level.
Here’s a short list of the tape and scale:
Blanchette 6’1" 171
Garbutt 5’11" 191
McKay 6’0" 153
Webb 5’11" 200
Eric Fehr 6’1" 165
Jakes 6’4" 210
Konsorada 6’1" 200
Marquis 5’11" 190
Monych 6’2" 190
Pearpoint 6’2" 215
Richards 6’2" 175
My next article will focus on the Wheat Kings veterans.
Visitor Watch -The following young players from visiting teams made favorable impressions during the pre-season games here in Brandon:
– Robin Big Snake, Regina, 16 years old. Regina’s visit was less than impressive but Big Snake made the most of his appearance. Fiesty, in your face type of player. Even took on Jiri Jakes in a fight. By the way this was Jakes first fight ever.
– Paul Brown, Regina, 16 years old. A centreman with good skills, wheels and hands. Showed much more than all the other front line Pats. Didn’t get much help that night from others who did not convert the chances he created.
– Shaun Landolt, Moose Jaw, 16 years old. 2 scorer’s goals. A move outside to beat the Brandon defense cleanly to tuck 5 hole on a very slick move. Then a laser beam of a slapshot, from just over the blue line as the defense laid off. Was a threat all night.
– Ian White, Swift Current, 16 years old. An excellent ability to handle the puck as a defenseman. Played powerplay and even strength effectively in rotation for a Speedy Creek lineup that featured only two 16 year olds.