Last night the Brandon Wheat Kings faithful had a good look at the future of the Wheat Kings as Brandon faced off against the Regina Pats in the first pre-season tilt of the year.
This is definitely a whole new year for the Wheaties as many high profile players have graduated to the pro ranks this past year. Gone are Burke Henry, Andrei Lupandin, Ryan Robson, Jason Chimera and Brett McLean. I fully expect Brad Twordik to hang on in the St. Louis organization, so count him out too.
Hold overs, not including the 20 year olds are: Goaltenders, Jomar Cruz and Jamie Hodson (injury list until December). Defensemen, Brett Thurston, Corey Unser and Wade Skolney Fowards, Richard Mueller, Jan Fadrny, Brett Girard, Petr Kudrna, Aaron Goldade, J.D. Kehler, Mike Wirll, Ryan Craig and Randy Ponte.
Twenty year olds is where it is extra interesting for Brandon. Not including Brad Twordik, the Wheat Kings have four high quality 20 year olds. They are Daniel Tetrault, Les Borsheim, Scott McCallum and Alex Argyriou. I count for sure one too many, three if maybe Twordik comes back.
With a plethora of hold-overs coming back and extra 20 year olds, trades are imminent. Who goes? Who stays?
A look at the future might hold the keys to what Brandon does.
Let’s look at the prospects, those not on the roster last year.
Brandon lost to Regina’s pre-season team last night 5 to 4 in overtime. The score was unimportant.
What was revealed of the Wheaties rookies so far, was:
(Here is a player by player analysis of my observations from the pre-season camp, White/Black game and last nights pre-season game combined)
Billy Gerry – 5’9”, 186, 17. Gerry came from the Kootenay Ice organization. Gerry has made some big saves through the camp and intra squad games. Last night he had an uneven night. Down early lots.
Daniel Thalman - 6’1”, 181, 17. Thalman played AAA Midget hockey in Winnipeg last year. A stand up goalie, who plays the angles. Good footwork. Still needs to work on post to post. From what I have seen of last nights game, I prefer his style over Gerry’s.
James Marquis - 5’11”, 196, 16. A solid built young player with good instincts, strong on the puck, balances passing and shooting with teammates, moves well without the puck. In last nights game he was always on the puck and solid in traffic. Needs to work on foot speed and first step. Like him a lot.
James Ardelan - 5’10”, 200, 16. Another young player with size. Straight forward, not flashy. Has the physical skills to play at this level. Has not shown much offensive flair but he definitely fits in with the use of his size along the boards and deep.
Ryan Diduck - 5”10”, 184, 17. Has decent wheels and works on the puck. Has not created much though.
Jeff Peters – 6’2”, 185, 18. Good hands, works well away from puck. Lacks foot speed and agility.
Mitch Virostek – 5′ 10”, 195, 17. Falls along the lines of Marquis, but with another year on him and no problems with foot speed and step. Looks to be a keeper. Like him a lot.
B. J. Byfuglien - 6’1”, 209, 17. Out of Minnesota High School hockey, Byfuglien has decent wheels for a kid, likes to stick his nose in it, but seriously needs to work on his conditioning and skills. Needs to work on taking passes in full flight and puck handling.
He did not play last night due to an injury.
Jordin Tootoo – 5’9”, 178, 16. Don’t let his size fool you, this kid plays 10 feet tall and takes on anything on skates. Gritty, feisty with excellent skills and proven ability (played in the Manitoba Junior League last year). This guy took on everyone. Injured his hand doing just that, fighting much bigger Mike Gerstenbuhler. He will be out 6 to 8 weeks. He’s a keeper. Look for him to be a very big fan favorite in Brandon and the player everyone hates in visiting rinks all over the WHL.
Colin McRae – 6’1”, 185, 17. Has been injured and not observed. By all reports a strong candidate. From the home town of Eddie the Eagle Belfour, Carman, Manitoba.
This is where is gets fun, lots of talent here.
Mark Ardelan – 5′ 10”, 200, 16. Good mobility, uses his weight, loves to step up into the play. Can shoot the puck and likes to. Can make the first pass from his own end or carry it out. Likes to make the opposition pay when they give him the chance. I like this kid a lot. Reminds me of Justin Kurtz.
Travis Young - 6’0”, 170, 16. A very smart player with very good situational awareness. Heads up, with good poise for such a young player. Very good at making good offensive choices and a very good passer.
Has a choppy gate and playing style very much like Burke Henry.
Regan Leslie – 5’7”, 180, 16. This kid is a gifted offensive defenseman. Wheels, puck handling skills, excellent passing, creativity. What he doesn’t have is size/strength. When Regina cycled the puck low when he was on he could not effectively contain the large Regina forwards. Another year working heavily on his upper body strength would help. Last night he wore number two, tucked his jersey into his pants and skated and made moves like a player from last year, Andrei Lupandin.
Kevin Harris - 6’0”, 191, 17. A model in efficiency. A well balanced d-man with a good package of skill & physical ability. Keys are his economy of motion and overall effectiveness. Like him.
Mike Gerstenbuhler - 6’0”, 190. Time seems to have run out for Mr. G.. He has not progressed enough year after year to crack the Wheaties lineup. A possible 5th or 6th defenseman on most other WHL teams, not even 9th or tenth with a line-up like above now ahead of him.
Brett Dickie – 6’1”, 189, 16. Unlike Mr. G., this kid has time. Dickie has the skills and size to play in the WHL this year. He may not have the poise or confidence though. He could use another year at another level to correct these deficiencies.
Lets not forget Import draft pick, defenseman, Angel Krstev. Krstev, a 6-foot, 205-pound blueliner, scored 10 goals and added 16 assists in 46 games for the Slavia Praha juniors last season. Apparently he likes the rough going. Played for the Czech Republic’s European Cup Jr. Squad last year. Pencil him in. He is still is awaiting his release from his Czech Republic senior team.
With all this young talent, especially on D, what do you do? General Manager Kelly McCrimmon has lots of options, lots of decisions to make and the Wheaties can look forward to a promising season & future.
Last night’s game featured a few interesting observations.
Les Borsheim just keeps getting stronger, faster and more poised. He used his head to stay in the game to show what he can do, as Derek Boogaard, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound 17-year-old forward constantly challenged him throughout the game. Brosheim didn’t drop his gloves until late in the third with Booberry, mark this match a TKO for Borsheim. Borsheim wants to stay a Wheatie and stood out.
Richard Mueller was in full flight. Very effective and very noticeable.
Petr Kudrna continues to not impress. I’m not sure where he fits in.
The only Pats that impressed me (The Wheaties had major lapses and lots this game vs. Regina winning it) were 17 year old Matt Hubbauer, 17 year old Scott Balan and 16 year old David McDonald.
It’s great to be back at the Keystone Centre watching WHL hockey. Let’s look forward to a fun season.