WHL: Brandon Wheat Kings season preview

By Brendan Macgranachan

Wheat Kings

The WHL Brandon Wheat Kings open their 2003-04 regular season at home against
the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Warriors have some unfinished business with the
Wheat Kings going back to last year’s conference semi-finals, in which the Wheat Kings won in
seven games. Here is a position by position breakdown of the Wheat Kings roster
for 2003-04.


The team lost starting goaltender Robert McVicar as an
overager this year. The reins will be handed over to Geoff
a overager for this season. McIntosh has been following behind
in McVicar’s footsteps ever since a stellar 17-year-old rookie campaign.
McIntosh, along with now Portland Winter Hawk goaltender Krister Towes,
filled in for McVicar, who went to play for the University of Maine
and Maple Leaf prospect Jamie Hodson, who had a good camp to stick
around for a while. McVicar quit school and Hodson returned to Brandon
leaving McIntosh to play out the rest of the year with the Neepawa Native
of the MJHL. McIntosh has been stellar in the back-up role ever since and
is now expected to step up. The question is who will fill the role of back-up. The Wheat
Kings cut 19-year-old Brett Koscielny before camp and recently re-assigned
16-year-old Tyler Plante to Midget. It is now a battle between
Brandon native Mike Nichol and Winnipeg native Brant Hilton who
both had excellent camps. 


The Wheat Kings’ blueline took a major hit when they lost Brett
this year. The 21-year-old Thurston was a great defenseman,
had a physical upside and was a good leader. “Too bad we lost him. He
was like gold.” said Johnathan Webb, who will be expected to step up this
year and play full time. The Wheat Kings still have 20 year olds Brett
and Regean Leslie and Columbus prospect Ole-Kristian
, who was injury prone in his first season as a Wheat King.
Andre Blanchette and Josh Garbutt are natural defensemen
but play up front most of the time. This will leave room for many newcomers.
Tyler Harder, Beau Prokopetz and Mark Louis all had
great camps and pre-seasons and may fill those holes. 


Offense is a strong point for the Wheat Kings, just like in past years. Despite
losing Jordin Tootoo and Ryan Craig to Nashville and Tampa
Bay respectively, the Wheat Kings still have much talent up front. The team has
Columbus’ Tim Konsorada, Washington’s first round pick
this year Eric Fehr, Pittsburgh’s Ryan Stone, Philadephia’s
Ricky Kozak and more. This team has no problem lighting up the scoreboard
and given night. Much will be relied on Fehr, Kozak and Stone. Fehr and
Stone both had excellent sophomore seasons while Kozak played very well
since coming over from Prince George in December. For more depth, Brandon
acquired former first round Bantam choice Mark Shefchyk from Vancouver.
Also, Brandon has many rookies such as Codey Burki, Tyler Strautman,
Ryan Reaves, Corey Courchaine
and Mark Derlago who can play
at this level easily.


The Wheat Kings have gotten out of a hard overager mess this year and
only have to make one cut. At the trade deadline, GM Kelly McCrimmon dealt
Caine Pearpoint and Travis Young (both 20 year olds) to Prince Albert for Greg Watson, who has stuck around with
the Ottawa Senators. Now it’s down to four players, goaltender Geoff McIntosh,
forward Tyler
and defensemen Regean Leslie and Brett Dickie. It
seems Dickie is the odd-man out but they don’t have to make the decision until mid-October, the overage deadline.



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