From Greg Harder and the Leader Post.... Link
Chandler Stephenson, Tayler Balog looking to future with Regina Pats
By Greg Harder, Leader-PostAugust 25, 2009
REGINA — Chandler Stephenson and Tayler Balog haven't yet played a game for the Regina Pats, but they're already attached at the hip as the future of the WHL franchise.
The 15-year-old forwards were much-ballyhooed when the Pats selected them with their first two picks in the 2009 bantam draft -- Stephenson fifth overall and Balog 28th. The dynamic duo had previously joined forces last year as summer hockey linemates with the Saskatoon AAA Huskies. Then, after being drafted by the Pats and reunited in training camp, they were together again on Monday to sign their first WHL contracts.
The Pats hope it's the start of a long and prosperous marriage.
"We think they'll be cornerstones for our franchise," GM Brent Parker said during a media gathering to announce the signings. "We look at them as guys who hopefully will play together (on the same line). Chandler is a guy who sees the ice and dishes the puck and Taylor can just flat-out score. He goes to the net and has great speed. They're both great skaters, they both shoot the puck well. They played together in spring hockey and put up huge numbers. We anticipate if they can continue to develop and grow that they'll be able to do that at the next level as well."
Stephenson and Balog realize they've enjoyed a rare connection -- one they're eager to continue.
"I hope to play with him on the Pats," offered Stephenson. "It would be really cool because we already know each other's games."
Stephenson, a 5-foot-9, 163-pound centre, would seem to be the ideal complement to Balog, who -- at 6-foot-0, 180 -- is viewed as a future power forward. However, despite all their raw potential, they both have plenty of work to do in the midget AAA ranks -- with the Saskatoon Contacts and Tisdale Trojans, respectively -- before they're ready for primetime in 2010-11.
Like a lot of young players, Parker said, Balog needs to focus on consistency and learn how hard he needs to work every night to succeed at the WHL level. Stephenson's biggest challenge may be adapting to his defensive responsibilities.
"You have to play well defensively to play in this league and have the consistency level of being there every night," said the veteran GM. "You can't afford to take any time off."
Parker is impressed with what he has seen so far in camp, noting that both players have been getting better and better.
That said, the experience has still been an eye-opener.
"You have to be ready all the time for everything that comes at you," noted Balog, who's from Weyburn. "It's faster out there so I have to be faster out there too. And (he has to work on) being more physical, not shying away from the hits, taking the body all the time. I'm a big guy so I need to start using that a little bit more."
When it came time to talk contract, the Pats didn't have to be sold on the talents of their young blue-chip prospects. Likewise, there was no major sales pitch required to recruit Balog and Stephenson, who've been committed to Regina from the start.
They made it official Monday by signing on the dotted line.
"It felt real good," added Stephenson, a Saskatoon native. "It's an honour to be playing for the Pats. The coaching staff and the organization are really great. The guys are treating me really well. I'm like family pretty much to these guys. I can't wait to play here."
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Official Presser from ReginaPats(dot)com
Pats Sign Top Two Draft Picks
Regina, Saskatchewan – The Regina Pats are proud to announce that they have signed their first and second round picks from the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft to a Standard Players Agreement.
Chandler Stephenson was the Pats first round pick, taken 5th overall in the WHL Bantam Draft. With the Saskatoon Generals this past season, Stephenson amassed 72 points in 46 games. He was also an AP with the Saskatoon Blazers of the SMAAAHL last season, playing in 9 games picking up two goals and an assist, and was with the club during the Mac’s Midget Tournament over the holiday season. His brother, Colton Stephenson is currently a forward with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
C - Chandler Stephenson
Born – Apr 22nd, 1994
Hometown - Saskatoon, Sask.
08-09 Saskatoon Generals (Stn Bantam) GP-46 G-49 A-61 PTS-110 PIM-72
Tayler Balog was the Pats second round pick, taken 28th overall in the WHL Bantam Draft. The Kipling, Saskatchewan native played with the Weyburn Crescent Point Wings of the South Sask. Minor Hockey League this past season, and picked up 76 points in 26 games.
C – Tayler Balog
Born – April 21st, 1994
Hometown - Kipling, Sask.
Weyburn (SSMHL) GP-26 G-44 A-32 PTS-76 PIM-34
Regina Pats General Manager, Brent Parker, “We are excited to have these two young players committed to our organization and feel they will be an important part of our future. Both kids will have a tremendous impact in our league.”
Stephenson and Balog will take part in the Prairie Mobile Communications Blue and White game tomorrow night in Lumsden. It’s a 7pm puck drop at the Lumsden Arena.