Monday, August 17, 2009

Pre-Camp update from Greg Harder

From his Slap Shots blog....

Pats pre-camp update

By Greg Harder Sun, Aug 16 2009

We interrupt the waning days of this scheduled summer hiatus to bring you a Regina Pats update.
Yes, it’s only Aug. 16 but hockey season is right around the corner, with the Pats slated to open training camp on Thursday in Lumsden. Like last season, the WHL club will jump straight into main camp rather than hold rookie workouts before bringing in the vets. That gives the team a few more days to prepare its roster for the Edmonton preseason tournament, which runs Aug. 28-30.
The players are all expected to arrive in town this weekend and will take part in some team-building functions before opening camp later in the week. There are no significant/unexpected no-shows to report at this point. That might surprise a few of the dark-cloud theorists who seem to think no one wants to play for the Pats’ organization, but we digress.

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Brett Leffler, Linden Rowat and Matt Delahey are all slated to attend NHL training camps but — as of now — are expected back to vie for Regina’s three 20-year-old spots. Delahey is a lock, period. Leffler isn't too far behind but, despite coming off a 30-goal season, needs to provide more consistency as one of the team's key leaders and trend setters in terms of a dogged work ethic. The goaltending battle is likely the major storyline to watch in camp as the Pats, who are deep between the pipes, look for their young netminders to step up behind the steady veteran Rowat. If the youngsters perform to their abilities, Rowat likely becomes expendable, opening the door for another 20-year-old to step in and make an impact. Matt Strueby, a breakout 25-goal man last season, could be that guy. If not, the Pats shouldn't have a tough time finding a taker for a quality kid like Strueby, who should put up good numbers somewhere in the league this season. Also, don't be surprised if GM Brent Parker looks to upgrade his team speed and acquire another 20-year-old at some point. In the meantime, it remains to be seen if Mitch Czibere shows up to compete for a 20-year-old job. As of now, Czibere looks to be the odd-man out of the overage competition and is said to be exploring his options. Granted, he’s not an impact offensive player, but it says here that any team would benefit from the presence and leadership of this classy veteran. If he’s not in Regina, here’s hoping Czibere finds a home somewhere in the WHL this season.
The Pats have at least four players headed for NHL camps: Jordan Eberle (Edmonton), Colten Teubert (L.A.), Delahey (New Jersey) and Garrett Mitchell (Washington). Leffler and Rowat are also expected to receive tryouts after attending summer development camps with Chicago and Ottawa, respectively. Each of those six players should be back in Regina this season, giving the Pats a solid foundation for a competitive team, but we all know there are never any guarantees in this game. If Eberle blows the Oilers away in camp and wins a job, Regina's plans for redemption from last season's non-playoff debacle will be a whole lot tougher, likely setting the stage for a transition year.

Either way, new/old head coach Curtis Hunt has his work cut out.
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Jordan Weal has a nice head-start on his sophomore campaign after helping Canada win a gold medal Saturday with a 9-2 win over Russia at the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic.
Canada has won the event five of the last six years.
Weal finished with one goal and four assists in four games. Wilcox product Jaden Schwartz, who spent last season with the SJHL’s Notre Dame Hounds, had two goals and two assists. He’s a late draft pick of the Tri-City Americans but is headed the NCAA route.
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Public Service Announcement: Regina-born NHLers Jamie Heward and Mike Sillinger are playing host to a shooting skills camp this week at the Puckmasters hockey training centre (645 Angus St.).
The two-a-day sessions begin Monday and run through Thursday (from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.). The age divisions comprise novice, atom, pee wee, bantam and elite (15+), plus an overflow session.
The cost is $30 for members of Puckmasters and $35 for non-members. Heward and Sillinger are part owners of the training centre.
For more information, call (306) 789-PUCK or e-mail puckmasters2009@sasktel.net.
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It’s looking more and more likely that Heward and Sillinger — close friends who played together with the Pats, were drafted together in the first round of the 1989 NHL entry draft, played together briefly with the Columbus Blue Jackets and continue to call Regina home in the offseason — are going to retire together.
Both are 38 and unrestricted free agents. Sillinger, who’s coming off his third hip surgery, has said all along he would probably retire this summer. Heward is still waiting to see what offers may develop in the fall but he could soon end up calling it quits as well. He’ll be skating with the Pats in training camp as usual, perhaps gearing up for a permanent transition into coaching (the Pats have yet to name a second assistant coach, although they have talked about asking Todd Strueby to return). Either way, expect Heward and Sillinger to make themselves available to their former club and lend a hand in some capacity. The team couldn’t ask for two better mentors and ambassadors.
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The Pats are behind most teams this offseason in getting their top picks from the 2009 bantam draft under contract, but not for long.
Look for an announcement sometime during camp that the WHL club has received commitments from No. 1 pick Chandler Stephenson (fifth overall) and second-rounder Taylor Balog (28th overall). Nothing has been officially signed but — barring unforeseen developments — the deals should be done shortly.
The blue-chip forwards aren’t eligible for full-time WHL duty until the 2010-2011 season. They can each play five games this season before their midget teams are done, at which point they can finish the year with Regina.
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Check back here for regular updates, which will begin early in the week.

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