Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stakes are high.....

From the LeaderPost website

Stakes are high as Regina Pats open training camp

By Greg Harder, Leader-Post August 19, 2009 9:13 PM

REGINA — Wins and losses won't be part of the wager when the Regina Pats open training camp Thursday in Lumsden, but the stakes for the WHL club have never been higher.

Coming off last season's non-playoff fiasco which cost head coach Dale Derkatch his job, the WHL club is looking to rebound under Curtis Hunt, who's back for his second tour as Regina's bench boss.

"It's maybe one of the most crucial camps we've had since I've been here," offered Brent Parker, who's entering his 15th season as Regina's GM. "I would be really disappointed if it wasn't a real competitive camp. (He wants to see) the response we get from our guys to the adversity they went through, to see how they prepare, see which guys are coming in with the mindset that we're hoping for, which is team-first."

That was the key message this week during a three-day retreat to Camp Lutherland on the Qu'Appelle Lakes. The team-building getaway included visits from ex-Pats Jamie Heward and Garth Murray.

"One of the comments Garth made was, 'Above all else, be a good person — hard work and being a good person will open a lot of doors for you,' " said Parker. "That's a lot of what we're looking for. We want players to buy in, to be part of what we're trying to do as a team and sacrifice. We're really watching to see who's willing to do that."

In terms of positional battles, the one to watch is between the pipes, where returnees Linden Rowat and Damien Ketlo will have to fend off challenges from highly touted rookies Dawson Guhle and Derek Tendler. Those youngsters could also be pushed by prospect Cory Nygaard.

"Dawson and Derek are both quality goaltenders that are ready to take the (next) step and we fully expect they're going to push both our (veteran) guys," noted Parker. "It wouldn't shock me if those two ended up being our goaltenders. It wouldn't shock me if the two returning guys were our goalies. It'll be an interesting competition."

On the back end, veterans Colten Teubert and Matt Delahey are expected to anchor a blueline with plenty of candidates but lots of question marks. One of them is promising veteran Alex Pym, who's looking to establish himself as a top-four defenceman after a strong finish to an otherwise-frustrating sophomore campaign.

Barring something unforeseen, 2008 first-round pick Myles Bell will be a regular this season, while second-rounder Tyler Borstmayer also challenges for a spot. It could be a make-or-break camp for several part-timers from last season, including Kolten Miller, Dominic Perrault, Justin Slobozian and Travis Sparrow.

The decision of veteran Mike Scarborough to join the university ranks could also open the door for young newcomers like Aaron Enns, Brandon Davidson and Shamus Graham, plus journeymen Ty Ariss, a Regina product and former top WHL prospect who's getting a tryout after stops with Moose Jaw, Portland and the SJHL's Estevan Bruins. Rookies Tyler Pavkovich and Hudson Friesen could also challenge but may need another year in midget AAA.

"We think we have 10 or 12 guys who are all capable of making our club," noted Parker. "It's just a matter of what the composition of that eight guys ends up being and who steps to the forefront in camp and the pre-season."

Up front, there are 11 potential returnees, led by the usual suspects like Jordan Eberle, Jordan Weal, Brett Leffler and Garrett Mitchell. There are also several young players looking to step up from limited or part-time roles, including Dominick Favreau, Graham Hood, Clarke Breitkreuz and Kyle Mulder. Rookie Andrew Rieder is a good bet to earn a job after a productive season with the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians and a solid late-season audition with the WHL club. Dyson Stevenson and Lucas Froese are the other primary rookie challengers.

Veteran Jason Gardiner, picked up in the spring from Tri-City for Neal Prokop, is looking to find his place on the roster, as is rookie import Michal Poletin. The club is also offering a fresh start for castoff Brayden Metz, another local boy and former high Pats draft pick who had stints last season with Chilliwack and Moose Jaw before finishing the season with the SJHL's Melville Millionaires. Metz will get a chance to audition as the team's No. 2 centre.

gharder@leaderpost.canwest.com
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