Friday, August 27, 2010

Small world, ain't it?

This isn't Klipper-related, but I have to mention it.

The Notre Dame Hounds have hired a new assistant coach. His name is Connor Cameron, and he's originally from Kinkora, PEI, about 15 minutes from where I grew up.

Connor was a forward with the UPEI Panthers when I covered that team for a couple years before moving out here. I once wrote a feature on him after he had surgery to repair a hip injury and it went horribly wrong, crushing a nerve connected to his leg and forcing him out of hockey for two years. He'd be about 24 now, I think.

It's not surprising, considering the Hounds' new head coach, Kevin White, starred at UPEI years ago. Connor's father, Dave Cameron, is the head coach of Canada's world junior team this year and also played in the NHL.

I'll be sure to track these guys down Dec. 9 when Notre Dame makes their first visit to Kindersley.

Looking forward to camp battles

Training camp starts Sept. 4 in Eston - eight days from now.

For a team with only three grads, you'd think there wouldn't be a lot of competition for spots. And while there won't be a ton of players invited - my guess would be around 35 - there should be some interesting battles at every position.

With some of the talent coming in, don't be too surprised if a returning player doesn't hang onto his spot.

Up front, Andrew Dommett, Braeden Adamyk, Johnny Calkins, Taylor Duzan and Sanfred King will play on the top two lines, with the likes of Jordon Hoffman, Braeden Johnson, Ryan Benn and Tanner Exner also in the mix.

Grinders Taylor Wasden, Jesse Mysiorek and Beau Taylor are back, and newly signed forwards Brett Penner, Pearce Gourley, Justin Gerwing and Kiley Long will be looking to grab spots as well.

Then there's the case of local boy Riley Down, a natural defenceman who was shifted to the wing at times last year to get him some ice time. He excelled as a forward down the stretch and in the playoffs, scoring some crucial goals for the Klips. With all those forwards, you'd think Down would go back to defence, but he played on a line with Benn and Mysiorek at summer camp. Personally, I think he's more effective on a checking unit, where he immediately becomes the biggest forward on the team.

Speaking of the blueline, Steven Turner was the only grad. It's also looking like 19-year-old David Ahl, a mid-season acquisition, won't be back.

That leaves 20-year-olds Kurt Leedahl and John Sonntag, who will anchor the unit, along with Lance Tabin and Kindersley's Sean Flanagan.

Brett Blatz and Nick Eliason will be in the mix for the last three spots, but don't be surprised if Wintoneak adds a top four rearguard via trade and maybe a depth defenceman as well.

In goal, 20-year-old Scott Hellyer has the inside track for starting duties, but will be pushed in camp by '92 Justin McDonald, '93 Patrick Johnson and a fourth goaltender.

I'm not looking forward to more trips to Eston, and the organization can't wait to get back into its own digs, but you have to admire and respect the hospitality shown by the town of Eston, the rec board and community at large over the past eight months. The two towns have always been hated hockey rivals but this whole thing has shown Kindersley that there are some awfully good people in Eston.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Don't forget about Wasden

Today is Taylor Wasden's 19th birthday (seriously, what did we ever do before Facebook?)

With all the talk about the returning Dommett-Calkins-Adamyk line along with Taylor Duzan up front, Wasden has been a bit of an afterthought. Which isn't surprising, considering the feisty right winger missed almost all of last season after tearing his ACL in the 10th game of the year.

The Saskatoon product had scored in his first and only SJHL game the previous season and gave the Klippers a physical presence in their bottom six, something they often don't have enough of. Then he blew out the knee in a Oct. 13 game against Weyburn and was lost for the year.

Wasden knew all along he wouldn't be able to skate again until the off-season, but he stuck with the team, buying into long road trips and being at the rink early to prepare, even though he was reduced to being a spectator. He was dying to get back on the ice, especially during that heart-stopping conference final against Yorkton, when the Terriers pounded the Klippers around on a few occasions.

It was a learning experience for the pesky 6'1" winger and he looked terrific in intra-squad action during the summer camp earlier this month. Wasden possesses an intriguing mix of truculence (thanks, Brian Burke), speed and good hands. The top six group is more or less set, with at least seven other players making a claim for that ice, but look for Wasden to chip in a few points on the third line while wearing down the opposition. Next year, he should get a chance to play top six minutes as a 20-year-old.

Wasden isn't the only Klipper bouncing back from a devastating injury. Sanfred King broke his femur in January 2009 as a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Larry Wintoneak feels he still has another gear or two in him. It's remarkable King is playing hockey at all after such a gruesome injury.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two SJ teams trade with Brooks

According to the SJHL site, the Brooks Bandits have made trades with Estevan and Melfort.

The Bruins sent Devin Mitzner to Brooks for 19-year-old forward Richard Hubscher (49-6-11-19). Melfort acquired 18-year-old forward Connor Bradshaw (40-3-6-9) for futures.

Don't forget, Mitzner was a threat for the league scoring title last year until Flin Flon dealt him to Estevan, where he didn't report at first. After five games, he was sent to Dauphin for their RBC run. The deal had Mitzner coming back to the Bruins this year, and now they've traded him again before camp.

Rumours floated last year that Mitzner might not be the greatest thing since Yzerman in the locker room, and given the value teams have gotten for him in trades, there could be something to that. The Bombers shipped him out for a solid but lesser-talented forward in Brody Haygarth in the midst of a first-place season - which made a lot of people go hmm.

Now the B's - who have loaded up like crazy this summer - are trading him for a forward who is younger, but whose stats aren't blowing anyone away.

Bruins coach Karry Biette has said Mitzner wanted to play in his home province of Alberta, so maybe that's all there is to it.

Either way, the Klippers and the rest of the Sherwood are probably happy to get the sniper out of their conference.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hellyer returning to Kindersley

My last post mentioned that it was unknown whether Scott Hellyer would return to the Klippers this season. I can now confirm that Hellyer will be back in Kindersley for his last year of junior. The 20-year-old goalie is the odds-on favourite for the starting job after looking great in limited action following his acquisition last December. But he will face competition in camp from Justin McDonald ('92) and Patrick Johnson ('93).

With the loss of Josh Thorimbert, the goaltending scenario will be intriguing to watch heading into the season.

Thoughts on the post-camp signings

The Klippers signed six players immediately after their summer evaluation camp earlier this month. It was on a Sunday. Because I was leaving for vacation at home in PEI the next day, and still had a landfill's worth of work to finish before I could leave (including a frickin' 19-inning senior ball provincial final), I whipped off a quick story for the Clarion and didn't have time to go into much detail.

Two weeks later, I'm back from my R&R. Here are some thoughts on the newest Klippers, all 18-year-olds:

Justin McDonald, G (Beardy's Blackhawks)
2009-10: 28 GP, 14-9, 3.69 GAA, .895 SP, 2 shutouts

McDonald's average and save percentage don't look great, and he did lose the starting job to fellow '92 Brandon Thiessen in the playoffs. But don't be too put off by the numbers; the 3.69 GAA is pretty consistent with the goals-against numbers for most teams in the SMAAAHL. It's a fairly high-scoring league.

The Turtleford native will battle '93 goalie Patrick Johnson of the Saskatoon Contacts in training camp. Larry Wintoneak hinted after the summer camp that Scott Hellyer isn't a sure thing to return, so McDonald could even find himself as the starter depending on what happens. If Hellyer doesn't come back, Wintoneak will surely be in the market for a veteran puckstopper.

Braeden Johnson, LW (Saskatoon Blades/Blazers)
2009-10: 31-1-1-2 (Blades); 13-4-11-15 (Blazers)

Johnson started the year with the WHL Blades before being sent back to midget. The Klippers wanted to bring him in for the rest of the season, but he opted to stick with the comforts of home in Saskatoon. He did play a handful of games in February and in the playoffs, after the Blazers' season was over.

There was the odd glaring rookie mistake, but Johnson fit in well on the attack, spending most of his time in a top six role. He has puck skills coming out the wazoo and should be an impact player at the SJHL level if he doesn't wind up back in the Dub. Look for Johnson to settle in on the second line, probably alongside Sanfred King.

Pearce Gourley, LW (Saskatoon Blazers)
2009-10: 39-17-12-29, 51 PIM

Gourley was at main camp last season and impressed me with his blend of physical play and a nose for the net. I was a little surprised when he didn't crack the line-up. Should fit in nicely as a bottom six winger with the ability to score 8-10 goals. I'd compare him to Jesse Mysiorek last year, with a little more production.

Justin Gerwing, LW (Saskatoon Blazers)
2009-10: 35-3-9-12, 68 PIM

The Klippers continued their assault on Blazers left wingers by carding Gerwing, another player who had a solid training camp in 2009. The Saskatoon product will also be earmarked for the bottom two lines. Wintoneak called him a speedy player who likes the rough stuff.

Brett Penner, C (Swift Current Legionnaires)
2009-10: 42-21-24-45, 100 PIM

Penner is a natural winger, but Larry plans to convert him to a centre. Odds are he'll start out in the bottom six, where his physical play should be a good fit. The Medstead native played one game for the Klippers as an emergency call-up against Battlefords in February and had a fairly non-descript game, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a midget player. The story of how he got to Eston is a little more interesting: after practicing with the Legionnaires and with Chilliwack (who own his rights) that morning in Swift Current, Penner got the call from the Klippers at 4:30 p.m. and arrived in time for the 7 p.m. game.

Kiley Long, LW (Beardy's Blackhawks)
2009-10: 40-1-4-5, 51 PIM

I'm not as familiar with Long as some of the other players, although I did see him in an intra-squad game at summer camp. He was given a chance to show his stuff on a line with Jordon Hoffman and Tanner Exner and didn't look out of place. Last year's stats don't look like much, and his PIM totals wouldn't suggest an enforcer role - not to mention his 5'9", 175-pound frame.

Two '93 defencemen, Brett Blatz (Beardy's) and Nick Eliason (Contacts) were also offered cards. No word yet on whether they've joined the fold. Blatz posted 12 points and 32 PIM last year; Eliason had 24 points and 26 PIM.

C'mon in, make yourself at home.

There are some excellent blogs out there that track various SJHL teams. Craig Stein's coverage of Yorkton and Melville and Dan O'Connor's blog on the Battlefords North Stars are only a couple of examples.

Former Klippers play-by-play man Ryan Tunall did a great job with his blog before moving to Lethbridge, but there has been a void since then and I've long felt it would be tons of fun to take the torch, so to speak, and start up a Klipper blog of my own.

You can expect new information and analysis almost on a daily basis, with game previews and recaps, audio clips of interviews with head coach Larry Wintoneak and various players, and my own deranged opinions from time to time. I'll also post Klipper-related stories that appear in the Kindersley Clarion each Wednesday.

And if I can find a willing partner, I'd love to do a weekly podcast with discussion on the Klippers and the rest of the SJHL. If you're interested in co-hosting a project like this, let me know!

It should be an exciting season for the Klips, who will surely be considered among the early favourites for the Credit Union Cup. I can't wait to get started.