Considerable player turnover from year to year is one of the inevitabilities of junior A hockey.
The 2014-15 BCHL campaign will be no different for Rylan Ferster whose West Kelowna Warriors will have no fewer than 12 new faces in the lineup this season.
Nine veteran returnees and two summer acquisitions will be joined by about 30 newcomers for the start of Warriors’ training camp on Friday at Royal LePage.
Key returnees expected to lead the club this season include goaltender Andy Desautels, along with forwards Jason Cotton, Jordan Masters and Liam Blackburn.
“We’re not returning a whole lot but we’re returning some pretty good players,” said Ferster. “Obviously having our No. 1 goaltender (Desautels) back is big for us. He was very good last season.”
With the departure of five defenseman from last year’s squad, including the invaluable Adam Plant, Ferster expects the blue line corps will be a work in progress early in the season.
“With only two guys back, it’s really an unknown part of our hockey club at this point,” said Ferster. “The guys we’ve recruited, we don’t know for sure what we’re getting until we see them working together as a group, and then slotting them in. Any time you have a big changeover, you have question marks. We’ll be younger and inexperienced but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a good group back there.”
Ferster is encouraged by the arrival of 18-year-old defenceman Rylan Yaremko, who played last season with Spruce Grove of the AJHL.
“We saw him in spring camp and he looked good,” he said.
Also New to the mix are a pair of forwards acquired in the off-season—Dante Hahn from the Victoria Grizzlies and Vernon native Michael Roberts who played last season in Surrey and Salmon Arm.
“We expect Hahn to be a top-six forward for us,” Ferster said. “We think we’ve recruited some pretty good players. Now we’ll wait and see how things shape up.”
Ferster said he expects to keep 21 or 22 players on the roster to start the season.
Because the Warriors will have an abundance of new faces this season, Ferster has extended his club’s exhibition schedule from four to six games.
“I thought we’d better play a couple more games so we can give our team time to come together and find out what we’ve got,” he said.
The Warriors will open their BCHL exhibition schedule this Sunday against the Merritt Centennials. Face off is 7 p.m.
The teams will meet again Monday in Merritt.