Forward Josh Kobelka is among the returning veterans on the KIJHL's Kelowna Chiefs this season.

Youthful Chiefs play home opener Friday

Kelowna hosts Chase Heat for first KIJHL game of season at Rutland Arena

With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Kelowna Chiefs may take some time to reach their full potential.

If that’s the case, the KIJHL team’s general manager expects the payoff will be well worth the wait.

“We are younger than we’ve been for a while, we’ve had some good young players step up and make the team,” said Chiefs’ GM Grant Sheridan. “This year is about building the team, and with young players, you expect to get better as the season progresses.

“The hunger is there and we’re excited to see what they can do.”

Following a respectable 1-1-1 start to the 2015-16 season last weekend on the road, the Chiefs will play their home opener tonight against the Chase Heat. Face off at Rutland Arena is 7 p.m.

The Chiefs may be young but that doesn’t mean they will be short on veteran talent.

Among the key returnees is goaltender Brady Lenardon, forwards Ryan Lawson, Dakota Kittle, Jonathan Lee and Josh Kobelka, along with defensemen Josh Johnston, Josh Baird and Kevin Roth.

The crop of newcomers includes defencemen Joel Scrimbit and forward Jaden McNulty, both of whom played with the B.C.-champion midget tier 1 Kelowna Rockets last season.

Jason Tansem is back for his second season as head coach and will be assisted by newcomers Ryan Jorde and Lenny Rampone.

Sheridan expects competition will again be stiff within the Okanagan Division and all across the KIJHL.

“The league is very strong,” said Sheridan. “There are a lot of good teams and there won’t be a lot of easy games out there.”

Sheridan added that the fan, community and corporate support continues to grow each year as the Chiefs kick off their sixth season in Kelowna.

Friday’s home opener will serve as a fundraiser for the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club. and is co-sponsored by the Chiefs and Capri Insurance.