To say absolutely no job is secure heading into the club’s main training camp would be an unrealistic assessment of the Kelowna Rockets of 2013-14.
Still, with more than 50 players taking to the ice this week at Prospera Place, head coach Ryan Huska expects competition to be intense not only for open spots, but for some of those positions already occupied by returning players.
“If you look at our team and the spots that are available, it means you’re going to see a lot of competition for those throughout our camp,” said Huska. “But there’s going to be lot of internal competition, too. We have guys who are knocking on the door right now and we’ll see if they can move up and take spots away from some of the other guys who were here last year. That’s the kind of competition you want at training camp.”
Other than the exit of the club’s three 20-year-old players from last season—Dylen McKinlay, Cody Fowlie and JT Barnett—the Rockets’ on-ice personnel losses will be few this season. Captain Colton Sissons, who is expected to turn pro, is unlikely to return from the camp of the Nashville Predators, while 20-year-old New Jersey draft pick Myles Bell may also find employment in the pro ranks.
After a record-setting 52-win regular season in 2012-13 and no fewer than 21 players returning, expectations are understandably high for the Rockets this season.
Still, regardless of his club’s past record and overall depth, Huska said 2013-14 begins with a clean slate.
“I think you have to move away from last year and start from scratch,” Huska said. “Our expectations are only those that we put on ourselves, not what everybody else thinks.
“The challenge for our players is that they can’t rest on what they’ve done, they need to continue pushing to get better.”
Several of the club’s 2013 draft picks, including centre Dillon Dube, will spend part of this week at training camp before being returned to their respective minor programs across Western Canada.
In addition, nine Rockets will head to NHL training camps next week: Colton Sissons (Nashville), Myles Bell (N.J.) Damon Severson (N.J.), Ryan Olsen (Wpg), Tyrell Goulbourne (Phil), Madison Bowey (Wash), Mitchell Wheaton (Det), Jesse Lees (Bos) and Colton Heffley (Minn).
Rockets main training camp runs from Tuesday through Friday morning at Prospera Place, with practises and scrimmages held daily.
The Rockets kick off their exhibition schedule this Friday at Prospera as they host the Kamloops Blazers in a 7:05 a.m. start.