With depth at every position, the Okanagan Rockets believe they’ve compiled a roster that can take another serious run at a B.C. Major Midget League title.
Last year’s league finalists will carry 20 players into the 2013-14 campaign, including seven returnees.
GM David Michaud said experience will be one of the vital ingredients of this year’s Rockets squad.
“The biggest thing that stands out is our age; we have 10 17-year-olds, so I would say we’re probably the oldest team in the league,” said Michaud. “Some of that is a byproduct of being so close last year and losing. A lot of our 16-year-olds said they wanted to come back and get it right this time. The success we had also attracted some other guys from around the valley, so we like our team a lot.”
At forward, the Rockets will be led by returning captain Brendan Wagner and Liam Finley, both of whom finished in the top four in BCMML scoring last season. Add in WHL first-rounders Jake Kryski (Prince Albert, traded to Kamloops) and Tyson Jost (Everett), along with former Kelowna midget tier 1 forward Kobe Oishi (74 points) and Michaud said the Rockets will have a dynamic group up front.
“I’m over the moon about our forwards,” he said. “The common theme is they all can skate and all have an offensive upside. There’s a nice mix between physicality and skill. One thing I’ve bought into is that speed wins.”
Veteran returnees Gen Bryshun and Josh Johnston, along with POE transfer Tanner Browne, will lead the blue line corps.
In goal, Reid Kilburn will look to follow up on a stellar rookie season.
The Rockets are all-new behind the bench with 25-year-old head coach Mack O’Rourke being assisted by a veteran of European coaching, Dave Whistle.
“This is a good pair of guys to have together,” said Michaud. “Our players have a lot of confidence in them.”
As part of the evaluation process for this year’s squad, the Rockets hosted an eight-team pre-season tournament last weekend in West Kelowna. The Rockets went 3-1 with victories over POE, Burnaby and South Delta, and a loss to OHA.
The Rockets close out their exhibition season this weekend with two games at CNC— 7 p.m. Friday against the Thompson Blazers and Saturday, 6 p.m. vs Cariboo Cougars.
The regular season kicks off Sept. 21 and 22 when the Rockets host the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.
The Pursuit of Excellence U18 varsity squad posted a 2-2 record at the Ice Breaker tournament, scoring wins over Kootenay and Compete Hockey Academy, and losing to the host Rockets and Cariboo Cougars.
POE head coach Ryan Wade was generally pleased with what he saw as the final roster for 2013-14 is taking shape.
“We gave a bunch of different guys a look, a chance to see what they could do at the U18 level,” said Wade, in his second season at the helm. “That’s what this was for, to see how kids react in certain situations. We’re getting close on the roster, we’ve got a couple of decisions to make yet but we’re almost there.”
POE’s roster this season will include highly-touted centre Tyler Benson, the first overall pick of the Vancouver Giants in the 2013 WHL bantam draft.
POE will play this season in the North American Prospects Hockey League.