The largely new-look Okanagan Rockets will tune up for the 2014-15 B.C. Major Midget League season this weekend with the league’s annual Icebreaker tourney at the Capital News Centre.
The Rockets and South Delta Academy will kick off the 12-team event Friday at 4 p.m.
Okanagan will also face the Thompson Blazers and Okanagan Hockey Academy on Saturday, then close out the weekend against Pacific Coast Academy from Vancouver Island on Sunday morning.
Under the guidance of new head coach Simon Ferguson, the defending champion Rockets have about 40 players remaining on the training camp roster, but will be looking to trim that down to 20 by the start of next week.
The only two players who are candidates to return are forward Mark Krabben and defenceman Mitchell Oliver, both of whom are currently at BCHL camps—neither is a guarantee.
“It’s the same process each year, we are used to it,” said Rockets GM David Michaud. “I fully expect returning players Mitchell Oliver, and Mark Krabben to get long looks in Vernon and Victoria respectively, as usual, we will just have to be patient and see who comes back, or doesn’t. We hope they come back, but if not, we’re confident with our talent base we will find a way to fill those spots.”
With a minimum of 18 players moving on, it is a season of considerable change for the Rockets who Michaud said won’t have the same offensive punch as last year’s championship team, but will be “workmanlike, and bigger and meaner.”
Among the most highly-touted newcomers are a pair of 1999-born players—defenceman Nolan Kneen (North Shore), a third overall bantam pick of the Kamloops Blazers, and local product Lucas Cullen, a the captain of the Kelowna bantam AAA Rockets.
If the Rockets can have their roster finalized by Sunday night, Michaud said it will give Ferguson and assistant Dave Whistle two full weeks to get to know this year’s revamped roster and to prepare for the start of the season.
The Rockets will take on the Northeast Chiefs in the home opener Saturday, Sept. 20 at the Capital News Centre.