Assistant coach Dan Lambert has plenty of depth and skill to work with on the Kelowna Rockets defensive corps this season.

Patience with D corps nets rewards for Rockets

WHL team returns entire blue line group, expected to be one of league's best in 2013-14

For the last three seasons, the Kelowna Rockets have exercised patience and tolerance in the nurturing and development of their defensive corps.

In 2013-14, with dues paid and growing pains mostly in the past, the Western Hockey League club is ready to reap the dividends.

“We feel the back end is the strength of our team,” said Rockets’ assistant coach Dan Lambert. “When you look at it, we’ve now been playing with most of these guys for three years at least. Certainly we’ve had our growing pains over the years but these guys, in my opinion, have all taken huge strides in every aspect of their games.

“Hopefully this year we’re going to see some rewards for staying patient, and for them for all the hard work they’ve put in.”

Led by the likes Damon Severson and Madison Bowey, the Rockets are expected to return their entire defensive group in 2013-14.

Developing players from within the system has been a longstanding philosophy of the Rockets, with this year’s blue line corps as a prime example.

Seven of the nine defensemen on the current roster are the club’s WHL draft picks, while the two others were listed by the Rockets.

“That’s what we try to do is build and develop from within,” said Rockets’ head scout and assistant GM Lorne Frey. “I think we’ve been pretty fortunate to get some of the kids we have, but I think the coaches have done a great job with this group, too. We’ve been patient, stuck with them and they’ve continually gotten better.

“You have to have a good D to compete in any league, so we’re going into this season in a pretty good place.”

The longest-serving and senior member of the Rockets defense, MacKenzie Johnston, is heading into his fifth and final season with the club.

In addition to overall depth, the Swift Current native considers diversity as another strength of Kelowna’s back-end crew.

“We’re definitely lucky to have the group we have,” said Johnston, 19. “We have all different types, guys with lots of experience, guys who are good puck movers like Sever, (Jesse) Lees and Bowey, bigger guys like Mitch (Wheaton) and I…younger guys who really fit into well.

“It’s a great group, there’s a real variety, a great mix of guys and I’m looking forward to this season with all of them.”

Still, as solid as the Rockets defensive corps looks on paper, Johnston said he and his teammates still have to deliver those expectations on the ice.

“We haven’t played any games yet and we still have to prove ourselves,” Johnston added. “We won’t be satisfied until we get the job done on the ice. We need to show we can live up to the expectations.”

Rocket Shots…D Jesse Lees (Boston) and C Colton Heffley (Minnesota) have returned to the Rockets from their respective NHL rookie camps. Attending NHL main camps this week are: Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia), Damon Severson (New Jersey), Myles Bell (New Jersey), Madison Bowey (Washington) and Ryan Olsen (Winnipeg)…The Rockets open the WHL regular season Friday, Sept. 20 in Kamloops, with their home opener set for the following night against the Blazers at Prospera Place.



Just Posted

Okanagan Lake levels stay steady but snowpack is growing: officials

Whether or not the tributaries and creeks flood depends on how suddenly the snowpack begins to melt,

Kelowna council approves rental housing project

Plan for former packinghouse site calls for 148 rental units

Kelowna crew knocks down attic fire in Rutland

No one home at the time as Kelowna Fire Department extinguishes small blaze on Cactus Road

Okanagan realtors add voices to anti-speculation tax coalition

This speculation tax is likely to harm the very people the government is trying to protect

Bolt cutters and bear spray used in Kelowna break-in

“Both suspects were taken into police custody…”

Sunshine and above-average temperatures all week

We can expect to enjoy this warm sunshine all week long

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

Penticton robbery trial starts days before accused’s murder trial

Narcotics, cash stolen from pharmacy; accused scheduled for murder trial next week in Abbotsford

Judith Guichon steps down as Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

Election decision didn’t make her best moments from the past six years

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

Toronto songstress shares indie vibes with Okanagan

Emma Cook will rock Penticton’s The Elite April 28 before she hits Vernon’s Record City April 29

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Student produces gun at Princeton Secondary School

Starter pistol confiscated, RCMP are investigating

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Most Read