It’s that time of the year again as WHL teams including the Kelowna Rockets send players off to chase their hockey dreams for the opportunity to one day play in the NHL.
A full 10 players from the Rockets will attend NHL training camps, leaving the Rockets camp to get a taste of the NHL.
The rest of the Rockets will be playing a home and home with the Kamloops Blazers starting at Prospera Place on Friday night.
The two game weekend will close out the preseason for Kelowna.
Assistant coach Kris Mallette says with the roster being short due to players going to NHL camps, it gives younger players trying to make the club that much more opportunity.
“Every year the expectation for our team is that when players are out of the lineup, new players are seizing the moment,” Mallette said. “We’ve got a good group of young players that are going to get that experience while these guys are away.”
They already had a taste of what’s to come when they beat the Blazers 6-4 on Tuesday night without any of their drafted players dressed that evening.
Mallette said for junior coaches, it’s a good feeling sending players to NHL camps.
“This is what they’re here for. First and foremost we want to shape these guys into good young men, but when these players come into the Western Hockey League the dream for most of them is to try to make it to the NHL,” Mallette said. “So when they’re able to get their foot in the door and be drafted or get a free agent tryout, it’s good to be able to play a small part in getting them to where they need to be.”
The Rockets 10 players to NHL camps this season are:
Braydyn Chizen – Minnesota Wild
Dillon Dube – Calgary Flames
Cal Foote – Tampa Bay Lightning
Lucas Johansen – Washington Capitals
Kole Lind – Vancouver Canucks
Nick Merkley – Arizona Coyotes
Tomas Soustal – Free Agent Tryout with Dallas Stars
Devante Stephens – Buffalo Sabres
Calvin Thurkauf – Columbus Blue Jackets
Carsen Twarynski – Philadelphia Flyers
Many of the players are expected back with the Rockets, however the time of the player’s return is up to the NHL teams.
The Rockets open the WHL regular season Sept. 22.