With players gradually returning from NHL camps one by one, a semblance of order is making its way back into the Kelowna Rockets’ preparations for the 2013-14 WHL campaign.
As of Monday night, the club had all but three players back in the fold, with only Damon Severson (New Jersey), Myles Bell (New Jersey) and Ryan Olsen (Winnipeg) remaining with their NHL teams.
“We’re getting there,” head coach Ryan Huska said of the team’s gradually increasing roster. “It’s tough to run practises the way you would like with the lower numbers, but at the same time it’s been a nice change. We’ve been able to focus a little more on teaching individually and that’s not something you get a lot of time to do once the season is here. It’s been different but good.”
Huska said while Olsen is expected back any day, Severson and Bell could quite possibly remain with the Devils for another week or more.
Madison Bowey (Washington) and Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia) both returned to the club this week, while Jesse Lees (Boston) and Colton Heffley (Minnesota) got back into town last week.
All in all, sending nine players to NHL camps—the third most among WHL teams—has been a valuable exercise, both from an individual and a team standpoint.
“I think the confidence the players gain is the biggest thing,” Huska said. “They all come back feeling pretty good about themselves, they get that experience of sort of realizing their dream by putting on an NHL jersey. They also realize the things they have to work on and quite often come back and spend a lot of time on those aspects of their games. It’s good for them and it’s good for out team as a whole.”
On Monday, the Rockets had 22 players in town, including the injured Mitchell Wheaton and Carter Rigby. Both are recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and won’t be available for the start of the regular season.
Kelowna kicks off 2013-14 WHL campaign this weekend with a home-and-home set against the Kamloops Blazers. The clubs will meet Friday at Interior Savings Centre, then again Saturday in a 7 p.m. face off at Prospera Place.