He’s a bigger, older and more mature. And after playing all the way to the Canadian midget hockey championship with the Saskatoon Contacts last season, the Kelowna Rockets are high on 2011 first round pick Rourke Chartier.
Chartier was in Kelowna last week working out at the Rockets’ gym. The Saskatoon native is hoping he can take another step this year in his development and make the Rockets team out of training camp.
“Last year when I came to camp it was a feeling out process,” said Chartier. “I didn’t really know what to expect. This year I will know more about what is going on and feel more comfortable. I’d like to make the team out of camp.”
Chartier was in Kelowna this week working out alongside former Kelowna Rockets’ players Brandon McMillan of the Anaheim Ducks and Brett Lyon, the 20-year-old power forward who is calling Kelowna home this summer.
It was an eye opener for the 16-year-old Saskatoon native to workout with a guy like McMillan, who has over 80 games of NHL action under his belt.
“It’s cool to see them,” he admitted. “Those are guys you watch and you think that’s where you want to be.”
Last season was Chartier’s first as a midget player and he made an impact with the Contacts, Saskatoons’s top midget AAA team. He finsihed second in team scoring with 23 goals and 34 assists for 57 points in 42 games.
The Rockets are hoping the 5-foot-10 centre can transition into a top forward in the WHL.
“Rourke is a player that we believe will become one of our leading scorers within a few years,” said Rockets’ head coach Ryan Huska. “He sees the ice very well and is a very intelligent player.”
Last season was almost as good as it could get for Chartier. After his team won the Saskatchewan AAA league, they advanced to the Telus Cup, the Canadian midget hockey championships. His team lost out in the semi-final game but won the bronze medal game.
“It was really exciting,” he said. “We had a long layoff before the championship and I think it took us a bit to get back into it. But we kept improving throughout the week. It was tough losing in the semi but it was a good experience overall.”
Now Chartier is focussed on getting stronger as he prepares for his second Rockets’ training camp. Making the jump from bantam to midget last year was a step up in the competition he faced. But if he is to make the Rockets he will be squaring off against bigger and tougher opponents.
“I have to keep working hard and keeping getting ready,” he said. “It’s really important that you are in the best shape that you can be. Anything you can do off the ice is going to help your game on the ice.”
Rockets training camp is set for late August.