Will Reimer and the Okanagan Rockets will open the B.C. Major Midget League season Saturday at home to the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs. -Image: Douglas Farrow

Young skill abounds on Okanagan Rockets

Three first-round bantam draft picks join Kelowna-based BCMML team for 2017-18 season.

With three first-round 2017 bantam draft picks on their roster, the Okanagan Rockets won’t be short on rookie talent to start the 2017-18 B.C. Major Midget League season.

On the other hand, with a generally young team to coach and an abbreviated exhibition schedule to get prepared, Eric Blais plans to be exercising patience early in the new campaign.

Still, the head coach fully expects the Rockets to be contenders when all is said and done.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we get out of the gate a little bit slow,” said Blais, in his second season at the Rockets’ helm. “A lot of the teams on the coast have played six, seven games already and we’re nowhere near that.

“I think once we get going and get some games under our belts, we’re going to be very competitive. I like our team.”

The Rockets open up the new season this weekend at home to the Northeast Chiefs. Games go at the Capital News Centre on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m.

Okanagan will be led into battle this season by a quartet of returning veterans—forwards Mitchell Gove, Brandon Della Paolera and Will Reimer, and defenceman Palmer Jenkins.

The crop of 15-year-old rookies that has Blais particularly excited includes forward Jack Finley (sixth overall, Spokane) and Ben King (13th, Swift Current), and defenceman Tanner Brown (24th, Vancouver)

“We’re lucky to have three high-end 15-year-old players,” said Blais. “I’m looking forward to seeing them develop and a lot of our other young guys, too. We’re really happy with this group.”

Other newcomers expected to play key roles include forwards Nick Corrado and Brendan Boyle, and defenceman Remy Aquilon, all 16 this year.

A pair of WHL draft picks will tend goal for Okanagan this season—Cole Schwebius, property of the Seattle Thunderbirds, and Roman Basran, a third-round draft pick of the Kelowna Rockets in 2016.

As for his second tour of duty behind the Rockets bench, Blais plans to build on the experiences he gained last season.

“I feel better prepared,” said Blais, whose club finished third last season before losing in the opening round of the playoffs. “The boys returning know what’s expected of them and I also know better what to expect from them.

“It isn’t about winning at this level, it’s about getting the players ready for the next level,” he added. “If you do that, then the byproduct is getting some wins. The winning will take care of itself.”

The Rockets will head to the BCMML Showcase in Richmond next weekend, Sept. 29 and 30, but will play only in exhibition games against the Everett Silvertips U18 team.


Just Posted

Central Okanagan firefighters are battling wildfires across B.C.

Lake Country, Kelowna and Peachland crews are assisting the BC Wildfire Service

Oktopus to headline Music in the Park

The West Kelowna night of music will happen once again this Friday

Long-awaited John Hindle Drive in Kelowna just weeks away from completion

Ministry of Transportation says it plans to have the road open before the start of the school year

Blasting begins at Beachview Drive in West Kelowna

Blasting begins as part of residential development

Updated: RCMP no longer suspect death of Vernon woman is suspicious

West Kelowna RCMP continue to investigate the woman’s sudden death

A first-hand look at hazards facing scooter users

A Salmon Arm reporter tags along on a mobility scooter tour of the city to learn about safety hazards

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Man found not guilty in 2011 drug-related shooting in Shuswap

Judge rules Jeremy Davis couldn’t foresee his companion would kill 24-year-old Nick Larsen.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Hot, dry conditions forces drought rating to highest level on Vancouver Island

The province says Vancouver Island is under Stage 4 drought conditions

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

Parks Canada has ‘general concept’ in mind for South Okanagan-Similkameen

Minister Catherine McKenna will be providing a further update to representatives in Penticton Friday, August 17

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Most Read