The Kamloops Blazers’ annual rookie camp wound down on Saturday at the Sandman Centre. When the WHL’s main camp opens this morning (Sunday) there were to be 60 players on hand, 35 of those held over from the two-day rookie camp.
Those 60 players have been split into three teams. They will practice this morning between 8:30 and noon, with scrimmages, all of which or open to fans, scheduled for 4, 5:15 and 6:30 p.m.
In Saturday’s rookie scrimmages, F Connor Zary of Saskatoon, a second-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft, scored three times, giving him a camp total of six in as many games.
D Luke Zazula and F Brodi Stuart also had three goals each on Saturday. Zazula and Stuart, both fourth-round selections in 2015, are considered to have good chances to open the season on the Blazers’ roster.
Here’s a quick look at Saturday’s scrimmages, thanks to Tim O’Donovan, the Blazers’ director of hockey/media administration . . .
Team Grey 4, Team Black 3 — Grey: Michael McCosh, Adrien Belanger, Kaiden Collumb, Brandon Paolera; Black: Jerzy Orchard, Connor Zary, Luke Zazula. Winning goaltenders: Blake Wood, 12-12; Dawsen Savage, 8-11.
Team Orange 2, Team Black 0 — Orange: Ryley Appelt, Austin O’Neil. Winning goaltenders: Max Palaga, 6-6; Brendan Forman, 15-15.
Team Orange 2, Team Grey 1 — Orange: Massimo Rizzo, Tanner Bahm; Grey: Kyrell Sopotyk. Winning goaltenders: Max Palaga, 5-6; Brendan Forman, 8-8.
Team Grey 4, Team Orange 1 — Grey: Hayden Hirsch, Brandon Paolera, Yewta Plamondon, Jimmy Darby; Orange: Brodi Stuart. Winning goaltenders: Dawsen Savage, 8-8; Blake Wood, 16-17.
Team Grey 4, Team Black 3 (shootout) — Grey: Radek Hewson, Adrien Belanger, Dylan Robinson; Black: Luke Zazula, Jagger Prosofsky, Connor Zary. SOG — Black: Zazula; Grey: Michael McCosh, Kyrell Sopotyk. Winning goaltenders: Dawsen Savage, 10-10; Blake Wood, 14-17.
Team Orange 5, Team Black 2 — Orange: Luke Dyer, Braiden Koran, Tanner Bahm, Brodi Stuart (2); Black — Luke Zazula, Connor Zary. Winning goaltenders: Brandon Forman, 6-6; Max Palaga, 19-12.
It appears that the Blazers will have nine veteran players attend NHL rookie camps, which means the WHL team may be strapped for veteran players when it opens the WHL season.
Because of the World Cup of Hockey, NHL teams are opening training camps a few days later than normal. They also may have to keep players in camp a bit longer to enable them to fill rosters, depending on who is away at the WCOH.
That all will trickle down to the WHL, of course, meaning all 22 teams will be keeping a close eye on what is happening in order to be able to fill out rosters for late exhibition games and the start of the regular season.
The nine Blazers who will head to rookie camps won’t leave until mid-September. With the WHL regular-season to open on Sept. 23, any players held over to NHL main camps most certainly will miss a game or two, or perhaps even more.
Anyway, here’s a look at which Blazers will be going where . . .
G Connor Ingram (Tampa Bay Lightning) and F Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals) will play in a three-team tournament in Coral Springs, Fla., Sept. 17-20. The third team will be the host Florida Panthers.
F Deven Sideroff (Anaheim Ducks) and F Jermaine Loewen and Latvian F Rudolfs Balcers (both San Jose Sharks) will be in the three-team Rookie Showcase in Westminster, Colo., Sept. 17-19. The third team will be the Colorado Avalanche.
F Collin Shirley and D Dallas Valentine both will join the Edmonton Oilers and for the YoungStars tournament in Penticton, Sept. 16-19.
D Dawson Davidson and ex-Blazers F Gage Quinney, who has played out his junior eligibility, will be with the Pittsburgh Penguins at a tournament in London, Ont., Sept. 16-18. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens also will have rookie teams there.
D Ondrej Vala is going to camp with the Dallas Stars, so will play on their team that is in the 18th annual Traverse City, Mich., tournament. It runs from Sept. 16-20 and also features the Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.
Balcers, Ingram, Pilon and Sideroff are drafted players; the others all are free-agent invitees.
JUST NOTES: F Massimo Rizzo, the 15th overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft, played Saturday after sitting out Friday with an undisclosed injury. He scored once and is on the main camp roster, slotted in to centre veteran Deven Sideroff and Latvian newcomer Rudolfs Balcers on Team Black. Rizzo, from Burnaby, has yet to sign a WHL contract. Like all 15-year-olds, Rizzo isn’t eligible to play for the Blazers on a full-time basis this season, but is able to play five games until his club team’s season ends. . . . Three players from Kamloops — veteran F Nick Chyzowski and rookies Max Palaga, a 16-year-old goaltender, and Luke Recchi, a forward who is to turn 16 on Oct. 18— are on the main camp roster. Recchi is the son of Matt Recchi, the Blazers’ director of player personnel. Luke began the week in camp with the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials.
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