After a few vigorous days of training camp, and the Annual Intra-squad game, the Brandon Wheat Kings have cut their preseason roster down to 33.
"I thought we had a pretty competitive camp. We had four teams at rookie camp, with all players being born in 2001 and 2002, and then we added some of those players to the main camp,” said Head Coach of the Wheat Kings, David Anning. “Then our veteran players and older list players hit the ice for the main camp, and that was very competitive. We had about 60 players which made up three teams. Seven of the 33 are at NHL camps right now. Our group looks pretty good so far, and we’re looking forward to getting into some game action this weekend against Regina.
The Wheat Kings, who went 31-31-7 last season, will kick off their four game preseason schedule against the Pats this Friday at Westman Place, before hitting the road for game number two on Saturday in Regina.
“Our expectation this year is to definitely improve. Last year we had a younger group, and we kept four-16-year-olds,” said Anning. “Now we need our younger players who are turning into veterans to improve, and we need them to take responsibility because their roles increase. We will lose some goal scoring, so we need some guys to pick up that slack. We have some good young guys pushing it, so we're definitely excited.”
The Wheat Kings have a rich history as far as success and moving on players to the next level, most recently, Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia Flyers), Nolan Patrick (Philadelphia Flyers), and Jayce Hawryluk (Florida Panthers). The organization's success includes making it to the WHL final three times since the 2003-2004 season, and back to back times in 2014-15 and 2015-16 which included winning the Championship in 2015-16.
“Our program is built on team success, and individual success,” said Anning. “We pride ourselves on developing players so they are ready for the professional ranks, and what lies ahead. We want to help these young kids prepare for the next level, and help get them there.”
The Brandon Wheat Kings will rely heavily this season on players like Tanner Kaspick, Kale Clague and guys who are going into their fourth year in the league.
“The WHL is a league that relies on their older players, so those are a couple guys that need to be good for us,” said Anning. They need to provide leadership and show some of the young guys the way.
Logan Thompson will also return between the pipes for the Wheat Kings.
“We think he is one of the best goalies in the Eastern Conference.” said Anning.
For anyone in our area that is thinking of heading to a Wheat Kings game this year, Anning had this to say.
“The WHL is an exciting brand of hockey, and every time you take in a game, you can appreciate the intensity, the speed of the game, and were a group that has always had a lot of local players, whether that be the Parkland area, Westman or Manitoba in general,” said Anning. “There is usually a player that a fan has paid attention to because they’re local. The biggest thing is a lot of these players are soon to be professional athletes. Whenever you come to a Wheat Kings game, you always leave happy.”
For more on the Wheat Kings, and to get your game tickets, visit wheatkings.com.
David Anning was an Assistant Coach in the 2010 season for the Dauphin Kings when they won the Anavet Cup. Anning also spent time with the former Winnipeg Saints and Steinbach Pistons in the MJHL.
The 30-year-old Winnipeg native is set to enter his second season as the Head Coach for the Wheat Kings.