View Full Version : the future

02-28-2006, 06:36 PM
Daily News Sports Editor www.blazerhockey.com

Like a horse farm gearing up for a run for the roses, the Kamloops Blazers signed another prospect earlier this month.

Defenceman Kurt Torbohm, a native of Chase and a 2005 bantam draft pick, signed a WHL contract in the team's office and then was introduced to the media.

It was just another indication that the somewhat lean times the franchise has suffered through on the ice may soon be coming to an end.

Oh, it may take another season or two for the fruits of the hockey department's labours to be harvested, but, yes, it would appear that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train.

The Blazers of recent seasons have been hamstrung because quite a number of high-profile bantam draft selections, especially from the 2000, 2001 and 2002 drafts, chose not to report. Players like forwards Brock Bradford, Matt Butcher, Matt Watkins, Robbie Earl, Blair Yaworski and Tim Wallace either went on to play in the NCAA or are ticketed to play there. As well, winger Kris Chucko, whose rights were obtained from the Brandon Wheat Kings, chose to attend the U of Minnesota. Defenceman David Hale, listed as a free agent, didn't show up.

While those players never did play here, they took up space on the Blazers' 50-player list, thus limiting the options available to the team.

Those days, however, would seem to be over.

Dean Clark, the Blazers' general manager and head coach, director of player personnel Randy Hansch and director of scouting Brian Fortin have been through two drafts together.

When Clark took over as general manager, he got together with Hansch, Fortin and the scouting staff and they identified what kind of players they wanted to play for the Blazers -- firstly, it was decided, they wanted players who would be hard to play against.

"Competitive first," Clark says, "then high skill, grittiness and determination.

"We redefined what we want as far as players are concerned. That's the kind of players we have drafted." Of the 22 players they have selected in the last two drafts, 20 remain on the Blazers' list. Centre Garrett Bailey of Vanscoy, Sask., taken 171st in the 2004 draft, and defenceman Alex McKinnon of Deloraine, Man., the 191st pick, have been dropped.

Of the 20 players who remain on the Blazers' list, 10 have signed WHL contracts, while at least four others are considered all but certain signees.

That doesn't take into account players like defencemen Mark Schneider and Joel Woznikoski.

Schneider, who is with the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings, is the son of former Wheat Kings captain Ken Schneider. Mark was added to the Blazers' list last year and this season had 13 points and 51 penalty minutes in 31 regular-season games.

Woznikoski, a freshman with the Pacific International junior league's Richmond Sockeyes, had seven points, including two goals, and 129 penalty minutes in 36 games. He has played one game with the Blazers this season. At 6-foot-3 and 165 pounds, Woznikoski needs to get bigger and stronger but he definitely is a prospect.

Five other prospective players -- goaltender Kurt Kramer, defenceman Jordan Rowley and forwards Tyler Shattock, Alex Rodgers and Brenden Dowd -- have gotten into games with the Blazers this season, too.

And, of course, three of those 20 players -- defenceman Garrett Thiessen, center C.J. Stretch and winger Travis Dunstall -- are on the Blazers' roster.

Anyone who has seen Stretch and Dunstall play in recent games has to believe that there are exciting times ahead.

The Blazers' future is in the hands -- and feet -- of young players such as these.

A look at Kamloops Blazers draft picks who figure in the WHL team's future plans (figures in parentheses show games played, goals, assists, points and penalty minutes, with statistics through games of Feb. 19):

1 (6). C Tyler Shattock, Kamloops-Thompson Blazers, major midget (32-19-18-37-73) ... Shattock, from Salmon Arm, is tied for eighth in the B.C. major midget league's scoring race.
2 (26). D Jordan Rowley, Edmonton South Side Athletic Club Boston Pizza Athletics, midget AAA (34-4-14-18-76) ... Smooth skater with great hockey sense ... Has played two games with Blazers. Made his WHL debut with a minus-4 in Moose Jaw and bounced back with a terrific game in Brandon.
3 (46). C Paul Van de Velde, Pembina Valley Blackhawks, midget AAA (37-22-27-49-14) ... Had a terrific rookie season in a competitive league. Finished tied for 14th in the scoring race with team based in Morden, Man.
3 (47). G Dalyn Flette, Calgary Edge midgets ... Was 9-1-0 with a 1.60 GAA and a .917 save percentage with the Edge team. In 14 games in the Mid-American under-16 league, he was 9-4-1 with a 2.30 GAA.
3 (58). D Matthew Johnston, Calgary ... Playing bantam AAA in Calgary ... A big kid -- 6-foot-4 -- who is a good skater but has been hampered this season by back problems.
4 (66). C Matthew Chomyc, Grande Prairie, Alta., midgets ... A hard-working, banger who loves to hit.
5 (86). D Kurt Torbohm, Kamloops-Thompson Blazers, major midget (34-3-19-22-70) ... Was about 6-foot-0 and 180 pounds when drafted; now is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds ... Skilled defenceman who makes a good first pass.
6 (102). D Todd Kennedy, Kamloops-Thompson Blazers, major midget (34-8-4-12-20) ... "He has really improved," Clark says ... One Blazers scout says: "He's getting really strong. He had three girls on his team last year, so he has come a long way."
6 (106). Mark Hall, Kamloops-Thompson Blazers, major midget (32-12-12-24-55) ... Smaller player who plays bigger than he is. Played two games at U-16 camp with a broken hand, then played with a playing cast.
8 (146). C Shayne Wiebe, Brandon Wheat Kings, midget AAA (32-22-20-42-104) ... First-year midget player put up big numbers. Wasn't selected to all-star team because of shoulder injury.

1 (16). RW Travis Dunstall ... On the Blazers' roster.
2 (31). Cody Bogner, Edmonton Maple Leaf Athletic Club, midget AAA (30-6-4-10-63) ... Skating has to improve but he is well aware of that ... A kid who wants to play in the worst way ... Was late cut by Blazers in September.
4 (64). D Chris Favero, Vancouver SE Flames, major midget (31-1-9-10-64) ... A late December birthday (Dec. 27) ... Stay at home 6-foot-3, 190-pound defender who is physically mature.
4 (71). C C.J. Stretch ... On the Blazers' roster.
5 (94). RW/D Colin Lidster, Victory Honda major midget, Midwest Elite Hockey League (20-3-3-6-31) ... Plays in a league based in the U.S.'s upper midwest.
6 (111). D Garrett Thiessen ... On the Blazers' roster.
8 (151). C Jim O'Brien, U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team (30-8-16-24-47) ... Had two points in four games as the U.S. finished second at 3-1-0 in the Five Nations Cup in Moscow ... A longshot pick ... Clark says he is "doubtful" about landing O'Brien ... But, hey, the Everett Silvertips got C Peter Mueller out of the same program.
11 (211). G Kurt Kramer, Vancouver Rangers, major midget (5-6-3, 3.50, .907) ... Stands at least 6-foot-4 ... Ticketed to back up Mike Maniago with Blazers next season ... Went into this season needing to improve practice habits.
12 (231). Kevin Kraus, Washington Totems, PIJHL (18-1-4-5-56) ... Plays for junior B team based in the Seattle area ... Conditioning was problem in last training camp ... Needs to work on skating ... Brother of Vancouver Giants C Tim Kraus.
13 (251). Alex Rodgers, Kamloops-Thompson Blazers, major midget (34-27-33-60-52) ... Sees the ice well and has been dynamic on the power play, playing on the halfwall ... Second-last player taken in the 2004 draft.

2 (33). Brenden Dowd, Saskatoon Blazers, midget AAA (39-18-30-48-83) ... Came awfully close to making the big club's lineup in September ... Was born on Dec. 31, 1988. Had he arrived 24 hours later, he would be considered a year younger for hockey purposes.