Monday, August 27, 2012

Preseason Look at the Returners

Trevor Esau enters his third year with the Spruce Kings

As the roster sits now for the preseason, the Prince George Spruce Kings are carrying 28 players with them into the preseason, only six of those finished last season with the team. There are four players that have experience in the British Columbia Hockey League. Fifteen players are considered rookies in the BCHL this year and another three players that have yet to compete in the premiere Junior A league in Canada will be make up the balance.

During the off-season the Spruce Kings worked hard at finding players that could step in and fill the roles of those players that were lost to college commitments, overagers and trades. There is a nice mix of returning players, players with Junior A experience and players that have shown they can step in and make an impact in the game at this level. There are also a few players that are being given an opportunity to gain some valuable experience at a higher level.

They will all head to Chase where some will have to sit and wait for their turn to play on Wednesday while the first wave of twenty players will be up against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Tuesday night. The two games are being played at the Art Holding Memorial Arena in Chase at 7pm both nights. I should mention that plans are to provide a video broadcast of the game on the Spruce Kings Ustream Channel.

Based on the recent Training Camp and the three Intra-Squad Games, the players to watch wearing the Crown to start the preseason include the returning players led by, or rather backed by Kirk Thompson. A 20 year old in his final year of junior eligibility, Thompson will have something to prove between the pipes and will want to improve on his previous season record of 15 wins, 2.83 goals against average and 90.60 save percentage.

On defence Trevor Esau will be the leader; an assistant captain last season, I wouldn't be surprised to see him wear a different letter this year while logging a ton of time on the blue line. Skylar Pacheco is also returning for his second season with the Spruce Kings after winning Rookie of the Year last year. In the training camp, Pacheco showed that he has the ability to be an offensive player and picked up a pair of goals in the Intra-Squad game because of his ability to jump up in the play and finish what he started.

The third returning defenceman is the seventeen year old Latrell Charleson who will be joining the team in Chase after skating at the Moose Jaw Warriors camp this past weekend. In Moose Jaw, Latrell showed his strength during the fitness testing getting the best distance in the medicine ball toss. Fans in Prince George liked what they saw in this youngster in the second half of last season and the expectation is that he will be coming in bigger and stronger making him a punishing force for opposition forwards to deal with.

Up front the Spruce Kings will have Sean Landrey and Tyson Witala back as 19 year olds this season. During the summer Landrey was working up in Fort St. John and the work in the oil patch paid off with a noticeably stronger presence from Landrey. Witala also put on some size and showed what we hope was only a small part of what he will be able to do after being instrumental in erasing a three goal deficit in the third Intra-Squad game with two goals and an assist in less than two minutes.

Returning to the BCHL after playing elsewhere last season are Cameron Lawson, Coltyn Hansen and David London. Lawson, Hansen and London were all acquired from the Victoria Grizzlies in the trade that granted the Fitzgerald triplets their wish of playing closer to home. All three had good showings at the Training Camp led by Coltyn Hansen who scored three goals in the third Intra-Squad game. Cameron Lawson had a very consistent camp scoring once in all three games and adding a pair of assists. London played a solid game on the blue line and picked up a pair of helpers over the weekend. The 19 year old defenceman also had a good showing in the fitness testing and is just another one of those pieces on the blue line that will make it tough on opposing forwards.

I'm going to the let the "rookies" play a couple of games before taking a closer look at them, but really quick I just want to say that the future looks bright for the Spruce Kings as seen this past weekend during the Intra-Squad Games. From players that could light the lamp to defenceman that made it tough for many others to move freely through the zone, this team looks like it is ready for any preseason test thrown its way starting with the Trail Smoke Eaters Tuesday night from Chase, BC. Catch the game broadcast on the Spruce Kings Ustream Channel.

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