The current group of Kelowna Rockets forwards has probably heard just about enough chatter regarding the high-octane producers the organization graduated after last season.
In a junior hockey market where very high expectations are annually the norm, comparisons are always inevitable. However this season, the fanbase may not necessarily be consumed by comparisons. Perhaps it is simply curiosity? As in, just who is going to pick up the slack for a team that will lineup without its top four scorers from last season?
Conner Bruggen-Cate, who will celebrate his 19th birthday on Thursday, is one player the Rockets will be counting on heavily. Last season, the Langley, B.C. product appeared in 70 games and chipped in with 18 goals and 27 assists, along with a plus-10 rating.
As the season progressed, it was apparent to observers that the 6’1, 190-pounder had begun to play with increased poise and composure. The coaching staff showed its confidence in Bruggen-Cate as well, providing more playing time in all situations, especially during the second half of the campaign. Bruggen-Cate responded on special teams with three power play goals and a pair of shorthanded tallies.
It is likely the term “scoring by committee” will be the mantra early on in Kelowna and Bruggen-Cate will be one player looked upon to continue improving. The likes of Jack Cowell, Liam Kindree, Nolan Foote, Erik Gardiner, Kyle Topping and Leif Mattson will also feel some urgency to produce at a higher level than last season. Fortunately for the Rockets, there does appear to be depth and experience at the forward position.
Selected in the sixth round, 120th overall at the 2014 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Bruggen-Cate is entering his third full season with the Rockets after enjoying his experience at the Yale Academy in Abbottsford, B.C..
DUBNetwork spoke with the Rockets forward during an off-day at Prospera Place prior to its final two pre-season games.
Rocket fuel…The Rockets went 0-4 in the pre-season, dropping two decisions in regulation time, one in overtime and one in a shootout…Kelowna began main camp with 58 players and reduced to 29 players after its first two pre-season games…Questions abound regarding forward Liam Kindree, injured during the pre-season tilt in Kamloops on September 7. He left favouring his shoulder and did not return…Kyle Topping is the only member of the team attending an NHL camp, auditioning for the San Jose Sharks…The Rockets open the regular season in Kamloops against the Blazers on September 21. The next night, the teams will meet in Kelowna for the Rockets home opener at Prospera Place.