The 2018 Swift Current Broncos training camp was full of energy and talent. From seasoned veterans to 15-year-old rookies, there was a lot to see from the first practices to the final Blue vs White game on August 30th.
After registration and fitness testing on Sunday, August 26th, the players were divided into four teams; Team Tiger (Blue), Team Ruskowski (Grey), Team Trottier (White), and Team Sakic (Black).
Monday, August 27th started out with some practice and training for each team, together and separately. They went through some drills, fine-tuning skills that they already have in preparation for small-ice scrimmages. These kinds of scrimmages force players to move at a faster pace because of the shortened ice length. The veteran players stood out as they helped coach the rookies and newer players throughout the drills and scrimmages to help alleviate some of the nervousness felt by some of the younger recruits.
The players put their skills to the test in game-like situations as all teams hit the ice for scrimmages. Most of the nervousness was gone and the raw talent was much more obvious. The 15-year-old players put on quite a show as forward Caleb Wyrostok, goalie Jordan Fairlie, and forward Ashton McNelly stood out among the crowd. Wyrostok is a small impact player that moves like lightning and protects the puck and himself against the boards. Fairlie showed some skillful athletic ability between the pipes even after taking a puck off the mask to start scrimmage. And McNelly held his ground against some of the veteran players. After losing goalie Stuart Skinner this season, the Broncos will need depth in goal. And the loss of Glenn Gawdin, Tyler Steenbergen, and Aleksi Heponiemi means the veteran players this seaso
n will need some solid front-line backup.
Tanner Nagel came back with leadership skills that were overshadowed a bit last season during the Broncos cup run. He helped guide the younger players through skills competitions and drills. Max Patterson seemed to look stronger and more skilled, making things look easy among the group of younger, smaller players. Other notable returnees included Christian Reimer, Connor Horning, Quinton Waitzner, Noah King, Ben King, Kaden Elder, Mackenzie Wight, and Andrew Fyten. Added to the lineup this season are Ethan O’Rourke, Matthew Culling, Ryan Pouliot, and Roope Pynnonen.
The import players made their mark during the scrimmages as well. Roope Pynnonen, the 17-year-old from Finland, who signed a standard player agreement at the end of July, glided along the ice effortlessly and could be an asset to a team that has lost a lot of impact defence players such as Colby Sissons and Sahvan Khaira. Joona Kiviniemi, another player picked during the import draft from Finland, stood out with his plays against the boards and being able to stand his ground and own his space on the ice. With the loss of powerful defensemen like Josh Anderson and Artyom Minulin, the Broncos will need strong blue-liners this upcoming season.
On Thursday, August 30th, the annual Blue/White game took place and it showed a lot of what the scrimmages didn’t. With the roster cut back, the best players of the groups were held accountable for their play during a game situation. Goalie Jordan Fairlie, who was signed to a standard player agreement by the team before the Blue/White game on Thursday, had extra pep in his step in net to start the game and didn’t allow any goals during his time on ice. Bryce Margetson, an imposing 16-year-old would be a good, solid addition to the Broncos dwindled defensive lines while 18-year-old Mitchell Vaillant would add some depth to the forward lines. Young 16-year-old forward Samuel Schofield seemed to have turned some heads as he consistently went end to end on a few plays. Not only did he turn heads in the stands, but he also got noticed by the team who ended up signing him on Thursday to a standard player agreement. Team White’s forward line of Carter Stebbings, Caleb Wyrostok, and Nolan Corrado had the most impact during the third period adding to their teams shots on net. A fight between 15-year-old Zach Davis and 18-year-old Brayden Shaw illustrated the true toughness and size of some of the players before both headed to their respective boxes for their five-minute penalties. With goals by Logan Foster, Mitchell Vaillant, and Matthew Culling (assists to Quinton Waitzner, Colum McGauley, and Braeden Lewis), Team Blue stole the show in spite of a lone goal for Team White by Brayden Shaw (assist to Shea Dougan). The final score was 3-1 Team Blue.
Even though the Swift Current Broncos are going through a rebuild year, there is a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of talent. The returning players have proven themselves through last year’s WHL Championship and the club is already working on building depth. There was a lot of skill to pick from during training camp and I’m sure there were a lot of proud parents in the stands. Shawn Mullin explained that there will probably be a lot of good development this season. Evidently, it’s already started with two signings and the preseason starting Friday night. Brad Trojan explained it perfectly when he said he’s “cautiously optimistic” for this upcoming year.
The Broncos first preseason game is Friday, August 31st in Regina as they take on the Pats. On September 1st, the Broncos will play the Saskatoon Blades in an afternoon game before a short break. September 14th will be the Broncos third preseason game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes before the return home to host the final game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on September 15th. The regular season begins Friday, September 21st in Swift Current.