Raiders prospects get a taste of the WHL

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald Tyson Laventure control the puck for the Prince Albert Raiders while battling with Swift Current Broncos forward Ethan Regnier on Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Art Hauser Centre.

Prince Albert Raiders fans got a glimpse into the team’s future over the last couple of weeks as a few of their top prospects made their way into the lineup.

For 2018 second round bantam pick Tyson Laventure, having the likes of Nolan Allan, Brett Balas and Braydon Clark around helped him out as the 15-year-old forward from Lloydminster made his Western Hockey League debut last week.

“It’s a great bonding situation for us,” Laventure said. “We are all in the same boat and we’re able to relate with what we are all going through.

“Having the older guys being able to help us through everything has been huge. It’s made this process a lot easier.”

Laventure got to play in three games prior to the Christmas break and will be looking to build off of that experience as he returns to the OHA Edmonton prep program, where he has 43 points in 22 games.

“It was a really fast pace out there but it was what I expected,” Laventure said. “There were a few nerves but I felt like that went away after a couple of shifts.

“This entire season has been a positive experience for me. I’ve been able to play a harder and physical game and our team has really come together as a group.”

While Allan had already played on a number of occasions this year, and was joined for one game by forward prospect Cohner Saleski, Clark played in his first six games over the last two weeks.

The 16-year-old defender from Langley, B.C. is in his second season with the Valley West Giants midget program, where he leads the BCMML in penalty minutes with 177.

“I’d like to limit the amount of penalties I’ve taken but I feel like it’s been an okay season for us,” Clark said.

“It’s been a great experience here with Prince Albert and I’m hoping to take the leadership skills that I gained from being surrounded by the older guys here. I have a better idea of the pace of the WHL now, and I think that should help me out when I look to gain a spot on the roster next year.”

Balas’ debut in the WHL came halfway through a home game last Saturday night as he replaced Donovan Buskey in goal during a 7-5 win over the Swift Current Broncos.

“I was excited to get into the game and the boys helped me out quite a bit with their communication on the ice,” said Balas, who is playing in the AJHL with the Calgary Canucks this year. “It got a little hectic at times, but (head coach) Marc (Habscheid) told me to stay calm out there and that helped a lot of the nerves go away.”

According to Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt, the experience all three players gained over the last two weeks should bode well for them as they attempt to make the leap into the WHL on a full-time basis for the 2019-20 campaign.

“I think the biggest thing for them is just to see how hard our top players work and how professional they are at this level,” Hunt said.

“I’m sure if you talk to Ian Scott, Parker Kelly and Noah Gregor, they all learned quite a lot when they went to their first NHL camps and saw first hand how hard they prepare up there. It’s the exact same thing for our younger guys.”