‘It’s a really exciting brand of hockey’: Zarrillo on Raiders

Raider forward Carter Anderson attempts on shot on goaltender Max Hildebrand during the first day of Raider training camp on Friday afternoon at the Art Hauser Centre. -- Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald

Bruno Zarrillo may not be the most recognized name amongst Prince Albert Raider fans, but he plays an important role for the club behind the scenes.

Zarrillo serves as Director of Player Personnel for the Raiders and spends plenty of time, along with the rest of the Raider scouting staff, evaluating players across Western Canada for the WHL Prospects Draft and discovering players.

Zarrillo says his work doesn’t stop after the end of the draft.

“I have a group of scouts that we get work all season watching the players and evaluating. And then we select the players we want. And then after the draft, we evaluate other players that maybe got missed or what our weaknesses are. And then we have camp invites, we coordinate that and then we stay in contact with the players.”

Raider training camp opened on Friday, with players undergoing fitness testing and watching orientation presentations throughout the day. Zarrillo says there is plenty of work that needs to be done by both the player and the Raider scouting staff before the player even arrives at camp.

“We make sure that they’re getting the training for the summer programs, whether it’s skills or it’s fitness. And then we’re coordinating, getting ready for camp. There are medicals, there’s things like that that need to be filled out the forms to take part in a WHL camp. We coordinate all that and then we make the teams here for this and then that’s basically that we get to watch them play.”

This year’s Raider training camp will feature a lot of exciting young talent as Prince Albert picked five times in the top 50 selections of the 2023 WHL Prospects.

The list includes Daxon Rudolph (first overall), Riley Boychuk (second overall), Ty Meunier (seventh overall), Bennett Kelly (27th overall) and Steele Bass (49th overall).

Players from the 2023 WHL Prospects are not eligible to be full time players in the league until the 2024-2025 campaign. Zarrillo says training camp provides an opportunity for the organization to make a good introduction with the most recent draft class.

“It’s exciting. You know, they’re still (in) the first few months away from being drafted and you’re excited to see them come into our group and see where they’re at and meet them and meet their families and our environment and they can see what we’re about. it’s what you work for. We try to be one big happy family, and this is bringing everybody in and being a family.”

Prince Albert missed out on the postseason a year ago, finishing 10 points back of Medicine Hat for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Zarrillo says Raider fans can look forward to watching an exciting brand of hockey at the Art Hauser Centre this season.

“The thing they’re going to really (like) is the skill set that we’ve drafted and the way we’re able to control the puck and the things we can do with the puck and the puck possession and it’s a really exciting brand of hockey and I’m excited to see the team grow in that area. I think we saw some good glimpses last year with Ryder Ritchie and Aiden Oiring in the style of play that were that were our goals are.”

Saturday will be the first publicly open day of Raider training camp with the first warmups of the day beginning at 8 a.m.