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Saturday, September 30, 2023
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Leadership expected from overage players

Leadership expected from overage players
Prince Albert Raiders overager Jordy Stallard prepares to receive a pass during a pre-season scrimmage at the Art Hauser Centre -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Curtis Miske has seen his fair share of training camps, but this one is special.

For the 20-year-old Miske, this WHL camp is his last one. It’s a milestone that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the big winger.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Miske, who tallied 15 goals in 33 games after being acquired by the Raiders last season. “No more fitness testing, which is nice, but it’s a little bit sad. I’ve had most of my good memories here in junior hockey, and lots of them in P.A., so it’s a little sad.”

Miske is one of three overage players in camp with the Raiders this year. He’s joined by Jordy Stallard and new Raider Devon Skoleski, who spent the last two seasons with the Everett Silvertips.

Like Miske, they’re bittersweet about entering their final camp.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Stallard, who recorded 10 points in eight games with the Raiders last year before injuries ended his season. “Time flies, but I’m looking forward to having a good year and taking a strong leadership role.”

“You know, it’s exciting,” added Skoleski. “I’m just trying to take it all in as this is my last camp. I remember when I was a younger (player), and I can help by being a role model for the younger guys.”

Leadership is a word that comes up quickly when taking with the three overagers. While the each brings different hockey skills to the club, leadership on and off the ice is something that’s needed from all of them.

“They have that wisdom gained by experience,” Raider coach Marc Habscheid said. “They’ve gone through it and those types of things, they can pass on…. They obviously have to be quality hockey players, but they have to be quality people as well.”

“I think it’s just expected for us to take that on our own,” Stallard added. “For most of us, this is our fourth or fifth year … so we’ve got to take on that leadership role and show the younger guys what it’s all about.”

This early in the season, leadership means more than just working hard and showing up on time. It’s a mentorship role, where they veterans answer questions and point younger players in the right direction.

As the overagers say, it’s all about making their teammates feel comfortable.

Competition and the future

It’s not uncommon to see WHL teams carry five or six overage players into training camp, but the Raiders are bucking the trend with only three. That’s the maximum they’ll be able to dress each game once the season starts, but coach Marc Habscheid said doesn’t mean anyone should feel safe.

“We don’t know,” Habscheid said when asked about bringing in additional overage players to compete for a roster spot. “It’s a moving target. We’ve had the two guys (Miske and Stallard) from last year, so we know about them. I don’t know too much about (Skoleski) because he was on the other side of the mountain, so we’ll see how he works.”

The Raider coach said he liked how Miske and Stallard performed last season after being acquired from the Spokane Chiefs and Calgary Hitmen respectively. The club expects both players to take another step forward this season, but Habscheid emphasized that nothing is guaranteed.

“They have to be really productive for us on the ice,” he said. “It’s a great position to be in, but a lot is expected of them.”