Raiders set to open training camp

Daily Herald File Photo Brayden Pachal chats with his Prince Albert Raiders teammates prior to the start of the 2019 team golf tournament at Cooke Municipal Golf Course.

First on-ice scrimmages Friday at the Art Hauser Centre

The rewards for the Prince Albert Raiders’ efforts during the 2018-19 Western Hockey League season were on full display Wednesday as the Ed Chynoweth Cup made an appearance at the Cooke Municipal Golf Course during the team’s annual golf tournament.

Those glories will become a thing of the past starting this weekend as the team kicks off their 2019-20 campaign with a four-day training camp at the Art Hauser Centre.

“It’s important to get into that right mindset for the new year,” second-year forward Jakob Brook. “We’re champions, but that season is over and behind us now, and you have to make sure that you are ready to go like we were at this time last fall to do it again.

“It’s obviously fun to be back here in Prince Albert. Even though we’ve lost some guys from last year, we still have that same tight group and that same desire to win.”

Although the official rosters won’t be released until Friday, 89 players have come to town and are divided among five teams ahead of the first scrimmages, which will take place at 5 p.m.

“I’ve been around training camps for about 20 years now and there are where clubs in our league have three to four teams at camp and then you have years like this one where clubs have six or seven teams at camp,” general manager Curtis Hunt said.

“We feel like the numbers that we have allows our guys to have an ample opportunity to show what they can do. The younger players will play in eight different games before we have to make some decisions, so there’s a lot of time for us to get a good look at them.”

With forwards Noah Gregor, Dante Hannoun and Sean Montgomery aging out of the league, plus forwards Brett Leason and Parker Kelly set to start their pro careers along with goaltender Ian Scott, there will be a number of holes that the Raiders will be looking to fill ahead of their season opener on Friday, Sept. 20 against the Saskatoon Blades.

“For our middle line players from last year’s team, they have a chance to establish themselves and enter those leadership roles by getting some key ice in big moments,” Hunt said.

“Plus, we have a number of young guys that we’d love to sign here over the next couple of days. There are a few prospects that we will be keeping an eye on here this weekend.”

The Raiders have already to their forward core this week as they signed 17-year-old Russian Ivan Kechkin on Monday and inked 18-year-old American Ilya Usau on Thursday afternoon.

One thing that won’t be finalized is the team’s overage situation, as defenders Zack Hayes, Max Martin, Jeremy Masella, Brayden Pachal and Sergei Sapego are all in town this week to vie for the three spots on the roster.

“One thing I’ve learned is to try and not repeat the same thing twice as we were all a little quick on moving overage players a couple of years ago and then (Reid) Gardiner stayed in the AHL,” Hunt said. “That put us in a little bit of a tough spot, but it allowed us to bring (Kolten) Olynek back and he was a part of our leadership group that year (2016-17) who left a legacy of what it takes to be a Raider.

“We’re going to be a little more patient this year. You just never know what a NHL (National Hockey League) or an AHL (American Hockey League) team is thinking, so we’ll just see where things go.”

Sapego has already signed a deal with the Toronto Marlies for the upcoming season, while Hayes and Pachal will be attending the rookie camps for the Anaheim Ducks and the Vegas Golden Knights respectively.

Training camp scrimmages will also take place at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

The team will then hold their annual Green and White game at 1 p.m. Monday.

Admission to the game is a non-perishable food item or a $2 donation to the Prince Albert Food Bank.

The Raiders will then start a five-game pre-season slate on Wednesday, Sept. 4 with a 7 p.m. contest against the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Art Hauser Centre.

Tuesday’s Pre-Season Scores

  • Regina 3 Moose Jaw 1 (Garrett Wright – Two Goals)

Friday’s Pre-Season Schedule

  • Seattle vs. Vancouver – 12:30 p.m. (in Everett)
  • Moose Jaw vs. Swift Current – 3 p.m. (in Regina)
  • Portland vs. Spokane – 4 p.m. (in Everett)
  • Saskatoon vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Everett – 8 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Kelowna – 8:05 p.m.