© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Prince Albert Raiders general manager stands beside some depth charts he has prepared for all of the Western Hockey League teams. With just under two weeks to go until rookie camp gets underway, Campese is excited to get down to business.
If Bruno Campese had things his way, training camp would start today.
The Prince Albert Raiders general manager says he is anxious for the upcoming season and with less than two weeks remaining until the start of rookie camp, he can’t wait.
“I’ve been waiting for a month already,” said Campese in his office on Monday. “Winter can’t happen soon enough for me.”
The Raiders have made a lot of changes since being eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs in March.
Head coach Steve Young was told in April that his contract would not be renewed and that opened the door for the Raiders to bring in former Ottawa Senator bench boss Cory Clouston.
The Raiders then underwent a cosmetic change as they retired the old pirate uniform and colors in favour of a more modern symbol along with reverting back to the familiar green that highlighted the jerseys in the early days of the franchise.
The roster also got a workover as Jonas Knutsen, Austin Daae and Joey Santucci were released and Campese swung a trade with the Kamloops Blazers to bring in overage netminder Cole Cheveldave.
“Hopefully we solidified the goaltending,” says Campese. “We will have competition up front with (Lance) Yaremchuk, (Gage) Quinney and (Matteo) Gennaro and there will be some competition with spots wide open on defense.”
The addition of Cheveldave also gives Prince Albert the maximum three overage players each team is allowed as defensemen Evan Morden and Dylan Busenius are the others returning for one final year. Campese says those are the three the team will have right now, but he also said he will see how training camp plays out if decisions have to made in that area.
The goaltending situation is probably the most interesting as Cheveldave will bring to the club what Luke Siemens did last year - experience. Chelveldave appeared in 111 games with the Blazers over the last two years winning 70 of those.
As for a back-up, the race is wide open with Rylan Parenteau and Nick McBride being the frontrunners. Parenteau is a 17-year-old who led the Saskatoon Contacts to a Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship last spring while McBride was a first-round pick in 2012 and will get a good look as a 16-year-old.
Last year’s second-string netminder, Andy Desautels, has been invited to camp, but it is unclear what his future holds and Matt Zentner, another midget-aged netminder in the Raider stable, has indicated he is going to Canmore of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The Raiders filled one huge vacancy on the blueline when they selected Tomas Andrlik from the Czech Republic with the 37th pick in the Import Draft. The 6-foot, 185-pound Andrlik will help the Raiders overcome the loss of Harrison Ruopp, who is not expected back with the team as he tries to gain a spot in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ organization. Campese says the paperwork for Andrlik is being finalized and he is expected to join up with Prince Albert’s other import player, Leon Draisatl, at the airport in Toronto on Aug. 25 and be in the city later that same day.
Draisaitl, last year’s Eastern Conference rookie of the year, will get additional ice time this year as the Raiders lose two of their top scorers in Mark McNeill and Anthony Bardaro. McNeill could return as an overage, but as a first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011, he will likely get some time with the defending Stanley Cup champions or be sent down to the American Hockey League. Bardaro recently signed on with the University of British Columbia as his junior eligibility expired at the end of last year.
The biggest unknown is how things will look with Clouston running the team. Last year’s associate coach Dave Manson and assistant coach Tim Leonard will be working with Clouston and the early report is that they are all on the same page.
“With Cory he has his own mindset on how he wants the team to play,” says Campese. “We have a good contingent coming back, but you never really know until you drop the puck.”
The Raiders will lose a handful of players in early September when Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets), Mike Winther (Dallas Stars), Chance Braid (Washington Capitals) and Jayden Hart (Boston Bruins) will all attend NHL training camps, but all are expected back with the club for the 2013-14 season.
The team gets down to business on Aug. 27 when rookie camp gets underway at the Art Hauser Centre. About 44 players are expected at the camp with registration and fitness testing taking place on the first day and then a practise and game situation filling the schedule on Aug. 28. Another pair of games will complete the camp on Aug. 29 with Campese saying that several of those younger players will be held over for the main camp, which starts on Aug. 30.
“Last year was the first we year we ran the camp this way,” says Campese. “It wasn’t fair to have 15-year-olds go up against 19 and 20-year-olds and it wasn’t fair for 20-year-olds to be playing against 15-year-olds.”
“It works very good from a competition standpoint,” added Campese.
The Raiders made huge strides in getting the ship turned around last year as they made the playoffs for just the second time in six years. Now they will be looking to get to an even higher level and that starts with camp and plenty of competition for a number of roster spots.