© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Fifteen-year-old Luke Coleman earned a chance to skate in a pre-season game with his strong play during the Prince Albert Raiders rookie and main camps.
Luke Coleman is the last 15-year-old standing.
The Red Deer product is the final 2013 draft pick still in camp with the Prince Albert Raiders. And while the youngster is ineligible to play more than a handful of games for the team, he will be suiting up in a preseason game this week to get a taste of the WHL.
It’s a lot for Coleman to process.
“My expectations this year were just to make main camp,” Coleman says. “I know that it’s tough for the 15-year-olds to get there. Making the exhibition games really exceeded my expectations.”
The 6’0”, 193-pound winger was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, 104th overall.
Hockey scouts like to study the father to guess at future growth but in this case looks are deceiving. Coleman says his dad is about 5’10” but his brother has a similar frame to his.
In AAA bantam last year with the Red Deer Rebels Black, he scored 17 goals and 24 assists in 32 games with 75 penalty minutes.
In the Alberta Cup, he played for Central and had two goals and an assist in five games.
“It’s a lot different going from bantam to this, all the stuff that you need to learn to do and the effort that you need to be here,” Coleman said. “It’s great.”
He noticed a huge difference in the play when he started skating with the veterans in main camp.
“It’s a lot faster,” he says. “That was the main thing coming from rookie camp to main camp, the difference in speed and the effort that the guys put in.”
“It’s a lot different; guys are a lot stronger.”
He hopes to play with the Midget AAA Red Deer Chiefs this season, an elite squad that isn’t easy to make. Still, his style could work in his favour.
“I’m more of a hard-working player,” Coleman says. “I like to drive the net and throw my body around and grind it out.”
Coleman was one of four players who signed with the club recently. The others were fellow 15-year-old Cody Paivarinta, 17-year-old forward Darcy Zahirchuk and 18-year-old Czech defender Tomas Andrlik.
Raiders GM Bruno Campese liked what he saw of Coleman.
“I thought he had a real strong camp,” Campese says. “He came in and he earned his contract. It was a situation where we hadn’t signed him yet. We feel that he’s going to be a real strong power-type forward. He’s a big kid already -- he’s close to 200 pounds -- and he’s got real good size to him.
“He worked hard at his game over the summer so we’re really pleased with him.”
Coleman will fly home to play in a AAA midget intrasquad game on Wednesday night in Red Deer before flying back to Regina to play with the Raiders on Friday.
For Coleman, the real opportunity presents itself to him when he comes to camp next year looking to earn a roster spot.
He knows what it will take in the few days and over the next year.
“I have to try take in everything that I can and improve my game and the effort that I put in has to be there so everything I do is my hardest.”