|Voice of the Pats Phil Andrews|
- Three Regina Pats took another step on the journey towards their dream of playing in the NHL this past weekend. Forwards Austin Wagner, Jesse Gabrielle and defenceman Connor Hobbs were among the 124 draft eligible players to attend the 2015 NHL Draft Scouting Combine in Buffalo, New York.
The Pats players had a chance to meet with NHL clubs and show off their physical abilities ahead of the Entry Draft coming up June 26 and 27 in Florida.
Gabrielle, who hails from Moosomin, Saskatchewan, was one of the top performers at the event. He set three records: in the mean power output, fatigue index test and bench press. Jesse says training during the off season is always a big priority. “I take pride in my off season and doing well in the physical tests was kind of important to me. I‘m not sure how important it is to the scouts but it was nice to place first in three events. As for the interviews I was myself and I think the teams really thought that I was being genuine in the interviews and I think they appreciated that.”
The Moosomin native is ranked 73rd in North America by CSS for the draft and is coming off a 23 goal and 44 point season to go along with 112 penalty minutes.
Austin Wagner, who is the top ranked Pats player by the Central Scouting Service at number 35 says it was a great experience to meet with 23 NHL teams and go through the fitness testing. “It was a cool experience, not many people get to experience that and I would say it was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. Got to work out and meet all the best guys in the world pretty much that are my age. If you had a good showing it’s even cooler because everybody gets to know you so yeah it was a pretty good experience for me for sure.”
Wagner finished with the top vertical at the combine at 28.74 inches. He also had top 10 scores in body fat percentage, mean power output, peak power output and standing long jump.
The road to the combine wasn’t typical for Wagner as a top player heading into the NHL Draft. After a two point season as a 16-year-old Wagner wasn’t on the radar, but exploded in 2014/15 for 20 goals and 39 points in 61 games. Even more incredible, Wagner had not eclipsed the 20 goal plateau in his two bantam or one midget seasons before making the jump into the WHL.
Another Regina Pat took a unique path to the combine is defenceman Connor Hobbs. Hobbs was originally drafted by the Prince Albert Raiders and traded to Medicine Hat found himself playing Junior A in Nipawin for a short time last year. He did, however, win a gold medal in the off-season at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and prior to that represented Canada at the World U17’s so he has always been on the radar of pro teams. It wasn’t until the trade deadline in 2015 he put on the Pats uniform. The Saskatoon product says it was a tough road, but it made being at the combine that much more special. “I think I overcame a lot this year. I have nothing but good things to say about the Pats organization. I don’t think I would have been going to the combine without all the people that helped me; Coach (John) Paddock and Coach (Dave) Struch. I really think things worked out pretty much perfect for me. Hands down the best organization in the league I think with the Pats, very professional and I really like the way things work around here.”
Hobbs put up the second best bench press performance of the 124 players at the combine and is ranked by the Central Scouting Service in their final list for 2015. He put up 16 points, 21 PIM’s and was a plus five in 33 games in Regina this last year.
The Combine is just another pit stop on the road to the NHL and for these three Regina Pats, and they understand it is just that. The work never stops and when they hear their names called later this month, it will be another incredible experience on the road to realizing their dreams and the dreams of so many… to play the greatest game in the world in the greatest league in the world.
- Happy belated birthday to Regina Pats Senior VP of Hockey Operations, GM and Head Coach John Paddock who turned 61 yesterday.
- Former Regina Pats forward Patrick D'Amico was featured in the top 50 CHL Plays of the year on Sportsnet. The goal is from game 3 of the first round against the Swift Current Broncos. Have a watch here, it comes at the 1:20 mark. What a goal it was!
I am told D'Amico has 2 AHL and 9 ECHL deals on the table for next year but is waiting until after the New Jersey Devils development camp which starts July 11th.
- Hockey Canada announced Monday the group of 34 netminders that will attend the 10th annual Program of Excellence goaltending camp, June 12-14 at Canlan Ice Sports in Etobicoke, Ont.
Nine goaltenders in the under-20 age category (candidates for Canada’s National Junior Team), seven in the under-18 category (candidates for Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team) and 18 goaltenders in the under-17 category (candidates for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge) will get a chance to work with a number of instructors during the three-day camp.
Pats prospect Jordan Hollett is among the under-17 goaltenders attending the camp. The Langley, B.C. native was Regina's first round pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. Playing his first year of midget hockey at the Okanagan Hockey Academy, Hollett made his WHL debut November 22, 2014 in Victoria where he turned aside 22 of 26 shots faced against the Royals.
"It's a huge accomplishment", said the 6'4", 185 lbs goaltender. "It's always been a dream for me to put on the jersey and wear the flag. I hope I can put on a good showing."
The 16-year old netminder sees the camp as an opportunity to learn from the top U-20 goaltenders Canada has to offer.
"It will be a great experience. I'll be going up against the best (goalies) in Canada and it's something I can take pride in and work my hardest. I can also take tips from other guys, see what they do and overall just improve my game."
For Hollett, the camp is another stepping stone on his way to Pats training camp where he hopes to crack the 2015-16 roster as a 16-year old.
"I'm just taking it one step at a time. I'm going to try to do my best at this camp, have a good summer and then we'll see what happens."
CALDER CUP - Jordan Weal and the Manchester Monarchs are two wins away from an AHL Championship after winning both of the first two games on home ice. Weal had two assists in game 2 en route to a 3-2 victory over Utica and then was held off the score sheet in game 2 when his club won in OT 2-1. Weal is tied with teammate Michael Mersch for the playoff scoring lead with 21 points.
KELLY CUP - Dyson Stevenson is proving once again why he is a player built for the post season. The former Pat has five points in the first five games of the ECHL Championship. He and the Allen Americans won game 5 in OT last night and are a win away. Dyson had 3 points in the first 16 games of the playoffs, now 5 in his last 5.
- Jay Janower of Global BC is reporting the Vancouver Giants will have their new head coach in place before the NHL Draft. Janower says the team has narrowed the search to 5 candidates with former Kootenay Ice coach Ryan McGill and Steve Spott who was an assistant in the NHL with the Leafs last year being the front runners. Spott has 14 years experience coaching junior hockey in the OHL with Kitchener and Plymouth.
- Brandon Wheat Kings play by play man Bruce Luebke reported earlier this week that the Toronto Maple Leafs have an offer on the table for Kelly McCrimmon to join the club's management staff. The offer reportedly has an expiry date of June 11th, so tomorrow. Will be interesting to see if the Wheat Kings coach and GM will leave the team for the NHL.
- Big congrats to former Regina Pats head coach Curtis Hunt who was named the 10th general manager of the Prince Albert Raiders. A heck of a guy who will do very well there. Real good too see the Raiders hire an alumni who was apart of the 1985 Memorial Cup Champion team. Kelly Remple and I will have Curtis on the Sportscage Thursday as Roddy will be travelling to Edmonton for the Riders first pre-season game.
- The Stanley Cup Final has been fun to watch. Both teams have had serious time with momentum in their favor and then it swings back the other way. I thought if Tampa Bay would have played the entirety of game 1 the way they started they would have won. Game 2 went to the best team in the Lightning and then game three Chicago should have won it in the first period but missed on some glorious chances. I know it's almost football season but I will miss the NHL playoffs no doubt. You have to give a lot of credit to Ben Bishop in goal for the lightning. He is battling something that looks pretty painful but is hanging in there. Corey Crawford needs to be better for Chicago if they are going to win their 3rd cup in 6 years.
- The Regina Red Sox won their 4th in 5 games last night, 4-1 over the Moose Jaw Miller Express. How about starting pitcher Tyler Shumpert? He is 3 and oh in three starts and has given up just 2 runs. The Red Sox improved to 5 and 3 with the win and will host Moose Jaw again tonight.
- The Toronto Blue Jays have won 7 in a row and are back at .500. In most years that would mean they were still pretty far out of the playoff picture in July but despite their early struggles the blue birds are just a game and a half out of a wild card spot and 4 games back of New York for top spot in the East Division. They would have made up some more ground in the division except that the Yankees have won 7 in a row themselves. I am no a believer yet but there is a little hope yet for this team.
- The NBA Finals impressed again last night in Game three between the Warriors and Cavaliers. The first two were fantastic going to OT and while game 3 didn't get there it had great action and the Warriors almost came back from down 20 points. The Cavs held on however and lead the series 2-1. Golden State's Stephen Curry is the best three ball shooter in the game but sometimes I question his shot selection. Last night in game 3 he struggled again from beyond the arc and was throwing up prayers with traffic in his face. I'll say this, I didn't think the Cavaliers had a prayer when Kyrie Irving went down for the remainder of the series but you can't count out Lebron James. Not to mention the Cleveland defence is just fantastic and is the real reason they have been so good in the series so far. It's unbelievable really considering every one of the Cavs normal starters is hurt besides Lebron James. He is that good, set an NBA Finals record with 123 points in the first three games.
- Once again I don't have much to offer on the Riders front. I am looking forward to getting a look at the 2015 edition in their pre-season opener on Saturday against Edmonton in Fort MacMurray. I was curious on how the two Regina Thunder camp attendees WR Preston Bews and OL Matt Halbgewachs were fairing so I asked 620 CKRM Sportscage analyst Luc Mullinder to give me an update. "They'll both need another couple years. It's a valuable eye opener for both of them, especially now that they've got to see how some of the best in the CFL at their position handle being a pro. Bews can catch the rock but neither get a lot of reps."
- The Womens World Cup has been fun to watch these last couple of days. Yes the opener between Canada and China was a bit of a snore fest but since then there has been some good action. For the most part the games have looked well attended besides yesterday in Moncton. It was embarrassing seeing how few fans came out, looked bad on TV. That won't be a problem in the Canada games but you would hope a World Cup would draw a sell out in a smaller market but maybe I am way off.
That's it from me today, have a great week!