The 100 Mile House Wranglers continued their preseason with a 4-2 win over the Kamloops Storm and a 5-4 loss against the Chase Heat.
“Tryouts are still going on, so everyone who is carded is still trying out,” said head coach and general manager Dale Hladun about the Wranglers’ progress so far this season. “You’re comfortable with some of the faces. I think we have to evaluate everyone all the time. Some kids I heard about and I signed early but I still have to see what their practice habits are like and how they tie in to how we do things. Sometimes we’re not a fit, whether it’s a player with me or me with a player.”
Both Chase and Kamloops are divisional rivals to the Wranglers in the Doug Birks Division and the two exhibition games should be a decent indicator to how the teams will match up against each other, as they play six games against each other during the regular season.
The Wranglers are still forming their roster, with a number of players expected to join the team before opening night on Sept. 14.
“We’re still waiting for players,” said Hladun. “It was nice to see a couple of new faces. We’re going to card a couple of kids to give them a longer look. It’s just fair. You can’t just give them one game or whatever. I want to be able to work with some kids, some practices here and give them a few more games then I can make a decision on them.”
Two players joined the Wranglers on Sept. 10, including Cody Barnes who was on the team last year. Eric Smith, from Whistler, also joined. Smith was a feature at the West Vancouver Prep School and attended the Nipawin Hawks training camp this year.
“A big strong kid,” said Hladun.
Barnes just returned from his camp with the Drumheller Dragons in Alberta. Former player, Joel Patsey, was also at that camp but the Dragons will be keeping him there. Aidan Morrison, another former player, was also signed by the La Ronge Ice Wolves in Saskatchewan and will not be returning.
Hladun mentioned he thought it was a strange year for hockey recruitment, calling it a very unique fall, due to more leagues and franchises popping up across the country (some of which are not recognized by Hockey Canada). Because of this, players are reluctant to commit to teams. Hladun mentioned that it is even affecting Major Junior teams, and said the general manager of one team in the Western Hockey League said his team and an opponent had to play an exhibition with only 18 players (they played four-on-four hockey).
However, Hladun remains confident that the Wranglers will be a solid team this year and estimated the roster won’t be fully complete until Jan. 10.
“I say that bluntly because you’re going to build your team and then their trade deadlines [come up],” said Hladun, with one in December and on Jan. 10.
So far, he said there are some good kids in the team and have a good core. He’s looking forward to going for another run into the playoffs and make the community of 100 Mile proud.
“I do think that we’re going to add some pretty fantastic players but it takes time,” said Hladun. “A lot of the names the fans really know never really started right out of training camp.”