The 100 Mile House Wranglers are slowly building up their lineup ahead of this season’s play.
With only one returning player – Chase Vancoughnett-Lafleur – from the 2019/2020 team, Wranglers’ head coach Dale Hladun is looking to rebuild the brand with promising young players. At a training camp Sept. 17-19, he had 34 players from across B.C., Manitoba and even the United States try out for the team.
Although they were a bit rusty, Hladun said he noticed a marked improvement in the players from the time they hit the ice to when they left. While he still has to enhance their skills and “Hockey IQ,” he said the players have shown they’re willing to learn and put in the work.
“The camp, overall, was almost like running a hockey school. A lot of kids just haven’t been on the ice in forever, especially the rural kids,” Hladun said. “I truly did have kids who came straight here from combining and harvesting on the prairies, so we had to do a lot of skill work and conditioning.”
While he’s not yet ready to disclose the final roster, Hladun said some of the players selected so far include Clinton’s Casey Thomson as goalie, 100 Mile’s Ethan Sanders and Vancouver’s Solomon Oldham. Several defencemen were also selected, including Prince George’s Tyler Lalikeas, Smithers’ Matt Tucker, Quesnel’s Kaden Ernst and Curtis Coffin, of Portland and Cody Oertal, of Birtle, Man.
The Wranglers will likely not have a finalized lineup until after Thanksgiving, Hladun said, as he likes to leave spots open rather than cutting players if a new prospect appears.
“By the time of our regular-season start, I should have 85 percent of the roster that we want,” Hladun said.
“We’re going to be probably one of the youngest clubs in the league. I only have two veteran guys but I don’t see me grabbing another vet or two. I’d rather go young this year and rebuild the brand.”
Hladun expects most of this year’s regular season, slated to begin on Oct. 2, will be focused on training his team.
Once the playoffs come, however, Hladun said he believes the Wranglers will be dangerous contenders.
“The way I describe it is when you’re recruiting a player is you got to see the statue in the stone and chip the rough stone off of them. Sometimes, though, you can make a statue and mould it out of clay and they’re easy to do,” Hladun said. “For the most part, I think I have pieces of clay rather than big pieces of rock.”
Earlier this month, Hladun and the Wranglers played an exhibition game against the Princeton Posse which he said was “certainly a scrambly game.” Hladun said he would have been happy if the Wranglers had lost by three but his players came back from three to one to win the game four to three. It was an entertaining game for the 120 spectators who came out, he added, and a good team-building moment.