Penticton Vees co-captain Owen Sillinger believes this year’s team can be as good as last year’s.
Starting the second week of camp, Sillinger liked what he saw last week and talked about what stood out.
“I would say our skill. Just the way that we snap the puck around,” said Sillinger. “The way we finish around the net. It’s on another level already.”
Sillinger likes the Vees’ goaltending with returnee Nolan Hildebrand and Adam Scheel, who is committed to the University of North Dakota. He said the defence is really skilled, along with the forward group, adding they may be smaller up front, but will be fast, enabling them to take advantage of turnovers.
“We have a lot of skilled players here and a lot of hard workers and I’m excited for the regular season to start,” he said.
Missing from camp are rookie Massimo Rizzo and co-captain Grant Cruikshank. Vees head coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said both are expected to miss the start of the regular season with injuries, but hopes they will be available a couple of weeks after.
Harbinson is happy with what he has seen from the players. The group assembled has been able to learn what the coaching staff is teaching quickly. The coaches have thrown a lot of new things at the players.
“For the veterans, they kind of remember how we want to do things,” said Harbinson. “For the other guys they have been really helping them through it. It was a real positive start.”
The coaching staff continues to learn about the players and how they interact with each other. They also have been establishing how they want the players to live in the city, not just how they should behave on the ice. Last week the Vees were joined by the Anaheim junior Ducks, which gave them a chance to see what the BCHL and Penticton is like. Harbinson liked what he saw and said there is always a possibility to recruit a Ducks player in the future, but Harbinson said they have also helped the players get recruited by other junior teams.
“They are running a really reputable program there,” said Harbinson of coach August Aiken and former Vee TJ Miller. “It helps their guys. If we can help their program, it helps us. Allows us to have bigger numbers here to run scrimmages during camp. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
As the Vees get ready to host West Kelowna Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 7 p.m., then head to Brooks, Alta., to take on the Bandits during the long weekend, work gets going on implementing structure and systems. It is about getting the players to understand how the team plays, including faceoff and situational play. The hope is over the next couple of months the system becomes instinctual for the players.