The wait is over; the Kelowna Rockets are back.
Though it’s just pre-season, Rockets fans will once again rush to Prospera Place to catch some WHL action ahead of one of the most critical Rockets seasons since 2004’s Memorial Cup win.
Kelowna has had a busy off-season, both within the organizational and for the Rockets players.
From the drama at the WHL bantam draft where Kelowna flipped picks for established roster players, the NHL draft where the Rockets led the entire Canadian Hockey League with four players drafted in the first two rounds, the import draft where Kelowna nabbed the hard-hitting Czech forward Pavel Novak, the Memorial Cup announcements and preparations, players attending their NHL camps and finally the new Rockets jerseys revealed earlier this week.
“It’s going to be a fun and big year for the Rockets and I’m looking forward to it,” said Kaedan Korczak who’s off-season included getting drafted 41st overall, playing in the IIHF U18 championships and attending the Vegas Golden Knights summer training camps.
The Rockets start their six-game pre-season Friday night against Victoria. There won’t be a ton of familiar faces rocking the Kelowna colours, but the stand-out thing about pre-season games is that it gives fans a look at the young and hungry stars who are hoping to impress their way to a roster spot.
Young players from last season will look to build their experience in these exhibition games to get their confidence up ahead of the start of the regular season Sept. 21.
The Rockets wrapped up their training camp earlier this week. The camp gave Kelowna coaches a chance to see how the prospects and newly-acquired Rockets are coming along.
“It has been a good camp,” said Rockets head coach Adam Foote. “Everyone is learning a lot, and I’ve had the chance to get to know our prospects and spend time with them.”
“Our younger (defenceman) coming up have also looked great out there, this camp will help them grow into the players that they strive to be.”
It’s Foote’s first camp with the Rockets after starting with the team last October. He mentioned that new Rockets’ Jake Lee and Sean Comrie have looked solid and that returning defenceman Devin Steffler has shown off-season improvements.
The start of the season may be slow for the Rockets. Players involved with their respective NHL camps could potentially have a late start with Kelowna as they continue their development camps and the unknown fate of which team stand-out defenceman Lassi Thomson will play on come the start of the season has yet to be resolved.
Kelowna used their off-season to increase the depth and experience of the entire roster ahead of May’s Memorial Cup, in which the Rockets are guaranteed a berth as the host team.
Rockets fans can bet that the full roster will be at full-strength as quick as possible to ensure not only a confident team going into the WHL playoffs, but a confident team ahead of the 2020 Memorial Cup.
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