Sunday, August 28, 2011

No summertime blues for Blazers prospect

Jordan Thomson (centre, white), the Kamloops Blazers' first pick
in the 2011 WHL bantam draft, will pick his spots and rush the puck.
(Photo by Murray Mitchell/Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Editor
Jordan Thomson sounds like he wants to stay in Kamloops for a year or three.
“It’s not at all like home, but I like it,” the 15-year-old defenceman said Saturday after his Team White had dropped a 3-2 decision to the Orange guys in a scrimmage at the WHL team’s rookie camp at Interior Savings Centre.
As for the heat, he had a one-word answer: “Beautiful.”
Of course, he was standing in the coolness of the arena, while it was about 32 C outside.
Thomson is from Wawanesa, a small community nestled in a valley on the banks of the Souris River about 30 kilometres southeast of Brandon. The Blazers, making their earliest selection in franchise history, took Thomson with the fourth pick of the 2011 bantam draft.
And, he admitted, that was the day his life changed forever.
“Right after the draft,” he said, “I knew it was time to get going, to hit the gym and all that kind of stuff. The hard work starts now, for sure.”
That also was the start of a busy summer, one that has included stints at the NHLPA-sanctioned Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Program, Aug. 2-6, in Mississauga, Ont., and at Hockey Manitoba’s under-16 camp in Winnipeg, Aug. 11-14.
Thomson, 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, said the Allstate camp, which was led by former NHLer Gary Roberts, who is a fitness fanatic, was a real eye-opener.
“That was a great camp, a great experience,” Thomson said. “Gary Roberts had lots of information to share with all of us.”
The camp, to which 42 of the top bantam-aged players in Canada were invited, included emphasis on such things as nutrition, fitness and mental conditioning. Players also had four on-ice sessions and, of course, workouts in a gym.
“It was a great camp and I came out more mature, definitely,” Thomson said. “It was my first time going to something like that. I was a little nervous at first but I got there and got to know a couple of the guys and it was good from there.
“It’s something I won’t ever forget.”
Thomson went from there to the camp in Winnipeg where he is on the 28-player list from which Hockey Manitoba will choose its team for the U-16 Challenge Cup in Moose Jaw, Oct. 27-30.
Last season, Thomson played for the midget AAA Southwest Cougars, who play out of Souris, Man., putting up 16 points and 42 penalty minutes in 40 games. He was the only 14-year-old in the league, which includes teams from southern Manitoba, including Winnipeg.
Also on that team was forward Cameron Rowat, 17, who is in the Blazers’ main camp. “He was a big part of our team,” Thomson said.
Thomson has been in Kamloops since Tuesday, and twice skated with veteran players last week. Obviously, he is used to playing with players who are older and bigger than he is, but this was something different.
“It was lots of fun,” he said, adding that he learned he still has “lots to work on. I asked a couple of guys later on how to do some things and get better. Some of them have been in the (WHL) for three years and have lots of experience, so if I talk to them I’ll get pointers from them.”
The important thing, he said, is to work on getting quicker feet.
“All these guys have lots of speed,” Thomson said.
Thomson will stick around through main camp and hopes to play in Tuesday’s Blue-White game. Then, sometime on the weekend, he’ll begin the trek home. He is really looking forward to another season with the Cougars, though, because they will be the host team for a 2012 Telus Cup regional tournament.
“Hopefully, we get the best team we can,” he said, looking ahead to a run at the Telus Cup. “We’ve got a great coach (Troy Leslie) out there.”
For now, though, he’s focussed on the Blazers.
“It’s been good,” he said of the camp. “I just wanted to go out there have lots of fun and show them what I can do.”
As for being the earliest draft pick in franchise history, Thomson said that has made him want to “be a leader out there and show the guys some of the stuff.”
However, the most important thing, he said, is to “make sure I’m out there having fun and not being a downer, no matter what the score is.”
JUST NOTES: Czech D Marek Hrbas, 18, arrived in Kamloops on Friday evening and skated with his new teammates for the first time on Saturday afternoon. He was acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings in June and will be one of the Blazers’ two import players. . . . F Matt Needham, 16, isn’t expected on the ice until sometime later in the week. He has an elbow injury that is likely to keep him out of Tuesday’s Blue-White game. . . . Veteran F Jordan DePape (hip) also is day-to-day. . . . D Connor Clouston (elbow) of Medicine Hat and F Dylan Frey (knee) of Weyburn, Sask., missed some action Saturday and then were among the younger players who were reassigned later that day. . . . By the time weekend reassignments were finished, the Blazers were down to 55 players — 31 forwards, 18 defencemen and six Following the end of rookie camp on Saturday, the Blazers were left with 63 players in main camp — 35 forwards, 19 defencemen and six goaltenders. . . . More players are likely to be released this afternoon, after the third of three scrimmages finishes at 1 p.m.
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