By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
The Kamloops Blazers’ roster inched closer to full strength on Tuesday with the return of three players from NHL camps.
Forwards Chase Schaber and Colin Smith, both of whom had been on free-agent tryouts with the Edmonton Oilers, and Brendan Ranford, a seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL’s 2010 draft, all were back at practice yesterday at the Interior Savings Centre.
Of the eight players who attended NHL camps, the Blazers now are missing only defenceman Josh Caron, who continues to skate with the Minnesota Wild, defenceman Austin Madaisky, who is with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and winger J.T. Barnett, who is with the New Jersey Devils.
Caron, 20, has signed with the Wild and could end up in its organization. Madaisky played for a Columbus split squad which lost 6-1 to the Jets in Winnipeg. Barnett, on a free-agent tryout with the Devils, is expected back in Kamloops on Friday or Saturday.
What isn’t known is whether Barnett will be here in time to play Saturday when the Blazers open the WHL’s regular season against the visiting Prince George Cougars.
Forwards Logan McVeigh and Chase Souto, both of whom are recovering from concussions, remain questionable for that game, although McVeigh is more likely to play than is Souto. Both took part in a regular practice yesterday, but they wore yellow jerseys and didn’t compete in any drills that involved contact.
The Cougars, meanwhile, remain without defenceman Martin Marincin, who is with the Oilers, and forward/captain Brett Connolly, a first-round selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning int he 2010 draft. Marincin was drafted by the Oilers out of Europe so is eligible to play in their organization. If Connolly, 19, doesn’t make the Lightning, he must be returned to the Cougars.
There is good news and bad news for two Kamloops hockey players.
Forward Carson Bolduc has signed with the Cougars, while the Prince Albert Raiders have released sophomore forward Brock Balson.
Bolduc, the 59th overall selection in the 2011 bantam draft, had 98 pints in 61 regular-season games with the bantam Tier 1 Jardine’s Blazers last season.
“We are very happy to officially have Carson as a member of our Cougar family,” Wade Klippenstein, Prince George’s assistant general manager and director of hockey operations, said in a statement. “Carson was a huge part of Kamloops’ success last year as one of the top bantam teams in Western Canada.”
Bolduc is scheduled to make his WHL debut on Jan. 1 when the Cougars meet the Blazers in Kamloops.
Balson, meanwhile, was released on Monday as the Raiders got their roster down to 26 players.
Balson, a third-round selection in the 2008 bantam draft, had three points and 13 penalty minutes in 48 games last season.
“Balson being a second year guy, we were hoping he would take the next step in the line up,” Bruno Campese, the Raiders’ general manager and head coach, told the Prince Albert Daily Herald. “We felt there were some younger guys — 17-year-olds — that came in” and out-performed Balson.
“It was a tough decision,” Campese continued, “because Brock is a real good kid that comes from a good family I can’t stress that enough. It was a very difficult decision to make.”
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