Regina Pats pitching stability
By Greg Harder, Leader-Post
May 3, 2012 12:00 PM
Regina Pats general manager Chad Lang.
Photograph by: Don Healy , Regina Leader-Post
Much like their on ice product, the Regina Pats believe their sales pitch is beginning to evolve.
By virtue of a much improved performance during the 2011-12 WHL season a winning record (37-27-6-2) and a playoff berth for the first time in four years the Pats' organization is in a better position to sell itself heading into today's WHL bantam draft in Calgary.
"To be able to have success and get back in the playoffs, that's a huge part when it comes to recruiting," offered GM Chad Lang. "At the end of the day kids all want to be given the opportunity to not only play in the league but play in the playoffs. It means additional exposure for them. Parents want their kids to go to organizations that have had some success. From a recruiting stand point it was real beneficial for us to get into the postseason."
Lang is quick to give credit where it's due, pointing out that head coach Pat Conacher runner up for the WHL coach-of-the-year award - was instrumental in the club's turnaround this season. Conacher's proven formula, in collaboration with full-time assistants Malcolm Cameron and Josh Dixon, could make the Pats a more attractive destination for players. The same goes for the perceived stability of the organization after a period of three years during which there were major changes in the hockey operations department.
"The success of our coaching staff, that plays a huge part in it, seeing how some of these young guys grew not only as individuals but as players," noted Lang. "That will be very beneficial moving forward. You talk about stability, there's a plan in place. Myself, (president) Brent (Parker), (head scout) Dale (McMullin), Pat and the coaching staff, we're are all working toward a common goal. We understand there's still work ahead of us and yet there's a plan on building with this group of kids and making sure we give them the right opportunities to have success. I think that will pay off long term for us."
With their reputation apparently on the upswing, the Pats' task could become somewhat less complicated heading into the draft. Rather than steering clear of players from B.C. and the U.S., who are traditionally tougher to recruit, Lang is now even more confident in sticking to his philosophy of drafting the best players available.
"If it came down to two players of very, very similar qualities both on-ice and office, I think we always want to lean closer to home," he said. "Yet, sometimes it doesn't work out that way. In order for our organization to continue making strides we're going to have to do our best to project where these guys are going to be in two to three years and ultimately take the best players. Sometimes that's a local kid and sometimes that's not. At the end of the day we want the best players to be wearing our jersey."
The Pats believe they'll unearth some quality talent at the draft, even though they aren't slated to pick until the second round (31st overall). From that spot, they won't get a sniff of centre Matthew Barzal of Burnaby, B.C., who's expected to go first overall to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Barzal is among a handful of forwards slated to land in the top group, including Giorgio Estaphan of Edmonton, Jansen Harkins of Vancouver, Calgary's Nick Merkley, Burnaby's Adam Musil and White City's Jayden Halbgewachs. Halbgewachs and defenceman Tate Olson of Saskatoon are the top-ranked players from Saskatchewan, both projected to go in the first round.
"You could argue that there's probably 10 to 12 high-end players, so-called franchise players that teams would consider that they could build around," added Lang. "Not to discredit any of those other kids in the first round but there's probably a little bit of a drop-off after that. And yet there's still a lot of quality players that are going to be available in those first four rounds. Right now there's probably more defencemen than forwards, yet I think in the top 10 you're going to have a better chance of seeing forwards taken than D-men.
"Overall it's going to be a real balanced draft. It's probably more of a preference thing because I think a lot of kids are very similar in their skill sets and abilities. It's just trying to project where they're going to be two or three years down the road."
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