Overage players must stay sharp
By NUGENT-BOWMAN, The StarPhoenix
May 28, 2012
The biceps of Saskatoon Blades winger Chris Collins twitched as his head slowly inched over the top of the bar. He had just completed his final pull-up - his 15th.
"I want to improve on my previous results and show them that I've been working hard," he said after finishing the WHL club's spring fitness testing Saturday morning. "At the same time, I've got to set a good example for the young guys."
Collins is now the oldest member of the Blades - the first of the team's players to celebrate his 20th birthday back in April.
That distinction alone won't guarantee him a roster spot for the coming season, however.
Collins netted just seven goals and 26 points in 56 regular season games for the Blades last season and saw third-line minutes during the team's quick playoff exit.
He's now 20 and will require one of the three overage positions to make the team in 2012-13.
That means he'll have to supplant either Josh Nicholls, Connor Cox or Brenden Walker - who was acquired earlier this month from the Brandon Wheat Kings for three draft picks.
"I've just got to make sure I'm giving it 100 per cent on and off the ice all the time and always doing the right thing," Collins said.
Blades head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken said no decisions will be made until the fall.
There is no limit on the number of overage players a WHL team can carry on its roster until Oct. 11, as long as only three are dressed in a single game.
Molleken said he likely won't cut down to three 20-year-olds until close to that deadline. But that doesn't mean he wasn't paying attention to their fitness results. Walker and Cox also attended the Saturday session.
"We want to see where they're at from the last time we tested them," Molleken said. "That gives us a gauge as to how much effort they've put into it up until this point."
Walker, like Collins, was trying to show what he has to offer physically. However, he also had another goal in mind.
The St. Anne, Man., native drove to Saskatoon with winger Nick Zajac and was eager to get acquainted with his former foes.
"Me and (Blades captain Duncan) Siemens were talking about (chirping) each other and now we're on the same team," Walker said.
"We're going to be buddies. That's the way it's going to be. Now Brandon's the rival, so I'm really excited to get that going."
After the veterans finished their training session, the rest of the weekend focused on the team's prospects.
The Blades spring camp featured a tour of Marion Graham Collegiate, as well as on-and off-ice workouts for 29 players who were drafted or listed by the team within the last three years. Saturday night ended with a barbecue hosted by the veterans.
Collins said he wanted to display a positive example for the youngsters, just like Mark Santorelli and Oscar Moller did for him when he was a wide-eyed 15-year-old with the Chilliwack Bruins five years ago.
"Just all the guys who I thought were such good players were completely human off the ice," he said. "Still, when it came to hard work, they put in the extra time and focus."
BLADE BITS: Wingers Locke Muller and Kyle Haas were removed from the Blades' protected list. Muller was picked up by the Regina Pats and Haas is now a Prince George Cougar . . . Dalton Thrower, Lukas Sutter and Andrey Makarov missed the spring camp because they were en route to Toronto for the NHL draft combine, which begins today.
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