KAMLOOPS — The last image Blazers fans have of their team is a Game 6 loss at Sandman Centre. Seventeen seconds after Brodi Stuart tied the game, Reid Gardner scored the game-winner to eliminate Kamloops in the opening round.
It's a different group, a younger team this year with six players — three 20 year olds and three 19-year-old players — gone. On Friday night, fans will see the new team against Victoria and should notice a faster team.
"I think the team looks quicker," said head coach Don Hay. "We've done a lot of work on offense, so it might be a high-scoring game. I hope we score lots of goals. I hope we show a lot of speed. We have a lot of younger guys in there, but we also some veterans guys."
One of the younger guys who will play in the preseason opener is 15-year-old Josh Pillar, the team's first-round pick last the WHL Bantam Draft. He'll get his first taste of the Western Hockey League against Victoria.
"I'm really exciting," he said. "I'm kind of nervous, too, but I'm just glad that I can play my first game."
Pillar feels like he's had a good camp, fitting in well with the team. But as a 15-year-old, he'll be sent back to his major midget team in Prince Albert following the game.
"I really just want to think the game better and get stronger and get faster," noted Pillar. "Those are probably my three biggest ones."
Hay knows he will be a big part of the Blazers moving forward.
"He's going to be the cornerstone of our group here in the future. Probably not next year, but when he gets 17, 18, real good player," said Hay. "Just get some experience, go back to his club team and have a good year."
As for the other young players, Hay will be keeping a close eye on their games.
"I think all the 17-year-old players like [Ryley] Appelt, [Carson] Denomie, [Quinn] Schmiemann on defense. Josh Pillar's going to play, but he's a young guy. [Connor] Zary is a 16 year old who is pushing to make the team. Any of the 16 year olds looking ot make the team you're really looking at."
Dylan Ferguson will get the net on Friday night against Victoria before he leaves for Las Vegas for the Golden Knights' training camp on Wednesday.
Kyle Dumba, traded from Calgary last month, will play in Tuesday's exhibition game in Kelowna.
Four guys, including Ferguson (Las Vegas), Ondrej Vala (Dallas), Garrett Pilon (Washington) and Luc Smith (NY Rangers) will be leaving to their respective NHL camps next week.
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