KAMLOOPS — The night before the season-opener in Kelowna and it's probably going to be a restless night for the players who dream about this time of year.
But that is especially true for two of the Blazers' 16-year-old players, forward Connor Zary and defenseman Quinn Schmiemann, who will play in their first regular season games on Friday against the Rockets.
"It's pretty exciting. This is what I wanted this year, so knowing that they've seen it in me that I can play at this level. It feels good. It's where I wanted to be, it's exciting to stay," said Zary.
It doesn't take long to notice Zary on the ice. The 16-year-old from Saskatoon has speed — one of the fastest on the Blazers.
"I like to play a skill game," said Zary. "I'm kind of a playmaker, but I also like to put the puck in the net."
Coach Don Hay said Zary has earned his spot on the roster to start the year, and a decision on where he'll play this season will be made after the first five games.
"Give him five games in a position where he's going to have to play against other team's top players," said Hay. "I think when you're playing against exhibtion players, it's a little different than once the regular season starts. He's a skill guy. He can play on the power play. We have to play him with our top players and against the other team's top players."
Schmiemann has also impressed the Blazers brass enough to stay for the first few games.
"I think it definitely says something about how I've been playing," said Schmiemann. "I feel I've been getting better with every game that I play in. I've just got to continue getting better each practice and every game."
Schmiemann is a two-way defenseman, someone who isn't afraid to jump in the rush. While this weekend will be his first taste of the WHL, the Wilcox, Saskatchewan native won't let that change how he plays.
"I'm not going to play simple or be afraid," he noted. "I'm just going to go out and be myself on the ice, and if the opportunity comes I can jump up in the rush."
Hay noted he'll be evaluating Schmiemann as he is Zary.
"We want to see him play in the next five games. He's definitely earned the games. He's definitely earned the opportunity to start the season with us, then we have to make a decision on where his development's at."
Hay said the Blazers have benefitted from sending 16-year-old players back home for another year.
"We've had success by sending players like [Garrett] Pilon and [Deven] Sideroff back to their local club teams to develop and come back with us and be better players," said Hay. "You have to do what you think is best for that young player."
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