A new era in Sherwood Park takes its maiden voyage Friday when the club opens training camp for the 2016-17 season. Although there’s been a change in the look of the front office, there won’t be too much of a change on the ice. New General Manager Kyle Chase along with new Head Coach Adam Manah and Associate Coach Jeff Woywitka, will have 11 returning players from the 2015-16 team. As well, the Crusaders were very active in acquiring bodies throughout the summer.
“We are extremely excited with the players that will be attending main camp this year. We feel we have a terrific group of players coming in to push for spots in every category. It will be a high pace camp with a ton of intensity. It should be a lot of fun to watch. We as a staff are looking forward to it, and seeing which guys come in prepared.” Says Head Coach Adam Manah.
In the coming days, there will be a breakdown of position by position leading up to the start of training camp on Friday.
We will begin with the Forward group.
Departures: Ryan Kruper (Age), Cameron Brezinski (Age), Devon McAndrews (Age), Luke Kempf (Trade), Brett Van Os (Trade), Cole Gammer (Left for NAHL)
Acquisitions: Jared McAmmond (Regina – WHL), Tanner Younghans (Camrose – AJHL)
Sherwood Park will return a group of Forwards that combined for 102 out of the 240 Goals scored last season for the Crusaders, including the reigning Goal scoring leader Tyler Maltby, who led the AJHL with 41 last season.
Looking to make larger impacts after their first season with the Crusaders are Cole Chorney and Darcy Zaharichuk. With 19 and 14 Goals respectively the two Western Hockey League Alumnus will be leaned on heavily with the likes of Tyler Maltby by the coaching staff, to not only provide offense, but leadership as well.
“This year I want to be more of a consistent scorer and put up more points.” Says Zaharichuk, who is a strong candidate to replace the scoring that Forward Ryan Kruper provided in 2015-16 with 79 Points, narrowly missing out on the league scoring title.
Manah agrees, that the trio of 20 year old Forwards will be relied on heavily.
“It is their final year in the league, and we hope they will exceed what they did last year, and put up some big numbers for us.”
The crop of sophomore players returning will sure likely provide a mix of everything from scoring, physicality and defensive play. Ty Readman who led the team in scoring among rookies should provide even more offense along with the versatile Merrit Ozytko being a threat in all areas of the ice and the steady defensive awareness of Alex Rotundo should allow those players to progress even further in their second year in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“I need to keep up what I’ve been doing. I’m not going to sit back and be happy with last year, I want to strive improve those numbers and be a better player overall.” Says Readman who netted 12 Goals and added 24 Assists in 2015-16.
“Those individuals are very skilled with the puck, bring playmaking ability, and can put the puck in the net.” Adds Manah.
One player to really watch out for this season is Forward Matt Dykstra. Acquired last season from the Calgary Canucks, the Edmonton, AB Native had a injury riddled second half of the season after being acquired in December 2015. Appearing in only 21 Games, Dykstra managed 3 Goals and 2 Assists. The former Victoria Royal of the WHL will look to rekindle the offensive touch he had in his rookie year in the AJHL when he had 10 Goals and 13 Assists in 2014-15 with the Canucks.
With players graduating and departing for other leagues, GM Kyle Chase and Head Coach Adam Manah were active in bringing in some experience to bolster the Forward depth chart.
Two notable acquisitions were the addition of Jared McAmmond, who spent the last two seasons with the WHL’s Regina Pats, and Tanner Younghans from the Camrose Kodiaks.
McAmmond, 19, appeared in 116 WHL Games over the last two seasons with 6 Goals and 5 Assists.
“Jared is a big strong skating forward that is hard to play against, has an outstanding shot, and is a power Forward type player.” Notes Manah, who has previous experience with McAmmond at the Midget AAA level in Grande Prairie.
Younghans, 19, has spent the last two seasons in Camrose with the Kodiaks appearing in 98 Games with 28 Goals and 22 Assists, plus, 94 PIM’s.
“We really like what Tanner will brings to the table. He has tremendous scoring ability, character, can play in all situations, and plays a gritty game as well.” Added Manah.
The Coaching staff is excited as well to see how the battle for roster spots will ensue, as a large contingent of players attending training camp will duke it out for a chance to dawn the green ‘C’ in 2016-17. The likes of newly carded players such as Ryan Anderson and Quinton McAndrews will hope that their appearance in seven games last year (Regular Season and Playoffs) helps them in camp. New comers Brandon Wallis and Brendan Stafford lead the charge of a plethora of young Forwards looking to crack the Crusaders roster.
“We feel we have one of the strongest core of veteran Forwards returning this season. They all bring something different to the table whether that's scoring, playmaking ability, or being physically hard to play against every night. We expect our 20 year old guys to really step up this year and lead the way in scoring, but also to lead this team to the next level. That being said, you have to earn your spot with us. We have an excellent amount of young Forwards attending camp that can compete for spots and will undoubtedly make the decisions tough on us.” Noted Manah.
Sherwood Park was one of the highest scoring teams early on in 2015-16, large in part due to the Forward group. The Crusaders hope that they can assemble a group that can be one of the highest scoring teams all year.
-Story By Taylor Medak
photo courtesy of Target Photography