With lots of talent returning and lots of talent waiting in the wings, roster spots are hard to come by for the players at Spokane Chiefs training camp.
For a handful of players who saw spot duty last year, this is an important four days.
Jack Finley was Spokane’s 2017 first-round bantam draft pick. He played in seven games last season as a 15-year-old and recorded one assist and 8 penalty minutes. He came to this year’s training camp a year older, carrying a deeper voice, and an eye on claiming a full-time roster spot.
“I’m fighting to get into the lineup,” Finley said after the first of two scrimmages on Saturday at the Spokane Arena. “Last year I was just trying to show them my skills and show them that I was a good pick. This year I’m working my way up the lineup.”
Finley has a tall frame and plenty of skill. He’ll be one of the bigger players on the team, should he make the opening night roster.
Finley credited veteran Jaret Anderson-Dolan for being someone he’s looked up to during training camp, finding ways in which the veteran conducts himself.
“He’s an unbelievable player and a first-class person,” Finley said. “He has a really bright future ahead of him and he’s made it this far because he does all the little things right. He works hard every single day.”
Adam Beckman is another player shooting for a full season with the team. Beckman appeared in just one game last year and is looking for a spot on the bus for his 17-year-old season.
His approach isn’t too different from last year, given that he’s in his second year of eligibility.
“It’s the same thing,” Beckman said. “Just trying to make the club, that’s what I’m trying to do. The approach has been the same, just hopefully I’m a little bit stronger and a little bit better.”
Beckman’s one game of experience might not seem like much, but he learned a lot from that one game, particularly coming off of last year’s training camp.
“It’s a lot tougher than you think, especially the difference between the regular season and the preseason,” Beckman said.
Beckman also pointed to Anderson-Dolan as someone he looks up to as a leader – perhaps foreshadowing the team’s captaincy this season.
For Finley, the approach to training camp differs now that he’s eligible for a full-time spot.
“Like last year, you’re nervous because it’s your first trip to camp,” he said. “You’re playing against guys five years older. This year I’m more confident, but there’s still those nerves because you still want to show them a good game and get a good spot in the lineup.”
Other players who saw limited time last season and are looking for more playing time include Tyson Feist (eight games), Sean Gulka (four games), Cordel Larson (four games), and goaltender Campbell Arnold (one game).
The Chiefs will pare down their training camp roster to two teams for Sunday’s Red-White scrimmage at 1 p.m.
Boogie Blackwater, a 2002-born defenseman, is attending the Chiefs training camp. He is a relative of former Chiefs player Judd Blackwater.
There are 18 players in camp who were born in 2003, making them ineligible to play more than five games this season (additional games are allowed for emergency purposes).
Ten of Spokane’s 12 bantam draft picks from May are in camp. Only fourth-rounder Logan Cox and eighth-rounder Grady Lane are absent.
Egor Arbuzov, the 2001-born Russian the Chiefs selected in this year’s CHL Import Draft, is in camp. Fellow import Filip Kral is not. The Athletic reported in June that Kral would likely be out for up to two months following a shoulder injury suffered in last season’s playoffs.
Chiefs players represent their countries
Four Chiefs represented their respective countries this summer at various showcase events.
Anderson-Dolan and Ty Smith each attended Canada’s camp for the World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, B.C., earlier this summer. Both are hoping to make Canada’s final roster for this winter’s World Junior Hockey Championships.
Jake McGrew was invited to USA Hockey’s camp for the World Junior Showcase as well.
Luke Toporowski represented Team USA at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, an annual tournament for U-18 players. Toporowski and Team USA took home fourth place.