Preseason could easily be renamed proving season.
When the Spokane Chiefs begin their seven-game preseason schedule this afternoon in Everett, it will mark another important step in the auditioning process for a Western Hockey League roster spot.
The Chiefs held their annual fall camp last week and winnowed that group of 60 players down to 30 for the preseason roster. Spokane is carrying 16 forwards, 10 defensemen and four goalies.
“My focus … was looking at young guys to make decisions on who we keep and who’s ready to play in the league,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said after last Sunday’s Red-White intrasquad game at the Arena. “And I think we got a pretty good indicator. But the next step is going to be the exhibition games, and we’ll make more of a determination as the next couple of weeks unfold.”
The process begins in Everett, starting at 3 p.m. today against the Portland Winterhawks. Also at the tournament, the Chiefs will play the host Silvertips, who knocked them out the WHL playoffs last spring, at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the Seattle Thunderbirds at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“Now they have to play structured hockey,” Nachbaur said. “Now we’re going to see their thinking skills and how they can adapt to playing in a team environment. And that’s really important.”
“We have some young guys here who I think are going to push for spots this year,” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said at camp. … “We have three goaltenders who are close. We think (17-year-old goalie) Matthew Berlin is right there. … We’re probably not going to have more than 24 players (on the final roster). We have to get that figured out with our numbers.”
The Chiefs will also take a peek at their future this weekend as three recently drafted 15-year-olds are on the roster: forward Koby Morrisseau, defenseman Ty Smith and goalie Donovan Buskey. They aren’t eligible to make the team until next season.
“(The 15-year-olds) can play preseason with us,” Speltz said. “Typically, we’ll have them play some preseason games. … The Everett tournament is one where we typically use young guys and then they could maybe go the next week.”
The Chiefs play against Portland and Red Deer at next week’s Tri-City Americans preseason tournament.
Preseason ends with two games against Tri-City: Sept. 18 at Kennewick and Sept. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Arena.
Spokane also opens the regular season at home against Tri-City, at 7 p.m. Sept. 26. The Chiefs will then play six consecutive games on the road until mid-October weekend matchups against Prince Albert and Kamloops.
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