August 28, 2017
by Cleve Dheenshaw, Times Colonist
With the Victoria Royals having no first-round Western Hockey League bantam draft picks in 2016 or 2017, there is little buzz surrounding this weekend’s Royals rookie camp, although this is a team known for drafting well in the mid and late rounds.
Make no mistake, the veteran-laden 2017-18 Royals team is all about the now.
Main camp opens Monday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre with a plethora of returnees set to report.
“I am excited for the season, because there is no limit to how well we can do,” said Royals forward Matthew Phillips, a 50-goal-scorer from last season, who performed well over the summer in the selection camp for the Canadian team to the 2018 world junior championships to be played in Buffalo, New York.
“There is a big returning core, with a few newcomers, and this season we have a lot to prove after being inconsistent last season [in slipping to eighth place in the Western Conference and being bounced in the first round of the playoffs].”
The Royals’ NHL-drafted players — Phillips (Calgary Flames), Scott Walford (Montreal Canadiens), Chaz Reddekopp (L.A. Kings) and Tyler Soy (Anaheim Ducks) — will skate in Victoria’s main camp and be with the team until departing for their NHL camps on Sept. 6.
“We will use Royals camp as an opportunity to push the pace and prepare for the NHL camps,” said blueliner Walford, who was among the surprises of the 2017 NHL draft, which he was selected in the third round by the Canadiens.
“The one thing you notice about NHL camps is the execution level,” said Walford, of his time in Montreal’s development/rookie camp over the summer.
Walford also noticed that players who had graduated from junior, and were first- or second-year pros in the AHL/ECHL in the Montreal system, were very helpful to him: “They were constantly teaching me little tricks.”
He knows the roles will be reversed, and he will be that older guy, that is looked up to by those who get invited to Royals main camp from the current Victoria rookie camp. Walford said he is happy to help out any 16-year-old Royals hopefuls, because he remembers being one of them. “It’s crazy how fast the time flies. I’m already going into my third season with the Royals,” he said.
Main camp runs Monday and Tuesday at the Memorial Centre, followed by the annual Blue-White intra-squad game Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.
The Royals begin their pre-season schedule Friday and next Saturday with games in Kamloops and Kelowna. The Royals conclude the pre-season when they meet the Vancouver Giants and Prince George Cougars as part of the Giants’ exhibition tournament at the Langley Events Centre, playing the Giants on Sept. 9 and Cougars on Sept. 10.
The Royals open the 2017-18 WHL regular season against Vancouver at the Memorial Centre on Sept. 22.