Storm have big skates to fill
Replacing 111 goals and 254 points is no small task.
That’s one of the challenges facing Kamloops Storm general manager Barry Dewar and head coach Brad Priestlay this season.
Those numbers were produced in the 2011-2012 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League campaign by graduated 1991-born forwards Colten DeFrias, Chase Edwards and Tyler Jackson.
“They were three of the top scorers in the league,” Dewar said.
“But, in the long run, it probably works out. You can’t just shut down one line anymore.”
Kamloops opens the 2012-2013 regular season against the Spokane Braves at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, at McArthur Island Sports Centre.
DeFrias and Jackson will suit up for the TRU WolfPack in the fall.
The Storm will rely on a few new faces and some returning talent to fill the scoring void.
Connor Fortems, a 17-year-old forward from Delta, is expected to inject some offence into the lineup.
“We’re really excited about this kid,” Dewar said.
“There were several junior B teams after him. We saw him at camp with the [junior A] Victoria Grizzlies in May.
“He’s just a big strong kid that likes to go to the net and I think he’s going to be very, very good.
“I hope we keep him for a while.”
Taylor Ward, a forward, and Spencer Schoech, a defenceman — both from south of the border — are among the new Storm recruits, along with Langley products Aaron Markin, a forward, and D-man Jason Anderson.
Returning to the fold are forwards Blake Culbert, Briar McNaney, Ryan Skinner and Josh Rasmussen, with Daniel Buchanan expected to provide scoring from the blue line.
The Storm will not be without fresh local flavour, with forwards Ian Chrystal, a Kamloops player who featured in only 13 Storm games last season, and Brett Watkinson, from Lillooet, expected to contribute regularly.
Kamloops will no doubt benefit from the return of 1992-born netminder Marcus Beesley.
The Prince George product posted a 9-3 record and a .937 save percentage last season.
Kamloops was beaten by the Sicamous Eagles in Game 7 of the Doug Birks Division final in March.
Sicamous fell 4-1 in the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference-deciding series to the Kelowna Chiefs, who were swept 4-0 in the KIJHL championship by the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
Addressing the loss of three key veterans will be key if Kamloops is going to take the next step.
“We’ll probably be scoring by committee this season,” Dewar said.
“It will be a little different than last year.”