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Thursday, 27 June 2013 08:08

Laurikainen wants to return, team to choose skater at Import Draft

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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The 2013-14 WHL season may be the last time Swift Current Broncos fans will be able to root, root, root for the home team’s European goalie.


If it isn’t, then last season most certainly was.
Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb confirmed last week that Swift Current will select either a forward or defenceman in the first round of Wednesday’s CHL Import Draft.
He also confirmed that last year’s rookie phenom Eetu Laurikainen does plan to return to the Broncos as an over-age import — if he is not drafted or signed by a pro team over the next couple of months.
Laurikainen is entering his final season of major junior eligibility, and the CHL has instituted an outright ban on its clubs choosing European goalies after the first round of Wednesday’s draft or at any point in future years.
Yet as big as that question mark is, it’s not going to be the Broncos’ biggest concern even if Laurikainen does fly the coop. Backup Landon Bow is unproven, but showed plenty of promise in limited action last year.
Their defence corps figures to be barely recognizable come opening night.
Richard Nedomlel and Reece Scarlett have pro contracts in their pockets and Dalton Reum is gone after playing out his over-age season this spring.
For now, that leaves the top two spots on the blue line in the more-than-capable hands of third-year Dillon Heatherington and sophomore Brycen Martin.
After that is where it gets a little muddy.
Bobby Zinkan and Brett Lernout, both entering their 18-year-old seasons, saw limited ice time when the games began to matter last year. Will one, or both, step up into a bigger role at training camp?
Are 2011 first-round pick Zack Gonek or 10th-rounder Cole Bevan — who had a fine season in the B.C. Major Midget League — ready to make the jump as 17-year-olds?
What about 2012 picks Dom Masellis and Max Lajoie?
Only Gonek and Lajoie are signed but, even if Masellis and Bevan do sign before training camp, don’t count on the Broncos regularly dressing more than two rookie rearguards this season.
Likely then that Lamb will use his first-round Import Draft pick on a 1994 defenceman, something he talked openly about trying to acquire last season.
As pure speculation goes, he could also then look to add depth on the back end and solidify the team’s over-age situation by dealing for one of Saskatoon’s three 20-year-olds — former Bronco Graeme Craig, Matthew Pufahl or Kyle Schmidt.
The Broncos did make a pair of deals with the Blades last year and at least one of those three could surely be had for a pretty favourable price.
That, in turn, would probably spell the end of Daniel Dale’s time with the Broncos — leaving Laurikainen, Graham Black and the newcomer on defence to fill the three 20-year-old spots.
Up front, Ryon Moser and Chance Lund are graduated, Adam Lowry (off to the pros) is as good as gone, and Shea Howorko and Brent Benson (concussions) are not expected back either.
Black, Coda Gordon, Colby Cave, Levi Bews, Jay Merkley, Zac Mackay, Tanner LeSann, Dakota Odgers and 2012 first-round pick Glenn Gawdin should be locks for roster spots, leaving Denis Bosc and Justin Spagrud to compete for playing time with signed draft picks from 2011 like Jake DeBrusk (who should be given every chance to make the team), Cavin Leth and Jordan Wittman.
And this is to say nothing of unsigned picks like Jackson Keane, Cameron Hughes and Wyatt Sloboshan.
It’s a lineup that will have to score by committee but all at once will be more potent than the one that scored 206 goals a year ago.
If they don’t win (at least as many games than last year), it’s definitely a shame.

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